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Ecology of Souls

by Kenneth Newby

Released 2017
Flicker Art Collaboratory
Released 2017
Flicker Art Collaboratory
Universally lauded as one of the classics of the Ambient / Spectral music genre, Ecology of Souls rewards repeated listenings in its rich and varied soundscapes. Deep Listening.

Just as deep entheogenic states open our consciousness to hierarchical realms of the psyche where a multitude of awareness levels and perspectives compete for our engagement, so also can music suggest such things. The monolith approached dissolves into a new community of dancing elements: stasis yields embedded energy, large cycle is obscured by the revelation of smaller ones nested within, meaning and significance reveal themselves in the relationships among their parts. Simplicity perceived at one level reveals complexity at another. Pattern appears where none was apparent before things began to interact. Time, space, and consciousness are bound together in a dance where the subject of our portrait can become the object of your experience.

"What then is our course, what the manner of our flight? This is not a journey for the feet; nor need you think of coach nor ship to carry you away; all this order of things you must set aside and refuse to see; you must close the eyes and call instead upon another vision which is to be waked within you; a vision, the birth-right of all, which few turn to use." — Plotinus

Notes on compositions:

Persephone was created using computer software written to generate a drone texture that is tuned to the first twenty-one intervals of the harmonic series. The soundworld of the work is largely composed of sonic transformations of the sounds of didgeridoo, Gregorian chant, Javanese gamelan, Tibetan cymbals, and the singing of night insects, over which is woven the haunting lament of the Suling Gambuh. The lament of the piece is that of a Mother for her Child—Demeter calling Winter down on the world as the hostage for the return of her daughter Persephone held by Hades in the underworld.

Equinox is based on a rhythmic cycle of sixty-four beats of symmetrical (palindromic) form:

5 5 4 4 3 3 4 4 4 4 3 3 4 4 5 5

The piece builds on the tension between the delicious tuning of the Balinese gender wayang quartet and that of the suling gambuh, with only two pitches in common between them.

Ephemera provides an ambient environment to the whispered secrets of ecstatic experience drawn from the texts of Alan Watts, Anais Nin, and others.

Odalan is a Balinese term indicated the ceremony given each year on a temple's anniversary. The soundscape recording heard here was made during the full moon in the Pura Desa temple of Padang Tegal on September 30, 1985, the first day of my thirtieth year. The computer-generated accompaniment provides a stochastic partnering of harmonic clouds in complementary just intonations.

Glossolalia releases the tongue into the primal fertility of drums and gongs; a celebratory dance of fecund return welcoming the commencement of the season of rebirth.

First performances of Ecology of Souls included the participation of:

Lorraine Thomson — dance and choreography
Chris Miller — prepared piano and gender
Andreas Kahre — percussion, voice, whispers
Kenneth Newby — suling gambuh, siter, cymbal
Janet Brook — voice and whispers
Ann Hepper — gender
Michael O'Neill — gender
Matt Rogalsky — gender, and video assistance

Recorded and Engineered by Kenneth Newby at the Electronic Music Facilities of the School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University.
Edited by Rober Kozinuk at the Wester Front, Vancouver.
Produced by Kenneth Newby & Tony Reif.

Cover art by Lorraine Thomson

Special Thanks:

Martin Gotfrit
Stephen Kent
Eddy Sayer
Maggie Hoppe
Natasha V
Martin Bartlett
Bapak Tjokrowasitodinigrat
Bapak I Made Gerindem

Both the primal sounds of Lights in a Fat City and worldly beat of Trance Mission have been fashioned by Kenneth Newby's inner vision. On his own he demonstrates virtuoso instrumental prowess, the musical intelligence of a master composer, and the ambient sensitivity of an Indonesian jungle cat. It was one of the top serious alternative instrumental releases of 1993, in a newly mastered edition on the Fathom label.


When Kenneth Newby and his partner, choreographer Lorraine Thomson, decided to collaborate on an opera on the subject of consciousness, they called it Ecology of Souls. The opera, involving music, dance, and video projections, was performed three times, and a CD version featuring Kenneth's music for Ecology of Souls was later released on a new Vancouver label called Songlines. It went on to be hailed as one of the top serious alternative releases of 1993, garnering glowing press in Down Beat, CMJ, Option, and i/e magazines, and making several critics' Top 10 lists for the year.

The complex, absorbing soundscapes of Ecology of Souls invite deep listening. Each is built from discrete, subtly textured layers of sound, often working at cross-purposes. Shimmering percussion, the acoustic sounds of a Balinese gender wayang quartet, suling gambuh, and ecstatic, whispering voices are entwined upon a precisely tuned aural tapestry of electronic drones, sonic transformations of didgeridu, chanting voices, and natural sound environments. As the music unfolds, time seems suspended. Heard passively, it can function as ambience; heard closely, the hidden contrasts create an atmosphere of intriguing tension that builds slowly as the music flows onward.

Into these dynamically shifting ambient spaces Newby introduces the eerie vocalizing of the suling gambuh, a meter-long bamboo flute with a remarkably flexible range of technique. Breathing into this simple but powerful instrument he develops an expressive voice that ranges from brilliant peals of harmonics to passages of deep melancholy.
The result of this layering is a music that seems at first strange, yet begins to capture the subtle dynamic of the flow of thought, the experience of time. This sense of meaningful mystery is the essence of Ecology of Souls. Like a hyperdimensional procession, this is travelling music for repeated listening, revealing more of its secrets with each audition.

With its powerful mix of advanced spectral music techniques, soulful sensitivity, and images of the teeming multi-cultural matrix around us, Ecology of Souls becomes sonic alchemy, an expanding sprial of chaotic yet delicate proportions -- deeply atmospheric, meditative, expressive, almost mournful. It is a conscious celebration of the one world mind-space we all inhabit but so rarely glimpse.

Until now Ecology of Souls has been a rare import, available in a limited edition only through specialty stores and catalogs. Now the Flicker Art Collaboratory is bringing this essential release home.