I grew up in the watershed of the great Merrimack River, which flows from the confluence of the Winnipesaukee and Pemigewasset Rivers in New Hampshire, 117 miles to the sea at Newburyport, Massachusetts. When I saw Damian Mark Ryan’s series of photographs taken during walks along the railroad tracks and river paths of the Merrimack River mill city Haverhill, Massachusetts, I felt an instant resonance with my own journey; a powerful evocation of the layers of past, present, and possibility that vibrated with memories of the power of place. I knew within moments that I wanted to compose music to accompany these images.
Damian Mark Ryan was a good friend during my high school years. We spent much time in conversation-- often walking alongside the Pemigewassett, just a few miles from where it became part of the Merrimack at Franklin Falls. We talked about literature, art, film, music, and, sometimes, our feelings about the New England landscape. Before long, our conversations led to collaborations on student film projects. Damian and I “met" again recently via social media, and it has been a nice surprise to renew a creative collaboration 40 years later.
The texture of the music-- performed on electric baritone guitar with delays-- was suggested by the idea--and images-- of a lone pilgrimage through an urban New England landscape full of memories that are strong yet perhaps just out of reach. The intervallic, rhythmic, and harmonic structures are based on factors and addends of the number 12, again rooted in the the idea of pilgrimage and deep contemplation. Indeed, one possible translation of the Abenaki place name Merrimack is “ at the deep place .” -KMB
Sub-zero temperatures, strong winds, icy roadways, and the constant accrual of snow have made this a rugged winter here in central Vermont. Despite some hard slogging, I have been doing my best to hold in my heart and mind the beauty and mystery of winter, and somehow the contemplation of mountains-- along with the making of art and music inspired by this-- has helped.
The other day, following up on some research, I stopped at the library to look for a copy of Francis Parkman's THE OREGON TRAIL. I found a well-worn 1925 edition and took it from the shelf. Opening to a random page, I came across these words:
There is a spirit and energy in the mountains, and they impart it to all who approach them.
With those words resonating, I offer a sampling of recent watercolors, along with a new soundscape composition for steel guitar and wordless vocals. -KMB
Park range, winter- paintings by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor and graphite on paper, 2015.
To wrap up this year, I'm presenting a video exhibit here-- a selection of watercolors from 2014, along with a new piece of music composed especially for the images.
I remain grateful for the chance to share my music, art, and words, and I thank all of you who support my work with your listening, looking, and reading; with your purchases of books and prints and downloads.
Of course, there are some new things coming in 2015. The second Buck Hawkins novel will soon be in the hands of first readers and editors, and is still on schedule for release in the summer. Also in the works is a line of note cards with KMB images. I've had many requests for this, and now the time is at hand.
Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for peace and fulfillment. -KMB
I am going to come right out and say it: this is a love letter.
These past few mornings you have—calmly, quietly—helped open my heart in new ways.
The way you pierced a dark cloud bank this morning, suffusing a wide horizon with rust and gold, and afterward cast a glow on almost-winter trees: these were surely something to see.
Later, when you came from higher in the sky, with great purity and clarity you allowed each object or shape you touched--bare tamarack, tall steeple, slow gray river--to simply be itself. Such clear and powerful revelation…
At this point words begin to fail me. I think it’s best that I take myself outside now and into you.
Please know that I will hold steadfastly to your gifts when December’s thinner light gives way to those shadows you hold, for now, at bay.
Kevin Macneil Brown
Photographs by Kevin Macneil Brown, November 2014.
Leaves falling-- or fallen- here in Vermont, and a long stretch of raw, rainy days. Autumn seems to bring on a sense of completion-- temporary, of course-- to projects at hand, a shift and fade into to a time of looking and listening inward.
This fall I have released two EPS of new music.
LONGING WEST collects songs and instrumentals inspired by last winter's visit to the mountains of northern Colorado, (The title track itself is sort of a sound sculpture from near the Continental Divide.)
BLUE/STEEL/SILVER gathers a year's worth of ambient and contemplative sound paintings made with steel guitar and lap top-- dreamy, sometimes dissonant, these pieces are made to evoke in sound mysterious shores, landscapes, and skylines.
I hope you enjoy listening to some of my sonic harvest this season.