(Global Heart | Esther Haasnoot) With a career that spans more than thirty years in the recording industry and over 60 albums, the master of epic orchestral, Celtic, chill, and fantasy music gave birth to a new album. An Interview with David Arkenstone about his new album: “Music Inspired by Middle Earth – Vol. II”.
The Hobbit — Ch. 18 The Return Journey — “If more of us valued food and cheers and songs above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
A return to Middle Earth
“David Arkenstone, a 5-time GRAMMY® nominated and current 2-time SAMA nominee, renowned music composer and fan of the fantasy world and works of J. R. R. Tolkien, has released (6/10/22) his 2nd album inspired by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, 20 years after Volume I. The long-awaited Music Inspired By Middle Earth, Vol. II (on his QDV label) takes listeners on a musical journey through Middle Earth, following Frodo’s journey from the beginning to the destruction of the ring. Listeners will hear a full orchestra (strings, woodwinds, and percussion, with harp, flute, and lonely whistle) with choirs. Arkenstone chooses elements of the story to illuminate musically, then experiments by putting sounds together: those of guitar, keyboard, flute and pennywhistle.”
An Interview with David Arkenstone about his new album: “Music Inspired by Middle Earth – Vol. II” by Esther Haasnoot
Esther Haasnoot: Can you tell us a little about your background growing up? Any activity that sparks our imagination and self-discovery is healthy. What stories and wisdom of your ancestors do you draw upon, and did those stories help you to pursue a career in music?
David Arkenstone: Thanks, Esther. I was raised in a home with an eclectic array of music surrounding me, from my parents’ record collection to some unusual instruments. My father played guitar and my mother played piano and sang. Our home was never ‘quiet!!’
I learned to be creative and use my imagination through music at a very early age.
Esther Haasnoot: You are known as a musical storyteller, who is passionate about taking your listeners on a journey. Storytelling itself is the ultimate time travel machine. Stories and music can transport people into another time. J. R. R. Tolkien, one of your favorite authors, embedded in The Lord of the Rings in a variety of ways. In fact, his whole work is meant to transport the reader into another time. According to Wikipedia “Tolkien was writing in a period when notions of time and space were being radically revised, from the science fiction time travel of H. G. Wells, to the inner world of dreams and the unconscious mind explored by Sigmund Freud, and the transformation of physics with the counter-intuitive notions of quantum mechanics and general relativity proposed by Max Planck and Albert Einstein.” Tolkien recorded in his letters that C.S. Lewis proposed to him that since there was too little of what either man liked in literature, they would have to write stories themselves. He further wrote that they tossed a coin for the choice of subject: Lewis got space travel, and Tolkien got time travel. You often include a story and a map to follow along with your music. Let’s go and join me on this journey. Do you see music and storytelling as a tool for traveling through time?
David Arkenstone: I certainly do! I think music can be very useful in imagining time-traveling. Depending on the instruments, it can help paint the scene for many time periods, in the past or the future. The desire to relive moments in your ancestry can be very powerful. It’s like an adventure you have a connection to, as well as providing some insight into where you came from. The sounds of different instruments together create a tapestry that can be presented to the listener. Of course synthesizers have brought us many new sonic palettes to work with.
Esther Haasnoot: According to the legend found in “, In Imladris, there was a large hall with a dais and several tables for feasting. Another hall, the Hall of Fire, had a fire in it year-round with carven pillars on either side of the hearth; it was used for singing and storytelling on high days. Why is storytelling still important today?
David Arkenstone: I think stories help us get a better idea of where we came from. Many stories are rooted in real ancestral peoples’ lives. Adventures of the past and stories of how people lived and worked and loved can be very enlightening. It can ground us and at the same time spark our imaginations to build on that knowledge and create our own universe around us.
Esther Haasnoot: Your music tells about memories, relationships, and tangible happiness, immersing the listener unconditionally in a lively, emotional, and harmonious world. It is the mixture of innocence, courage, strength, and vulnerability. The songs throughout this album are full of different experiences and observations in life. How do you decide which themes you would like to write about?
David Arkenstone: When I read stories, I get inspired. I try to find moments I feel I can illustrate musically, and believe I have something to add to them. It can be emotional, adventurous, dangerous, or whatever engages my musical mind. I then choose what instruments I feel will bring my vision to life. The craft of arranging, and orchestrating, and polishing them is the part I enjoy most. That’s when the ‘painting’ comes to life for me.
Esther Haasnoot: All the magic happens outside our comfort zone. To receive soul fulfillment we must turn within, enter our inner world or the underworld and embrace all aspects of the self that are waiting for us in the shadows. All heroes have one thing in common: they are destined to make a journey that is both physical and spiritual in the quest for personal fulfillment. We can become our own heroes as we attempt to open portals into the divine mysteries and see beyond the illusions and shadows and know ourselves fully as the brilliant and eternal light beings that we truly are. Do you think that learning to master one’s skills is a kind of “hero’s journey”?
David Arkenstone: I believe you must master the tools of your chosen passion/ profession. I never thought of it as a hero’s journey, per se, but it’s absolutely critical if you want to fully communicate what you’re passionate about. And it can be very solitary at times. To compare to sculpting, it’s like when you are first looking at the block of marble before imaging what it can become.
Esther Haasnoot: The journey of self-discovery and enlightenment is of course not always easy. Traveling on the river, the hobbit Frodo regrets having the ring, but remembers Gandalf the Grey’s words about his destiny, and he continues. So, each hero has a mission and is given challenges to face. As an artist, what is your mission, and what do you find is the most challenging thing to do or to overcome?
David Arkenstone: My mission, as you put it, which is inescapable, is to present the best musical experience that I can for the listener. I don’t really have a choice. It’s what constantly drives me. Part of the challenge is knowing when the piece is complete, as it could really go on forever, developing and morphing as I become better at my craft.
Esther Haasnoot: There is a quote by Socrates which says: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Nowadays, most of the music has to be made because it simply has to be sold. It may sound great, but it can be very empty. Some artists lose connection with themselves along the way. “The Houses of Healing is a beautiful, rendered lonely meditation on the preciousness of memory, reflecting the sense of mysticism and magic and drawing us into a meditation on the limits of solitude and fortitude.” Your music brings people together and heals and comforts many fellow travelers. How do you see this? How have you found personal healing through music?
David Arkenstone: The healing power of music is ever-present. I’ve seen it many times in practice. It allows people to transcend their problems, or afflictions or whatever is acting negatively upon them. If I’ve done my job and communicated my desired emotional message, people may find a respite or something exciting or a new experience to draw on that they can use in their lives.
Esther Haasnoot: We can become our own heroes as we attempt to open portals into the great mysteries and see beyond the illusions and shadows and know ourselves fully as the brilliant and eternal light beings that we truly are. The crowning of the hero occurs when his dreams manifest into reality and, as a self-actualized being, he becomes sovereign of his own life. He found his gem. Your name ‘Arkenstone’ has the same name as the great jewel of the Dwarves of Middle Earth. “It was like a globe with a thousand facets; it shone like silver in the firelight, like water in the sun, like snow under the stars, like rain upon the Moon!” If you could share a golden nugget with the next generation, what would that be? What is the one thing about music you would love everyone to understand and experience?
David Arkenstone: I would love people to know that they can actually create their own musical experiences. Whether by learning a new instrument or listening to many kinds of music, even beyond their comfort zone, music can just wash over you and shape your daily life experience. It is very transporting. I think learning an instrument is like a gateway into another world.
Esther Haasnoot: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
David Arkenstone: Creating the music is only one part of the experience. What comes back to me from listeners is another. So I would encourage people who enjoy my music to reach out and let me know…! Thank you, Esther, for this opportunity.
About David Arkenstone:
With 5 GRAMMY nominations, 2 SAMA nominations, 20 Billboard hits, numerous film, TV, and game soundtracks (including World of Warcraft) and dozens of albums in release, David Arkenstone has established himself as one of the most diverse, prolific and established contemporary instrumental musicians of our time. You’ve heard his music on everything from NBC sports such as The Kentucky Derby, The British Open, and Premier League Soccer to high-end commercials. This world renowned multi-instrumentalist captivates audiences with distinctive tracks that inspire the imagination. A musical storyteller, David is passionate about taking his listeners on a journey by creating sonic tapestries that evoke every emotion.
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