MOON OVER MOUNTAIN
The Colors Of Life
(Moon Over Mountain Music)

 

Featuring the music and keyboards of Kenneth Lee Roberts and the music, vocals and lyrics of Megan Buness, the debut CD by Moon Over Mountain, The Colors Of Life is a worthy musical experience that merges music from a wealth of styles. Blending keyboards and spatial electronics, the lead track “Yes, I Am Here” sounds like a mellotron-inspired instrumental that Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues would appreciate. Though half of the album is instrumental, the classically trained vocals of Ms. Buness also brings her own unique instrument to several tracks that combine vocals, sometimes without lyrics, making for a worthy keyboard-driven New Age pop sound. Programmed drums contribute to a recording that is very much DIY-sounding, yet the well-recorded sound is for the most part both edgy and meditative. Speaking about the variety of styles to be found on The Colors Of Life, Ken Roberts tells mwe3.com, "You know, we’ve struggled to try to communicate to our listeners what it is that we’re up to musically, and, whatever it is, we don’t feel very comfortable characterizing it in terms of any genre. Having said that, there are certainly elements of New Age, electronica and pop in The Colors of Life but there was never any attempt to shoehorn any given piece into a slot of that kind. The individual tracks emerged as whatever they are from the process of trying to work out how best to get at what the compositions were about." A renowned vocalist in the Denver, Colorado area, Megan Buness also performs with one of Colorado’s top five chamber ensembles, so she also brings her classical music training to the Moon Over Mountain vocal tracks. Compared to neoclassical electronica, Moon Over Mountain also brings a sense of humor and humility to their music. While it would be no easy feat for Moon Over Mountain to become as well-known as vintage electronic music artists like Jean Michel Jarre, it's clear that fans of Jarre, Pinder and Vangelis will be sure to enjoy The Colors Of Life, if they could only hear it. www.cdbaby.com





mwe3.com presents and interview with
Kenneth Lee Roberts of
MOON OVER MOUNTAIN




mwe3
: When did you form Moon Over Mountain and what did you set out to achieve on your first album? Seems like there’s quite a variety of deep and meaningful music on The Colors Of Life. Did you try to cover as much musical ground as possible and would you categorize the album as New Age, electronica or more pop in nature?

Kenneth Lee Roberts: Megan and I began collaborating in the Spring of 2012, and subsequently worked out quite a number of compositions together. The Colors of Life represents what we liked the most of what we’ve done between then and now. Yes, you’re right, what we respond to as composers are the events in life that somehow stick in our minds as telling us something important about what it means to be a human being in a difficult, but also wonderful world. The challenge then is to find the right mix of instruments, melody, lyrics, percussion and so on to best communicate whatever it is that we’ve felt.

You know, we’ve struggled to try to communicate to our listeners what it is that we’re up to musically, and, whatever it is, we don’t feel very comfortable characterizing it in terms of any genre. There is a valuable side to “genrefication” in that it helps listeners to find more of what they like – and I think most composers also find a lot of inspiration in the best work being done by others, which may lead them to create works something like them. But the flip side of that is that any and every genre can decay into imitation or cliché, and then the music loses touch with life. There’s also a temptation to turn out “product” when some particular sort of music is very successful commercially. We wouldn’t have anything against this album selling well, but we’re wary of going too far down that road as a source of musical motivation. That can really be the beginning of the end. When I’ve seen bands headed down that path, it’s always made me shake my head sadly.

Having said that, there are certainly elements of New Age, electronica and pop in The Colors of Life – but there was never any attempt to shoehorn any given piece into a slot of that kind. The individual tracks emerged as whatever they are from the process of trying to work out how best to get at what the compositions were about.

mwe3: How did you meet vocalist / lyricist Megan Buness and how would you describe the musical chemistry on The Colors Of Life album? Have you done any other releases of is this the first?

Kenneth Lee Roberts: Well, we actually met at a writer’s self-help group called “Little Spec” (for speculative fiction). Megan asked us if we’d offer some feedback on a few things she’d composed. I really loved what she was doing, which led me to ask her if she’d like to try to work in collaboration, and she was agreeable. The musical chemistry that evolved has ended up being really quite fascinating, with the finished pieces sounding quite different from the sort of thing either of us was doing individually. Often what I was up to would inspire something quite different in the lyrics she would write, or the arrangements I would do would bring out a much different side of what she’d originally had in mind in composing. Music by itself is rather abstract, and has a startling capacity to take on a life and direction of its own, even as you compose.

Our first CD was something entitled “In Flight”, but we didn’t much pursue release to the public, and very few people have heard those pieces. We’ve also done some original Christmas music, and new arrangements of our favorite classics, which attracted a bit of favorable attention, but that music was never heard by many listeners, either. So, for all practical purposes, this is our first release.

mwe3: What is it like living in Denver area in Colorado? Where are you and Megan Buness from originally? Seems like Colorado is one of the more progressive states in the US today. Plus it’s great to get a break from global warming and the tropical saturation of Florida...

Kenneth Lee Roberts: Denver is the only sizable city in the west-central part of the US, with strangely flat and empty plains to the east, and rather epic mountains to the west. While Denver itself is pretty metropolitan, and fairly typical of large cities everywhere, the incredibly beautiful mountain “playground” is just minutes away, and has been the inspiration for a lot of music. There’s an extremely lively and diverse musical scene here. In that regard, it’s a lot like what I imagine the Bay area must have been like in the 1960s.

Megan is from Montana, and has unbelievably musical parents who met while studying music in graduate school. I’ve never met anyone less neurotic. It seems to me those fresh, wide open spaces have left their mark on her. I grew up, for the most part, in a suburb on the western side of Orlando, Florida, sandwiched in between never-ending orange groves to the west, and Orlando proper to the east.

Yes, we’ve had a strong influx of Californians here, who have brought their politics and outlook with them, and we’ve now got Democrats in control of the house and senate, as well as the governorship.

Ha! Yes, “tropical saturation” does capture that feeling well. I first moved to Colorado from Florida more than twenty years ago. I can remember leaving the airport in Orlando in shorts and a sports shirt, and still being pretty soggy, then stepping off the jet at Denver International just a few hours later, looking at the Rockies, and thinking: “Okay, I’ve been humidified down there in Florida just about long enough. Time for a change.”

mwe3: Who are some of your musical influences, musically or otherwise and what period of music history did you grow up in? Being a keyboardist, what artists or bands were you most influenced by?

Kenneth Lee Roberts: I spent my high school years listening mostly to progressive rock. I especially liked the Moody Blues, YES, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Pink Floyd had just released Ummagumma, and I thought some of the directions they took there were impressive and very distinctive. Sometimes I’d also hear something I liked in the way of pop or folk, and I liked some Motown, too, especially Marvin Gaye, but by my senior year I was listening to a lot of classical. I quickly discovered that I actively disliked a lot of it – to this day five minutes of Brahms makes me want to commit suicide - but what I did like, I liked a lot. It was ambitious, made use of instrumentation that could go places an electric guitar couldn’t, and at its best it was a lot more complex in a meaningful way. At the same time, though, it was often hard to really take to heart and identify with in the way that I could with something written by, say, Neil Young. So it was interesting to see a band like The Who trying on classical tropes and turning them into something of their own.

Perhaps oddly, though, I’m not conscious of any of that having any direct bearing on what I do when I sit down to write a piece of music, except in the sense that all those years of listening gave me a sense of what is musically possible. But I can say that my intuitions about what makes for good music and, maybe even more so, what makes for bad music, grew out of all that exposure.

mwe3: What can you tell us about the first track “Yes, I Am Here”? It’s really a haunting reverie kind of track. Are you using mellotron on that track and what keyboards and other instruments are you playing on the Moon Over Mountain album? Some parts remind me of Mike Pinder’s mellotron sounds.

Kenneth Lee Roberts: The melody for “Yes, I Am Here” was written by Megan, and her original lyric for it, which was quite good, was about personal renewal. But when I began working with it, the title suggested to me the sort of situation in which someone is suffering, and a friend or loved one is trying to offer them some comfort, and perhaps having that miserable, frustrated sort of feeling we sometimes experience of not really being able to be of much help no matter how much we might want to. And after making that emotional connection with the piece, it almost wrote itself in that direction. All of the instrumental choices were dictated by the attempt to get that sort of experience across as clearly as possible.

No, the mellotron-like instrument there is a synthesized flute voice that I like quite a lot… it’s very expressive, and from the moment I hear it, I seem to know what it wants to say.

The instrumental choices on The Colors of Life range the gamut, and include almost anything that might be found in a symphony orchestra. But two instruments kept asserting themselves over and over again: Spanish guitar and a sometimes forlorn, sometimes lively brass voice that lent itself to a surprising variety of moods. Piano and assorted synthesizer pads are called upon for their contribution in a number of pieces, but they usually behave themselves pretty modestly, although the piano does carry the melody in a few places.

I’m complimented by the comparison to Pinder. It says a lot about him, I think, that he did so much to make use of the expressive possibilities of the mellotron.

I might add that Megan seems to be able to play just about anything a human being can strum, strike, or blow into. My own talents in that direction are far more modest.

mwe3: The instrumental track 4, I think it’s “Dry Your Eyes” sounds kind of like Tangerine Dream style. It’s great. What inspired that track and were bands like T. Dream and Jean Michel Jarre big influences?

Kenneth Lee Roberts: Thanks very much. I had a really lovable friend, an unusually standup kind of guy, who became ill rather suddenly, and passed away while still comparatively young. His wife was terribly distraught at his loss, and I found myself completely unable to say what I wanted to say, so I wrote “Dry Your Eyes” instead. But it didn’t come easily. Something about the original composition dissatisfied me almost to the point of anger, and I ended up rewriting it more than a dozen times over the course of several years. By the time I was finally relatively satisfied with it, she’d moved away, and I haven’t been able to discover where. So, ironically, after all that struggle, she’s never heard it.

I have tremendous respect for Tangerine Dream and for Jarre as well, but I was so bent on trying to straighten out this frustratingly wayward composition and getting it to say what it was supposed to say that I was never aware, at least consciously, of drawing upon any sort of creative inspiration from them. In a way, I’m still not quite happy with it. It ended up wanting to go its own way, and I finally had to give in and let it. I’ve learned that the subconscious mind has intentions of its own, and sometimes we’re carried along for the ride, however willingly or unwillingly.

mwe3: Track 8 “After The Work Is Done” is very interesting. Is it supposed to be lighthearted kind of track or what was your idea there?

Kenneth Lee Roberts: Yes, you’re right about that. It’s a piece that was built mostly around a mood, and, utterly unlike “Dry Your Eyes”, just poured itself out. I would imagine that the “59th Street Bridge” song by Simon and Garfunkel, or “Red Rubber Ball” must have originated in much the same way. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope it’s equally fun to hear.

mwe3: “Heart Of The Song” is classic. What can you say about that track? Should be a pop classic!

Kenneth Lee Roberts: Thanks again! Well, that one’s another gem of Megan’s. But as short as it is, it was still a bit of a miserable struggle to hammer out. She originally sent me what she had in rather fragmentary form, we email back and forth a lot when we’re at work. I think she got a bit stuck with it, but, fragmentary or not, I loved what she’d done immediately. She works out her ideas on the piano, and never includes any percussion, but in working with it and trying to feel my way into what I thought the song was about, I ended up combining the melody with a catchy sort of percussive figure that I thought provided a nice contrast to her wonderful vocal, and then worked out an arpeggiated synthesizer phrase that seemed to complement the percussion in turn. A lot of the satisfaction in composing comes during the moments when the various uncooperative elements finally come together as they should. But getting to that point can really be a trial at times.

mwe3: With so many musical directions to choose from, what other plans do Moon Over Mountain have for 2019? I hope you get to release another Moon Over Mountain CD this cool!

Kenneth Lee Roberts: We appreciate your kind words. It’s always good to know that we’ve managed to do something that had some value.

As matters now stand, we plan to release another CD a little later this year, with a somewhat different creative direction. As always, the compositions are derived from our life experiences, but the instrumentation is somewhat different, a little more complex, and the moods conveyed are more intense, and if anything more diverse. The overall result can probably best be described as “haunting”. Most of these pieces were longer in the making that the tracks of The Colors of Life, and some are longer. And we’ve been discussing another project beyond that one.




 

 
   
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