Aquarian Dream
(Riga Records)


New Age and modern classical music keyboard fans will be in for a treat with the 2014 CD release of Aquarian Dream by piano virtuoso Carmen Rubino. The 12 track CD is filled with superbly performed piano-based instrumental music that features Carmen's piano accompanied by his soaring synths. According to the artist’s web site, the album was composed to be music for your life, as its backdrop and soundtrack. Giving the album its sparkle and sonic shine, Carmen employs a wide range of high-tech electronic gear and software. Speaking about the making of Aquarian Dream in the following interview, Carmen tells, “I always set the highest standards possible when writing and recording my music. I then make sure the instruments are playing at their very best and compliment the music with their very own identity. My hope is that my listeners will experience their very own musical journey when listening to Aquarian Dream, and that the music will preserve a timeless familiarity for my listeners.” That said, Aquarian Dream is equally about the sublime sound that Rubino and his co-producer John Barcelona get in the studio that makes the album so appealing. Carmen's piano sound is very clear and shimmering and his synth harmonies are very well orchestrated, enabling Carmen Rubino to sound like a one man electronic / symphonic orchestra. Fans of Vangelis, Yanni, Mike Pinder's orchestral rock approach in The Moody Blues and Rick Wakeman’s instrumental albums will enjoy Carmen Rubino’s brilliant Aquarian Dream. presents an interview with

: Where are you from originally and where do you live now and what do you like best about it? I read you’re from Buffalo New York.

: I was born and raised in Buffalo New York and have lived in Western New York most of my life. Buffalo is referred to as “The City of Good Neighbors”... it is a close knit community that reaches out to one another.

mwe3: Your new CD, Aquarian Dream is best described as a New Age instrumental symphonic masterpiece. Is this your first album and can you give some info as to how the album came together and how long it took to write, record and release? It’s interesting that you and your producer John Barcelona were in a band together at one time, so I would think there’s a solid musical chemistry between you and John. How did you work together on creating the Aquarian Dream album?

CARMEN RUBINO: Aquarian Dream is my debut album; I started writing the music in 2007. The music began taking shape and form and it had a clear identity and feel that I desired to maintain throughout the album. We spent a great deal of time laying out the “bed-tracks” and building a foundation for the album. Mixing this body of work was crucial to my discriminating ear. I was then able to mix it into individual tracks, from my Kurzweil keyboard, down to the production software. At this time I would reach out to my longtime friend and engineer, John Barcelona, who has helped me immensely to take the Aquarian Dream music to the next level.

John’s musicianship was a great help in the studio. He has a great feel and understanding of my music, over the many years of music collaboration. John’s engineering abilities gave me the ability to explore endless possibilities to enhance the music to my lofty expectations. I tried taking it to a couple commercial mastering studios but I found that John actually did a much better job than what they came up with, which to my ear was worse than it was when I brought it in. John and I mastered the CD from late in 2013 until September 2014, working on the days we both had availability and began release preparations shortly thereafter.

mwe3: Did you have a musical goal with making the Aquarian Dream album and what do you hope the listener will come away with after playing the CD?

CARMEN RUBINO: I always set the highest standards possible when writing and recording my music. I then make sure the instruments are playing at their very best and compliment the music with their very own identity. My hope is that my listeners will experience their very own musical journey when listening to Aquarian Dream and that the music will preserve a timeless familiarity for my listeners.

mwe3: What kind of gear did you use to record the Aquarian Dream album? Were real pianos and strings used and how were the various keyboard and piano sounds altered to create that very symphonic keyboard sound? For example, the CD liner notes mentions you used Kurzweil music systems. What is the difference in using Kurzweil and the Alessis gear? You also mention the Guitar Center in Buffalo in the credits. Are there any guitars on the Aquarian Dream CD and what other state of the art computer systems were used to make the CD?

CARMEN RUBINO: The Kurzweil Mark 12 was used to record the first 16 tracks of each of the songs, for the most part, and certain tracks were recorded with the Alessis QS6.1. A Behringer XENYX X1832USB mixing board was used for audio out to a Delta 1010 Sound Board which was inside a custom built computer built by John. Yamaha studio monitors were used to monitor mixes. The main mix was first compiled on Sonor 10 but we were not happy with the audio engine. Then we found Samplitude ProX, which has the best audio engine I have heard. Its functionality seems all of Pro Tools quality. The main was remixed, and subsequent mixes were all done with Samplitude. However Samplitude has ample mastering tools, none were adequate for our purpose.

Then we discovered Isotope Ozone 5, which is a high end mastering suite. We knew at this point we would then be able to finish after several unsuccessful mastering efforts. Although we managed to get an authentic sound for each of the instruments, they were all reproduced digitally through the superior sound library of the Kurzweil. The concert grand piano sound is present throughout the album and parameter adjustments were made to the piano sound, which features a “pong” effect that uses the stereo field to affect a unique sound.

The elements of this effect are present on the tracks “Tears of Joy”, “Sacred Vows”, “Transcendence” and “Aquarian Dream”. The string sections throughout the album were laid out in multi-octave sections, which provide the full, rich, orchestral presence. The Guitar Center was the “go to” place for much of the gear used, though none of which was a guitar. The guitar sounds, which were “Jazz Guitar” which has a small presence on the album, and can be heard on “In Our Place” and a small riff on “Aquarian Dream” but produced by the Kurzweil as well. The Alessis was used actually sparingly for important parts, like sound effects.

mwe3: How did the CD mixing and mastering impact the overall sound? Were special steps taken to make sure the sound was distortion free and clear and clean? Who was involved with you during the mixing and mastering of the Aquarian Dream CD and can you tell us something about the very cool CD cover art?

CARMEN RUBINO: Mixing and mastering was absolutely a critical part of finalizing the overall sound of the album. The discriminating placement of the instruments in the mix is something I take very seriously. I spent considerable time finding the right levels for each of the instruments. Mastering the album was the most challenging part of the project. I was very satisfied with the overall mix and did not want to disturb that final mix. Mastering is a very fine line balancing act where the recording can change in an instant.

With the help of my longtime friend and engineer John Barcelona and the great mastering software Isotope Ozone 5, we were able to achieve and capture the brilliant sounds of the Kurzweil Mark 12 keyboard and preserve the dynamics that played through the custom Boston Acoustic system, which had to be recaptured by process, because Kurzweil only provides a composite out on the Mark 12. The end result is most satisfying and was well worth our time and effort.

As far as the CD art is concerned... near the beginning of the project, I knew I wanted “Glen Falls” on the covers, which are the waterfalls you see. But I didn’t want just a photograph of the falls, like many of which can be seen around our city. Glen Falls is in the historic village of Williamsville, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, which is where I grew up. It also fit, as Aquarius is the water-bearer. John came up with the making of the Aquarius correlation, and custom designed an actual picture of Glen Falls with the universal, and Aquarius correlation, so that it had a cohesive theme.

mwe3: It’s interesting to note that you regard YES and the Moody Blues as being among your big musical influences. When did you first listen to these bands and others you cite including Jethro Tull. With the Aquarian Dream CD it sounds like you’re bringing the spirit of 1970’s symphonic rock into the 21st century. How influential were rock keyboard innovators like Mike Pinder, who really pioneered the use of mellotron and that orchestral sound in progressive rock? Do you draw a line between groups like the Moodies, Tull and YES and classical artists like Beethoven and Bach, who you also mention on your web site? It’s interesting and historic to think how these bands will be considered in fifty or one hundred years.

CARMEN RUBINO: I began listening to progressive rock music in the early 1970’s and developed a greater appreciation for the music and the musicianship of the great artists of this genre throughout my lifetime. As I am doing this interview it became known to me that the band YES did not get into the rock and roll hall of fame. My reaction is a great disappointment. Which leads me to wonder how bands like YES and Jethro Tull have not made the rock and roll hall of fame. These two bands specifically have been playing for decades. Nearly 50 years of concerts, albums,and to this day are still performing live. These bands have explored new territories and have matured musically to the present day. They are the very essence of the progressive rock genre, from its beginning, and will certainly have a place in the future generations of music composition. Just as it has been demonstrated by the great masters of classical music, that are now centuries old. Mike Pinder, Keith Emerson, Tony Banks, John Tout of Renaissance and many others were all influential to some extent in my writing style, as were the writings of Bach and Beethoven. I think on some subconscious level they all have a part in it, though I don’t think about any of it while it is happening. I think there is a certain timeless quality to the themes on Aquarian Dream and if history is a teacher, it will stand the test of time. As will many of the others you have mentioned. I am definitely trying to bring the spirit of all of it together.

mwe3: What track from Aquarian Dream are you planning to promote the album on video channels like You Tube as well as radio? How about international promotion and exposure? What is your plan to bring Aquarian Dream to other countries outside the US and what are the chances you will do live performances in the future?

CARMEN RUBINO: The plans for promotion to this point have been every track and as much as possible. We have a promotional video on my Youtube channel, which features every track, and runs 10 minutes. We are talking about the possibility of “Tears Of Joy” as being the right length and substance to maybe do something extra. But there are no direct plans about specific tracks. Certainly if one track or another gains popularity new plans can be surmised. It can be surprising what turns out to be popular, so we will give them all a fair chance.

A worldwide radio airplay and print media campaign is already underway and is progressing weekly. It appears that we are getting a fair amount of exposure in Russia and the Netherlands. But there are shows in the UK and all over Europe who have given airplay commitments. Even a show in Australia is playing tracks. As you can probably see, the instrumentation in the music makes for an involved live performance. It could be done digitally as well, but that wouldn’t be as impressive as an orchestral arrangement. So if the timing and the financial arrangements were in place, I would certainly consider a live show or tour.

mwe3: Following Aquarian Dream, what kind of direction would you like to take your music in next? Are you planning to write and record more music in the coming year and what other plans do you have for 2015?

CARMEN RUBINO: There is currently and existing library of unrecorded material, as well as unfinished material in addition to that. I will be carefully selecting pieces and planning to release a second album in 2015. This new material is in part more of the same but there are some new territories explored in many of the new pieces. Some are more toward the progressive side, while maintaining the large symphonic sound. The early part of 2015 will be largely marketing efforts for Aquarian Dream. After we have done all that can be done on marketing, I will be back at the recording studio recording the second album.

Thanks to Carmen Rubino and John Barcelona @


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