Composer and pianist Bill Whitley’s writes music that is rooted deeply in themes of mysticism and nature, incorporating musical elements as diverse as a Gregorian chant, raga music, and progressive rock. Today, Whitley’s our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover what makes his new album benchmark chamber music.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a composer?
The first time I heard In a Landscape by John Cage, was when I realized that maybe ‘classical music’ was bigger than Chopin and Beethoven. I started improvising, then notating solo piano music like there was no tomorrow. What surprised me most, was that I never got tired of writing music. Unlike practicing and performing on the piano, the depth of the composing well seemed to have no end to it.
If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would it be?
Testing high-quality headphones.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?
On the deck of a cabin overlooking the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers. That kind of openness is where my music comes from.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
Wow. That’s like trying to pick a favorite child. I’m really proud of all of the tracks and all of the performances, and the mixes…
…but “The Eddy (reprise)” into “White Water” (tracks 13 & 14) at the conclusion of Little White Salmon where Donna starts humming, then falls back into “Flow”…that gets me every time. It seems like a really great way to end the album, and it’s so clear that everyone…performers, engineers, producer…everyone really got the piece, the music, and the whole album.
Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose than the others?
They were all either really easy to write or all really hard to write. I can never remember. I do know that some of them came with really difficult emotions. But that’s what the pieces are for…and often the ones that are the result of working through deep sadness sound the happiest.
But one piece, in particular, captures the feeling of failing to find my way out of depression…that would be “Oaxaca.”
What does this album mean to you personally?
It’s most definitely a benchmark. I didn’t expect that. I look back at all of the work I’ve written and recorded before with I DREAM AWAKE as the acid test. I’ve already actually recycled/deleted/removed uploads of works I’d written or recorded prior since this album has been mixed. I think my body of work will be defined as pre- and post- I DREAM AWAKE.
I see the album as an example of what my work could be.
Bill Whitley’s I DREAM AWAKE releases on Ravello Records Friday, August 11th and will become available for purchase and streaming.