"Some of the best music that I have composed has never been written down on manuscript paper nor will it ever.    Improvisation, not the act of merely grappling  for ideas,  but the inspired playing that comes directly from the voice of the soul, unencumbered  by a lack a facility on the instrument or a destructive self consciousness is a music that transcends all systems and structures.    And when I am composing a music that precisely expresses my inspiration in its notation,  my goals is always to make to sound spontaneous  and fresh.   Then there is the faith that Tom and I put in our process of improvisation we call "fourth stream" music.  When we (I) finally surrender to it the real music begins to happen. "  William Neil   
Blindfolded cat 1
A Composer Prepares

A few of our Nostras Voces:  Out of Darkness Into Light donors have asked how we will prepare for this performance.  Actually, I already know some elements that will make a significant difference in our playing.  We are truly empowered by what we choose to bring into the FourthStream.  The journey from darkness to light will be fundamental to the development of the piece and the experience of the audience.   Indeed, I have a vision of my composition as a search for music in the dark.  To that end, I will practice for three  months prior to the performance blindfolded.  Not only will I improve the technique in my hands, but I will develop a listening skill that will allow me to fully concentrate on Tom's playing.  I am confident that this will bring us to an extraordinary level of improvisation that the audience will appreciate.  


The Mystery of New Music 


Could a musical composition and performance that invents itself from nothing into something be the new paradigm in contemporary music culture?   The very process of cultivating broad based support for a specific project through crowd funding is liberating for the artist and exciting for the audience.  It fosters an atmosphere of free and independent artistic work.  It is essentially a one of kind experience that is unfettered by the need to sell concerts just to fill seats or to court the continued support of a local foundation. Its all about doing it once and doing it well. 



We live in a era that has put a price on culture.  Music in particular has evolved into an on demand experience.   Through instant downloading and file sharing,  it has become part of an endless chain of music past and present that saturate or ears without a present cultural context.  Often the only context is nostalgia.   I am suggesting that there is an alternative experience, an experience that promises to be a rich and fulfilling. 


In David Byrne's book  How Music Works,  he astutely describes how the music industry has changed through technology as it perfected the creation, promotion, and sales of recordings and then evolved into an industry producing inexpensive, mass manufactured goods sold for pennies or given way for  free.  I was particularly inspired by his definition of music of the past.   He said "music was something you heard and experienced, it was as much a social event as an aural one.  It was communal, and often utilitarian…music was a singular experience, something connected to a specific time and place.  It was part of the continuum, the timeline of your life, not a set of "things" that lived outside of it."   


His description of the way is was, strikes me as exactly what is missing in the experience of music of today.  Instead of accepting that technology has permanently changed how we experience music, perhaps we should be thinking about how we can use technology to restore the fullillment that we have been missing.   

The evolution of music is full of examples that have changed how we experience music.  A few examples from Bryne's book include the creation of great cathedrals that enlivened the music that was performed within the space, Jazz musicians improvising the melody so the dancers could continue dancing, and creating recital halls so the harmonically complex passages and intricate melodics variations could be appreciated by the audience.  So, for the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work, I believe we need to focus on cultivating an environment, fiscal and artistic, that will inspire great performances and enrich the audience.

The Mystery of Collaboration

The Mystery of Collaboration

Many of our fans have asked "what is the fourth stream?"  Tom some years ago when we performed on WFMT Radio in Chicago made these remarks:  "FourthStream is the logical progression of the synthesis of composed and improvised music. We are approaching the music from the perspective where the composition serves to enhance the improvisation."   Indeed, our recent developments include digital and video elements, not because we are interested in laying out a sensorial stimulus for our audience but because we want to channel a diversity of themes outside of the purely melodic and harmonic into our performance.  We essentially want to create a poetic environment  where higher levels of improvisation are induced.  Ideally we want to create a special kind of music that can only manifest itself on the stage at that moment.   I once had the silly notion that  I could take one of our improvisations that we recorded  and transcribe it for orchestra. Impossible!  

One of these compositional enhancements that Tom was talking about include what I call "shadow music"   It is music that I bring to the live performance that grows emotionally and spiritually out of the ideas that we might have incubate at our rehearsal.  But the key to this music is to keep it in the shadows until the performance, introducing it spontaneously, just at the right moment  to take the music over the top or turn it in an unexpected direction. It serves to keep the element of the unknown alive so that we serve our ultimate goal of bringing the heard and the unheard to our performances.  

Our collaboration brings to mind the significance of the chalice in the Christian liturgy.   The fact that it serves  to hold and contain something sacred reminds me of what we try establish on stage.  These four streams of improvisation, composition,  technology and imagery, encircle us and focus us on the center of our performance and then back to our own centres of concentration so that we may perform at our optimum level. 




The Mystery of Sound:  Creating a Symphony from the Chirp of a Cricket

The Mystery of Sound: Creating a Symphony from the Chirp of a Cricket

Nostras Voces: Out of Darkness Into Light  will  draw sound from silence by digitally rendering the recorded voices of the people who worship in the Divine Sanctuary of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Chicago.  A great  sound will be heard of people calling our their own names and the names of the ancestors and the names of their future children in their own language.   Through the audio editing process, I will go deep into these  recorded sounds, lightly drawing out the colour of each syllable from whispers, then exploding their consonances building a wall of sound name by name that will rise up into the space like an upside down waterfall, an inverted cascade of glorious partials rising to the highest arches of the church. And to be honest with you I have a selfish interest in creating an extraordinary improvisation with Tom Gullion in the middle of this cascade. I know it will move us to extraordinary performance levels.  

All by the magic of digital acoustics, like creating a symphony, if you will,  from the chirp of a cricket. 

By supporting our Hatchfund.org campaign, you will make this vision real and bring so many people together in a joyous celebration at the end of our journey next Fall.  We have reached over $1,000 in support, please help us with our goal of $1,800 by the end of next week!


By simply sharing your power of choice  to make a donation you will make a difference in this world through art. 

Click below to donate online or request a contribution form. 




The most beautiful thing we can experience is the the mysterious.   Albert Einstein

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the the mysterious. Albert Einstein

Fear of the unknown can wield its power over our creativity in two ways.   It can engulf us in a paralytic   state of non action before barriers that appear to be unsurmountable or It can  allow the unexpected to inform our next move with inspiration and intelligence.    If we allow ourselves to abandon our preconceptions of how we think things should unfold in our lives and work,  then we open ourselves up to the power of mystery.   My quest as a creative artist has been graced with the unexpected many times, particularly when I least expected that my path would be altered and broken by something unknown to me at the time.  And it seems to be centred around a certain person or a group of people  that I might have met, again, unexpectedly.   So, this new proposed project is just that:  an embrace of the unknown.    All of the elements are unknown to me at this time:    the funding, the expected synergy of the musicians, the participation of the "voices" of the parish and the expectations of the audience and the host.  It is all so unknown and I welcome the unexpected. 



 I recall in my student composer days when I was enamored by a young female dancer in the theatre department  of Case Western University.  She was built like an athlete but moved  like a young child.   Instead of using her body to leap and jump around, she created these slow motion vignettes standing still.  I remember her interpretation of a segment of  the Antigone legend, a five minute fluid transformation of every muscle of her body including the muscles in her face.  She was depicting Antigone's reaction to the news of Polyneice's death.  The manner in which she brought the intense inner emotions of this story slowly from within her through every part of her body and outward into the space of the auditorium was breathtaking.   And then the unexpected,  I learned later that she was playing to someone in the audience who unexpectely came to the performance:  her on- again off-again lover- the boyfriend who could not decide what was more important to him the State of Israel or his love for her.  You see this was in the middle of the 1973 Arab–Israeli War and he was an Israeli-American and was considering leaving the country to join in the conflict.  The parallel with the legend of Antigone was obvious:  two brothers leading opposite sides in the Thebes' civil war creating a conflict of Antigone's loyalty in the eyes of Creon, the new ruler of Thebes.  


I remember this because all of the elements were working for one thing:  the exploration of the mysterious.