The album SPARKS VOL. 2 couldn’t be more aptly named, as bows bend and sparks fly in this vibrant collection of pieces for string orchestra. Bound to please modernists and traditionalists alike, this eclectic collection contains pieces by Dave Dexter, William C. White, Simon Andrews, Rain Worthington, Allen Brings, John Carollo, John Franek, and Jeff Mangels. While the pool of inspiration might be diverse – ancient myths, dance, chaos, rites of passage, reflection and homesickness for a place which (may have) never existed – the pieces are united by their display of raw musical energy, an undercurrent of longing, as well as profundity in both technical and emotional terms.
Today, John is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover how a childhood visit to his local library helped John gain confidence in his music…
Tell us about your first performance.
My very first public performance will forever hold an incommunicable importance to me as the whole process from beginning to end made me feel so alive. When I had just turned 14 years old I had been taking piano lessons for about 1 1/2 years. One day during that summer, something inexplicable inspired me to walk across town to my local library and ask whoever was there about giving a concert.
I was already aware that they had a piano and that concerts were hosted there, but that was just about it! Much to my luck, and deep appreciation in this time of reflection, the individuals I spoke to were nothing less than reassuring, motivating and completely supportive of the idea. I attribute the effect of this positive early experience on my young self to be the very first foundation of self-sustained promotion in my entire journey/career, an element of my character and process so crucial to my work that I am consistently humbled by it’s origins in my hometown.
The performance itself was an absolute gem of emotion for me, and I even remember a photographer from New York being present and offering his own experience from photographing concerts at Carnegie Hall. In all, this first concert was the impetus behind a broad range of my professional and creative processes, all of which I use actively in my daily life today. I cannot, and I really mean cannot, begin to describe in words the value of this vivid and ineffable memory to my heart.
What inspires you to write and/or perform?
Whenever I encounter this question I find that my initial response is usually that of worry towards the broad nature of this topic, but even through my short journey I still feel some truth in the answers which come to me: the situation(s) of human beings, the Earth and it’s natural elements, the rituals of past and present, the indifference of the cosmos to our existence, the seemingly infinite pain which I/we endure, and most of all the singular importance of Love and creating opportunities for it to thrive.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
Well I absolutely love learning about Anthropology, Kinesiology, Dream Study and Environmental Science but I feel my strongest passions lie outside of Music for Visual Art, Psychology and Poetry. So by this account if I had to guess I would probably be pursuing something else just as abstract, personal and unpredictable while maybe aspiring to start my own practice as a Psychotherapist? I’m just guessing here, but the opportunity to directly help others through Psychotherapy resonates with me deeply.
How have your influences changed as you grow as a musician?
I am mindful that my influences for pursuing composition are distinctly different now than when I first started composing. When I started composing at 15 for almost two years I only dug into the repertoire of the late 18th and early 19th century, being deeply inspired by the music of Mozart who was the first composer whom I dedicated research to outside of practice. The diversity of my taste in music grew gradually at first, exponentially by the time I had reached undergraduate study and ultimately culminated only in the past two years where my awareness and exposure to the full spectrum of contemporary music has become apparent to me. Now I consistently listen to music which is put into the genres of post-classical, ambient, noise, post industrial, soundscape, trap, folk, electronic, electroacoustic, jazz, avant-anything, anything metal, deep-house and so much more on a daily basis.
What are your other passions besides music?
I just simply love learning. I am bound to be a student for the rest of my life due to my profession, but what is simply wonderful about the journey I have embarked on is that music enables us to learn about non-musical concepts from a unique perspective. Other than music I love poetry; I write poetry every week and sometimes if I’m feeling saucy I even publish some of my books on Kindle Direct. That’s to say though, I wouldn’t approach poetry the way I do if I didn’t mirror my compositional process while I was doing so. The same goes for whenever I’m messing around with visual or graphic art. I just trust the methods I have embodied within the process of my main craft of music composition.
Where and when are you at your most creative?
Whether it is fortunate or unfortunate I am still unsure, but I am consistently at my most creative and motivated when I should be asleep. I have always had vivid dreams which I remember distinctly no matter which time of day I find sleep or rest at, so my life has turned into a scramble for sleep during odd hours while working when I feel able during the night hours.
Location is a more diverse and situational kind of influence on my writing. In a nutshell, I feel places of notable or striking beauty give me the most inspiration to be creative. That being said, nothing is more ideal than being in nature, preferably by or in contact with water (on land or from sky), where it is quiet enough for me to hear my own body functioning.
Explore John’s Latest Release
SPARKS VOL II
SPARKS VOL II is available now from Navona Records. Click here to visit the catalog page and explore this album.