Jewel in the Sun:  
AV Talks with Diane Arkenstone

 

Diane Arkenstone

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Jewel in the Sun

 

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AV:  Music has a unique way of touching all of us in one way or another. Having read a little about you on the Internet you have said that you were singing and writing songs when you were 3 years old. What kinds of music touched you and motivated you to sing and write at the tender age of three?

DA:  Anything and everything musical touched me. I was writing Celtic songs about Donegal at age 3, interestingly enough, since I knew nothing of Ireland at the time, and the only music played in the house was classical and opera.

AV:  Was music a part of your home growing up and did your parents encourage you in your musical leanings?

DA:  My mother was a magnificent opera singer, who sang with the Symphony for many years but she and my father were completely against me pursuing any kind of musical career. There are eight children and none had any interest in music, except myself. It was very difficult because I was the only one of the eight children who had to pay for college because I choose music. I worked 3 jobs to pay for college and one was singing rock and roll, which I was sure was my direction, but over time, I found a softer side to my spirit.

AV:  When you were growing up was listening to external music (radio, cds etc) an influence/inspiration to you in regards to how you felt about singing and writing music?

DA:  Growing up, I was completely hooked on music, I knew it was part of who I was, but it had no influence over what I wrote because my songs were my autobiography and release of the emotions I was going thru as I was learning about life.

AV:  Judging from the music you have been involved with over the years I would say that the natural world that surrounds you offers you inspiration in regards to your music as well. Tell me about singing to your horse growing up on the ranch and the effect that living in such an environment had on the music that you were writing and that you would write later as an adult.

DA:  My horse was the only one who did not protest or judge me when I sang, so I did allot of singing and song writing on horse back.  It was absolute total freedom, and I wrote and sang with great abandon about everything. On the ranch where I grew up, the Chumash tribes had lived a few hundred years earlier, and I would hike down to a river that ran along a mountain of oak tress a huge rocks. In beautiful moments of silence, hiking along the river, I could see their chiseled faces in the tall rock walls along the river, and wrote music to tell what I felt there stories might have been, hence the Ah Nee Mah albums I have done to reflect some of those moments.

AV:  I did notice in your Wikipedia entry that  you trained as an opera singer. What attracted you to opera and what was it that you took away from that training that has been of use to you as you sing on your albums now?

DA:  My mother was an extraordinary opera singer and I wanted to be like her, though her voice was a gift not many have. Knowing how to sing correctly has been wonderful, especially thru my early years of rock and roll and knowing how to protect the voice.

AV:  Do you have an instrument of choice when it comes to composing your music? Why?

DA:  Guitar is one of my favorites because the vibration of the wood against my body is so alive and healing. And I use allot of alternative tunings on guitar which creates a whole new landscape of music possibilities each time.

AV:  When did you first run across music that would be considered new age or ambient? Who was it and what were your thoughts about the music and how it communicated the emotions of the artist?

DA:  Truly, I was writing beautiful ambient pieces as a teenager, it was the best way to express my deep emotions. Later on, when I was listening to some beautiful music, it was referred to as New Age, and I thought, well, I have been writing something very similar to this for a while, maybe I'll just keep going with it.

AV:  Was there a particular time that you remember when you decided you wanted to share your music with others through releasing it on CD? Why?

DA:  Ever since I was a young girl listening to the radio, I always dreamed of releasing my own music in the world.

AV:  Before that first album came out how did you go about making this happen and how did you connect with NorthSound Music?

DA:  For the Enaid and Einalem CDs, my music collaborator was Melanie, who's husband was a music producer and got the deal for us at NorthSound.

AV:  Oftentimes you are referred to as a new age musician even though you cover many different styles of music. What are your thoughts about the label of new age and what is it that makes your music fall into this category?

DA:  I am grateful for New Age music, no matter what it is called, because it is beautiful, emotional music and it has the  power to move us deeply. And I love writing music that moves me to my soul.

AV:  You have a couple of major threads that run through the music you have released, Native American and Celtic threads. What was/is it that influences you to compose music with these major themes in mind?

DA:  I love music that drones, it is very hypnotic and gets us out of our head. I find both of these genres have beautiful droning in them. It is a great joy for me, to create a simple and lovely melody line over a droning note or chord. I just bought a tambura and oh man, am I having fun!

AV:  Besides those two major themes mentioned in the last question what other elements might we find in a Diane Arkenstone composition that would be common to more than just one album?

DA:  Love.

AV:  Most everyone knows from the name alone that you were once married to David Arkenstone who is himself considered a major new age musician. Tell me about the musical synergy that was created while the two of you were together and sharing your creative musical energies? What musical influences did you have on one another and the path that your career has followed since?

DA:  Creating music with David was a great joy. We had so much fun writing all that music together and it was the easiest thing in the world. He would start a song and I would add the melody or visa versa. We are still very dear friends and have been talking about doing a few more albums together.

AV:  Without being overly specific is there a spiritual component to the music you compose and how is it that you communicate intangible ideas like this through your music?

DA:  I see the world thru my spirit. I feel great love and compassion for us all as one big family, as one consciousness, and that energy is in every note I write and sing.

AV:  What prompted you and David to form Neo Pacifica Recordings? Was this just a vehicle for your own music or did you sign other artists as well? How has that worked out over the years?

DA:  Neo Pacifica was created to release our own music. We were putting out allot of music and could at least have control over our music on Neo, which has proved invaluable over the years. And yes, I have thought about releasing artists on Neo, which may happen.

AV:  You have also been associated with several other acts including Ah Nee Mah, Earth Trybe and Enaid. What is it about these other acts that allow you to express ideas and themes differently than if you were to do the same thing under the Diane Arkenstone name?

DA:  A mixed palette of music is such great fun to create, and variety keeps things alive and interesting. The Adventure Cargo Series and some of the side projects evoke a sense of travel and exotic adventure, without having to buy a plane ticket.

AV:  I noticed that a Best of David and Diane Arkenstone CD was released last year (2010). Musically speaking when the two of you put out joint songs what was the common ground you had for compositions? In other words what types of music did the two of you enjoy doing together that you didn't do as solo artists and what did each of you bring into the mix?

DA:  David and I loved writing all types of music together. On our travels, we would go to local music stores and buy interesting and exotic instruments and then go home and write music around those instruments. Truly we did the same thing with our solo albums, only difference was, there was just one composer, though we would still add our two cents worth to the other's solo project.

AV:  If David brings the rhythm and percussion to a joint experience and you bring the ethereal energy as  you said in a previous interview on the Internet how would you describe what it is you do to bring this to bear on a collaboration? I wanted to better understand what this meant to you during the composing and recording of an given piece of music.

DA:  We would often times sit in the studio together and one or the other would pick up an instrument and start playing around with an idea and the song would start to take on a life of it's own. It did not take long to write a song together and we would record most songs as soon as they were written, then  move on to write the next song for the album.

AV:  How hands on are you with the recording process itself? Do you like being involved with the mixing and engineering of your music as it moves towards becoming a finished album?

DA:  I am very hands on in the recording process, in fact, I have my own ProTools studio. And I am very involved in the engineering, and mastering mixing, I am aware of every single note and nuance.

AV:  When it comes to recording your music or yours and David's joint efforts are there other people involved (musicians, producers etc) or are the two of you the whole of the instrumentation that we hear on your releases?

DA:  Sometimes an album was just David and myself, no other musicians, and sometimes we would hire string or woodwind players and so on, for another album. And we produced everything ourselves.

AV:  I read with interest your comment in another interview "the world will be uplifted by your beautiful music. The world needs you. (as a musician or singer)" The world is a chaotic place these days. What is it that you see your music  or other artists' music bringing to a world that is so full of hatred and violence? What difference can music make in the grand scheme of things?

DA:  Music is the universal language, it is the one language that does not need translation and that creates a powerful bond. It helps bring us together as one, on it's own common ground. I don't think any certain type of music will save the world, but I do believe that the more things we find in common with each other, the stronger the human bond becomes, and that is what will save the world. Music is the great catalyst.

AV:  Do you think music like laughter has a healing effect on the human body and spirit? Why?

DA:  Absolutely. Music is vibration and each note has it's own energy and individual cycles. Without going into too much detail, these vibrations and energies can set in motion a healing energy in the body.

AV:  Are you working on any new musical projects at present? Can you give us some idea of what the theme of it is or when it might be released?

DA:  Oh, I am so glad you asked Michael! Yes, I am working on a new project or two right now, with my new solo album to be released Spring of 2012.  It is very different from my previous albums and is in the Americana genre. I also wrote lots of lyrics for each song, so I am singing all over the album and playing guitars and dulcimers and a few other instruments. I wrote and recorded the new album at home and each song tells a different and unique story.

AV:  Are you constantly in creative mode when it comes to your music or do you set aside time to sit and work on your compositions? What works best for you and why?

DA:  I am in constant creative mode and everything works best. When I was a little girl, I would ride on the back of the tractor with my dad and write songs in my head with the drone of the engine, and then later fall asleep from that hypnotic drone.

AV:  Where do you see your music going in the coming years? Anything you'd like to explore that you haven't already?

DA:  I would love to see my music go into the hearts and minds of people all over the planet, what a powerful thought! As for exploring, the music just comes out as it comes out, I am not the navigator, it is.

AV:  Any final thoughts about your music or your philosophy that you'd like to share with the readers of Ambient Visions?

DA:  Thank you so much Michael for your thoughtful and well crafted interview, it has been a great honor. And finally I would like to say, it's all about Love, unconditional, compassionate Love.

AV:  Thanks so much Diane for talking to us and I hope your musical journey continues on for quite some time. Take care.