studio production by famed producer / New Age music conceptualist
Will Ackerman, the 2014 CD release of Emergence is
the finest album yet from acoustic / finger-style guitarist Lawrence
Blatt. The 12 track, all instrumental album should be right up
the alley among fans of Ackermanss world renowned Windham Hill
Records. Recorded in Ackermans Vermont-based Imaginary Road
studio, Emergence features Lawrence working with Ackermans
A-list of solo instrumentalists including violinists Charlie
Bisharat and Lila Sklar, Eugene Friesen (cello),
Sam Bevan (double bass), Jill Haley (English horn),
Richard Gus Sebring (French horn) and Jim Rothermel
(penny whistle). Earlier album releases, including Fibonaccis
Dream and The Color Of Sunshine were both critically acclaimed,
yet the release of Emergence brings Lawrence Blatt's guitar-centric
brand of instrumental music to a whole higher level. The sound on
Emergence is more 21st century guitar-based mood music than
meditative acoustic instrumental, yet theres elements of both
that should have wide crossover appeal not just among contemporary
art music aficionados but also among guitar fans looking for an eclectic
acoustic instrumental music experience. For Emergence, Blatt
states that his compositional style was influenced by a world
full of complex patterns and seemingly unexplainable order, from the
beauty of an individual snowflake to the migration patterns of birds
and butterflies. The unexplainable complexity of life and the
miracle of sound is brought under the sonic microscope on Lawrence
Blatts excellent Emergence CD. www.LawrenceBlatt.com
mwe3.com presents an interview
Can you tell us where youre from originally and where you live
now and what you like best about it?
Lawrence Blatt: I have lived in many places and each location
has had a unique and significant influence on my life and on my music.
As a young child, I grew up in Southern California in the San Fernando
Valley, which is adjacent to Los Angeles. From the age of seven, I
had an intense longing to play the violin. I know that may sound strange
for a seven year old growing up in the heart of rock and roll, however
something inside me was begging to play the violin. After several
months of pleading with my parents, they agreed to let me play and
found a wonderful teacher, named Mr. Burt, Albert Burt to be exact.
Mr. Burt was at least eighty years old, fairly disheveled, always
traveled with both a violin and a viola, would come to our apartment
for my weekly one hour lesson and would stay two to three hours or
until my parents kicked him out. He would hand write all music from
memory on staff paper and he built within me a strong sense of musical
logic with his explanation of scales and chord theory. I did not know
it at the time, but he was building the foundation of my musical landscape.
Later, when I was in the fifth grade, my family moved from California
to Indianapolis, Indiana. In my new hometown, I cultivated a deep
and intense interest for acoustic music and the guitar. As a teenager,
I continued my love for classical music and played in the Indiana
Youth Symphony. At the same time, I became involved in the Indiana
singer/songwriter scene and was exposed to roots music played on porches
and in small taverns. I attended Indiana University, Bloomington,
took classes in the music department, was exposed to a vast number
of musical styles and forms, and learned a significant amount of music
theory. I also continued with singer/songwriter solo and ensemble
performances in and around the Midwest and even ventured south to
Nashville, Tennessee. Later, I moved to Boulder, Colorado to work
in a biotechnology company, and it was in Colorado that I had a musical
transformation. On a whim, I signed up for a master guitar seminar
taught by renown finger-style guitarists Laurence Juber and Brian
Gore. Working with Laurence and Brian completely transformed my approach
to playing and I was introduced to open tunings and playing with the
use of my bare fingertips. This approach now predominates my playing.
A few years later, I moved to San Francisco and began an intense one-on-one
study with Brian Gore.
The San Francisco Bay area is my home today and it is indeed a fertile
crescent of creativity. There are many musicians living in the area
and opportunities to collaborate are bountiful. To this end, I have
worked in collaboration with artists like Jeff Oster, who is another
Bay area resident and a close friend.
The Bay area is also a breathtakingly beautiful place and I find inspiration
for my music in the many diverse micro climates and ecologies of the
vast Northern Californian landscape. I have also, of recent, spent
more time back in Indianapolis, where I am able to find both a deep
grounding in my music and a peaceful clime of a slower-paced and simpler
How did the newly released Emergence album take shape and how
did you meet and then work with Windham Hill founder, Will Ackerman?
Whats it like working with Will and in what ways did he help
you shape the sound and vision, and reach the final release?
Lawrence Blatt: As you may know, I have a deep interest in
science as well as music and two of my previous albums, Fibonaccis
Dream and The Color of Sunshine, have blended my passion
for music and science. For my latest album entitled, Emergence,
I wanted to see if I could use the scientific concept of emergence
as a guidepost to create music. The concept of emergence has recently
been utilized to explain how complex patterns can emerge
from simple rules, both in nature as well as in sociological systems.
It has been used to explain the inter workings of beehives, the migratory
patterns of birds and butterflies, and the complex geometry of snowflakes,
as well as many other highly ordered systems.
My concept for the album started about five years ago and given my
love of stringed instruments, I wanted this album to include violins,
violas and cellos. In some ways, the concept for the album was simple.
I created initial guitar parts that served as the root for each piece.
For the guitar parts, I utilized chord theory and musical rules of
movement and progression. For each solo instrumentalist, I asked them
to adhere to the chord structure within the bounds of predefined simple
rules, and restricted movement to that being mandated by the guitar.
No written music was supplied to any of the other musicians.
This is exactly how order emerges in complex systems in nature. I
was initially a little nervous about this approach when I first started,
but quickly realized how powerful it was. The complexity of each track
is a function of simple rules that allow higher order richness and
diversity to evolve unexpectedly from each solo instrumentalist. In
some instances, the soloist could hear the parts played by others,
however, on some tracks, the soloist did not hear corresponding parts,
but rather only adhered to the simple rules given to them. This is
the case with the Celtic inspired composition, Passing Up Bridges,
where the violinist, Lila Sklar, and the penny whistle player, Jim
Rothermel, did not hear each other during recording.
The album also has Will Ackermans signature style all over it.
In many ways, Wills contribution was also a function of Emergence,
as he has his own well-described methods and approaches to recording
music. I met Will several years ago by way of an introduction from
mutual friends, and I can say that his influence on my music has been
immense. Will pushes me to try to go further than I thought I could
and his demanding, yet genteel style, helped to bring Emergence
to a much higher level. I also consider Will to be a close friend
and teacher, and I am forever grateful for this aspect of our collaboration.
When was the music on Emergence written and is there a track
that youre releasing as a single for radio or video? Do you
have a favorite track or tracks from the album?
Lawrence Blatt: The music for the album was written over several
years in many locations throughout the world. For example, the classical
music inspired "Gar Du Nord" was written in Paris, France
when I was stranded in the North train station waiting to take the
Chunnel to London. "Passing Up Bridges" was written on one
of many trips to Wills studio while driving in the emerald green
countryside and traversing the many small towns with beautiful old
bridges that cover the Vermont countryside. The song is about hope,
but also longing to stop and learn about the many beautiful villages
that I needed to pass up to reach my destination at the
Other compositions on the album are rerecordings of pieces I released
on previous albums as solo guitar works, that for Emergence,
are transformed into ensemble pieces. These works include the composition,
Say Hello Again, which was transformed into a string ensemble
for Emergence, as well as Green Corn, which features
Charlie Bisharat on violin and Gus Sebring on French horn.
The album has been sent to radio stations, and given the diversity
of the tracks, I am hopeful that several will be selected for airplay.
I think that for people who would like a flavor of the album, they
should start with the title track, Emergence, and then
check out Say Hello Again, Green Corn, and
The Place Where The Pines Once Stood.
mwe3: Can you tell us who else plays on the Emergence
album with you and who else was key in the making of the album?
Lawrence Blatt: I am so pleased with the other musicians who
played on the album, many of whom were hand selected by Will Ackerman.
These musicians include solo instrumentalists, including Charlie Bisharat
and Lila Sklar on violins, Eugene Friesen on cello, Sam Bevan
on double bass, Jill Haley on English horn, Richard "Gus"
Sebring on French horn and Jim Rothermel on penny whistle.
mwe3: How would you compare Emergence with your other
CD releases and how do you feel your playing has changed or improved
over the years? Do you practice every day and how does practicing
guitar help you with your composing?
Blatt: As one of my collaborators recently stated, Emergence
is the most consistent album you have released, from a stylistic perspective.
I think the album is much more grounded in classical music compared
to my previous releases which spanned jazz to acoustic roots, and
even World flavors. I also think that the album has a great progression
of the program, with each composition leading to the next.
Please try to listen to the entire album at once to experience this
aspect. In addition, I think this album is more mature than previous
releases and the album is about the music, meaning, that
it didnt need to be only about my guitar. To this end, for several
compositions I play an accompanying role, rather than lead role. One
final note, the album contains no percussion instruments which is
a big departure from many of the rhythmic composition on my previous
albums, Out of the Woodwork, Fibonaccis Dream
and The Color of Sunshine.
mwe3: Can you tell us something about the guitars you are performing
on the new album and what other guitars do you have in your collection
that you use to record and perform with? How do you decide what strings
you want to play on what guitars, and do you have any favorite amps,
pickups and/or special effects when you record or play live?
Lawrence Blatt: I played several guitars on the album, including
my Tacoma Thunder Chief Baritone guitar, tuned to AEADF#A for A
Promise in the Woods, and AEADF#B on The Place Where Monarchs
Go, and BEADF#B for the composition, Green Corn.
For several other tracks, I played Wills Froggy Bottom OM guitar,
tuned to standard tuning for Emergence, Illuminations,
Where the Pines Once Stood, Entering the East Gate,
and Say Hello Again, and tuned down to DADGAD for Passing
Up Bridges. I also played my custom Perlman Redwood Topped guitar
tuned to DADGBD for Walking Among Tulips and to DADGBE
for the Eastern European inspired composition, Poloyne.
For Gar Du Nord, I played a European built Furch Stanford
acoustic guitar tuned to standard tuning.
I have several other guitars in my collection, including several Gibson
Montana acoustics as well as a custom EVD and Kathey Wingert Parlor
When I tune down, I like to use medium gauge strings and often use
Marquis or DAddario strings. In standard tuning, I like to use
light gauge strings. I dont use any modifications for my guitar
sound and usually only mic the guitar without pickups for recording
at Imaginary road studios. Since I play acoustic, for recording, I
dont use any amps or pedals. Live, I like to use just the house
PA and sometimes plugin a pickup. LR Baggs acoustic pickups are my
first choice to get a warm natural tone.
What artists most influenced your guitar playing and compositional
style and what music do you listen to when you relax or party? What
are some of your favorite guitar albums and rock and pop albums?
Lawrence Blatt: In high school, I was influenced by singer/songwriters,
such as Neil Young, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, Cat
Stevens, Carole King, Jesse Colin Young, Van Morrison, Dan Fogelberg,
America, and Boz Scaggs. In college, my musical interests expanded
to include artists such as John Lee Hooker, Al Jarreau, John Mellencamp,
Joe Jackson, and Chicago. While living in California, I listened to
a lot of folk music (Steve Earle, Steve Goodman, John Prine, Lyle
Lovett) and jazz (Larry Carlton, Brandon Fields) and I also love R&B
artists like Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire, as well as old
school funk, and rap/hip-hop.
I am also deeply inspired by other finger-style guitarists including
Will Ackerman (of course), Laurence Juber, Michael Hedges, Brian Gore,
Dave Wilcox, Leo Kottke, Ottmar Liebert and The Netherlands,
What are the plans to help get the word out there about Emergence
and what other ventures do you have planned for 2014 and into
Lawrence Blatt: To help get the word out, I am working with
some great people, including Max Horowitz at Crossover Media who will
make my CD available for radio shows, and I am also working with Doreen
DAgostino on press related matters. I am also, like any musician,
working with my own social media sites so we can all help spread the
word. In the end, I just want my music to be heard and I thank you,
Robert, for the opportunity to be featured on mwe3.com.
Thanks to Lawrence Blatt @ www.LawrenceBlatt.com