The Lost Seasons of Amorphia: 
 AV talks with Forrest Fang


Forrest Fang

Listen to Forrest Fang




The Lost Seasons of Amorphia


AV:  Why is music, whether ambient or another genre, important to you?

FF:  Music has always been an important part of my life. My father was an amateur violinist and classical music fan, and music was always being played in our home, whether from my siblings practicing or from records or the radio. My first attempt at creating music on my own was when I wrote a short piece for strings for the junior high orchestra I played in. I was too young then to know what I was doing, but it was still exciting to try it anyway. It paved the way for me to later pursue formal study of composition and electronic music in college. Since then, it's been roughly 40 years of trial and error, but I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of it (seriously!).  

I should also mention that, besides playing the violin when I was younger, I studied the gu-zheng (Chinese zither) during the mid-80s and Japanese Gagaku and Balinese Gamelan during the early 90s. These studies were a deep influence on the development of my overall compositional style and sound. 

AV:  We’ve all got stories to tell about how/why we were attracted to ambient music in the first place so let me ask, what is there about ambient music that drew you to listen to it and that led you to compose your own music in this genre? 

FF:  I've had an interest in ambient music since the mid-70s, when I started experimenting with tape delays after seeing a diagram for it in an electronic music book. At around the same time, I was also discovering the minimalist music of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and the tape delay experiments of Brian Eno. The music was hypnotic and had a mysterious and open-ended quality to it that inspired me to try creating music in that vein. I would spend hours at the University electronic music studio recording electronic improvisations that, over time, I would cull down and edit into individual pieces. I self-released three records in the early 80s in very small quantities. It was very expensive to self-release music on vinyl back then, and the distribution for very small independent releases was still in its infancy. I was very fortunate back then to have been helped by Archie Patterson of Eurock and Steve Feigenbaum of Wayside Music (and Cuneiform Records) who both carried my albums for sale. (Steve also later released two of my albums during the mid-90s on Cuneiform.) Since 2000, most of my music has been released through Sam Rosenthal's Projekt Records, which has been an ideal home for me, with its focus on ambient and electronic music.

AV:  Tell me about your creative process when it comes to composing new music. Is it something you do every day or just when inspiration hits you? Walk me through what it is like from when you get a spark of a new idea for a composition and how it goes from that spark to something tangible on a hard drive.

FF:  These days, I've been using my studio at least once a week, though can spend much of that time just trying out different sounds or processing, rather than creating music. In the past, I've gone through long periods of not making any music or using my studio at all, as it hasn't always been easy finding the time or being in the right frame of mind to do it.

 The creative process for me is generally about exploration. Sometimes a feeling may inspire me to create, but usually it is a love of experimenting with different sounds and treatments that propels me forward. I like starting with general sketches, and if something interesting materializes, I may keep going or return to it later and take a portion of it to use in another piece. I try not predetermine the result. I like for the process itself to surprise me by suggesting the next steps. Sometimes I will even use part of a much older unfinished piece if it “fits” into a piece I am trying to finish. My goal has been to develop a “sound” that I can use to suggest different moods and structures. It may sound a bit abstract, but ultimately my goal is for the music to connect with the listener while remaining interesting.

AV:  Was music always an important component of your life or was there a point at which the switch was flicked and a sonic light bulb went on in your brain that said music was a missing part of who I am?

FF:  Yes, music has been an important part of my life from a very young age. I was more of a listener than a creator, though, until I reached my college years and started formally studying it. I've never had a moment when I felt that music was a “missing part” of me, since I always felt it was there. But its presence waxed and waned at times over the years, especially when I've had to harden my focus on earning a living through practicing law.

AV:  You’ve got a new album coming out on November 4th called The Lost Seasons of Amorphia. When did the seed of this album get planted in your creative spirit & what were some of your first thoughts about what kind of music would best represent these early ideas of what it might become?

FF:  The seeds for "The Lost Seasons of Amorphia" came out of a commission from Chuck Van Zyl's space music radio program, "Stars' End." Chuck's been a great supporter of my work. He requested an extended electronic piece for a special Thanksgiving show last year. I enjoyed creating that piece ("The Isle of Welcome") very much, and decided to use it as the foundation for this album. It is very warm and calming, and the remaining pieces complement it with a hint or suggestion of its feeling, but within different reference points and moods.

AV:  I was just listening to your last album, Forever Cascades, this morning and was wondering as you approach a new project like Amorphia are there echoes of your last album still drifting around inside you as you embark on new compositions?

FF:  I usually start each album with a relatively blank slate. I try not to repeat myself or fall back on formulaic approaches in creating new pieces, though it's probably inevitable there will be some sonic continuity from album to album. Trying out new sounds or harmonic approaches in sketch pieces is one way I try to break from the familiar and bring back the fun of experimentation.

AV:  Do you see each new album you compose as an evolution of your creative spirit to a new level on your musical journey? How does Amorphia fit into the body of work that you have done so far as a composer?

FF:  I enjoy making new albums. They are not so much an evolution of spirit as they are an opportunity for me to refine my processes and techniques for creating pieces. My creations always seem imperfect. Each new project motivates me to take what I've learned from the mistakes made in previous projects and apply it towards something that I hope is incrementally better.

AV:  Tell me about the gear that you used to help you take The Lost Seasons of Amorphia from an ethereal idea in your mind to a finished album ready to be shared with your many fans.

 FF:  Besides my acoustic string and percussion instruments (which include violin, Japanese Palm Harp, Balinese Kendang, and several metallophones from a Javanese gamelan), I have kept a fairly minimal setup that includes a PC laptop for sound sources (from virtual instruments like Reaktor, Omnisphere, and Surge), processing and recording, along with a very old EMU UltraProteus from the 90s, a Korg KARMA workstation, a Make Noise 0-Coast Semi-Modular Synthesizer, a Mackie mixer, and a still operational Win 98 PC with some experimental generative software that I like to run every now and then. I like using unusual processing plugins, such as those from Melda Production and IRCAM.

AV:  Was Amorphia something that you alone created or were there others involved in some capacity to help you achieve your goals with this album? What are some of the technical roles you take on to bring your visions to life? Producer? Mixer? Etc.

FF:  This album, like most of my previous ones, was recorded and produced by myself. I generally work alone, though this time around, master prog musician Dave Newhouse graciously provided several multi-tracked flute parts for the track, “From Post to Palm,” that had a beautiful pastoral vibe. My friend Robert Rich, who I've known since the early 90s, did a great job mastering the album, as always. The beautiful images used for the album's cover were provided by Robert Levy, a professional photographer I've known through Facebook.

AV:  If someone were to listen to all of your albums would they find a long novel that all moves in the same direction or are your releases more like glimpses of your life at the time of release but not really connected to your other compositions?

FF:  I can't speak for what others might hear, but I think each of my releases as a snapshot of an organized collection of expressions and sounds that interested me at a given point in my life, with the tools that I had at that time to express myself through the format of an album. There might be some continuity to those snapshots, but the albums are more like related cousins than they are parts of a larger novel.

AV:  Are you looking forward to November 4 when you can share The Lost Seasons of Amorphia with your fans? Do you ever feel anxious about a release and how it will be understood and accepted by the community at large?

FF:  Yes, I am definitely looking forward to sharing this album with my fans and with new listeners. Seeing this project being brought to life through a formal release on Projekt has been very gratifying. It will be even more so if it is heard and appreciated, but I try not to worry about things that are not within my control.

AV:  What was it that you absolutely loved about the composing and recording of The Lost Seasons of Amorphia?

 FF:  If anything, I'd say I really enjoyed the way the pieces for the album came together organically over time. I didn't have to force anything this time, which doesn't always happen.

AV:  Thanks Forrest for taking the time to talk to Ambient Visions about your latest album. Again that album is The Lost Season of Amorphia which will be available on November 4, 2022 and readers should mark their calendars and make plans to pick up a copy of the album for themselves. Bandcamp Fridays is always a good time to buy your copy of the album. Take a listen to the free track that is currently available on the Projekt Bandcamp page if you need more convincing to get your own copy. Wishing you much success Forrest with this and all your future albums.


Ambient Visions Best Viewed in 1600 X 900 Resolution