My Second Album - Recorded ten years after the release of my first
After a ten-year absence, I returned to the recording world with the 80-string guitar-zither that I had used on my "Dawn" album.
On side one, the instrument is tuned to the natural pentatonic scale (C,D,E,G,A): the most harmonious of all scales and the basis of traditional Chinese music. This scale has an extraordinary effect of peacefulness. Side two presents the pentatonic scale with the third note (the 'blue note,' Eb) lowered (C,D,Eb,G,A).
I had discovered the natural pentatonic scale and its derivatives back when I had been living in New York City during the late 1960s.
The Celestial Ascent album demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale in its pure form (C,D,E,G,A), as well as with the E lowered one half step to E flat (C,D,Eb,G,A). Side One of the album is music of the day, and Side Two is music of the night. The lowering of the E changes the foundation of the scale from the major chord (C,E,G) to having the minor chord (C,Eb,G) as its basis. These are the two root chords of positive harmony - expressing joy and happiness (C,E,G) and love and sadness (C,Eb,G).
The natural pentatonic scale is the most harmonious scale that exists. I recommend reading my book "The Scale" to learn more about the pentatonic scale, and its importance for the 21st century.
"In my search for music suitable for use in the video tape of the Great Invocation, I must have listened to over 50 tapes and I found Celestial Ascent to be one of the very best" -- Michael Robbins, Lucas Trust, New York City
The Return of the Zither 1979-1980
It was 1979. The 1970s had passed, a decade that I spent studying classical music from the period of the early Renaissance through the the music of Wagner, Franck, and Scriabin. In 1979, I "dusted off" my 80-string guitar-zither that I had first used on my "Dawn" ten years before. I hadn't played it since 1971. I had just met Ethan Edgecomb, the first person in the world to distribute new age music, and who would go on to put the Windham Hill record label and many artists, such as Kitaro, David Parsons, Steve Roach and Patrick Ball on the map. He encouraged me to record a cassette tape of my music. There were only a few New Age albums available at that time, and most of them were cassette-only releases. I created a record label, DBR Music, and recorded two improvisations on the zither in my bedroom in Santa Rosa, California. For more information about the formation of the new age music genre, refer to the New Age Music chapter of my book "Music Through The Centuries."
In 1980, I began hosting workshops to introduce people to positive music. At one of these workshops, I also included a short concert featuring my performing the pure pentatonic scale on my 80-string guitar zither. This concert took place in a church in Sebastapol, California. About 24 people attended. The concert was so powerful, that at the end of my 20-minute performance, no one spoke, and every single person lined up in front of me, and each person took turns for a big, passionate hug. During this concert, I had a vision that one day, I would perform this powerful, healing music on a concert stage.
My childhood teacher, Dr. Antonia Brico, came to visit us during 1980. She liked to spend time in the curative mineral springs at nearby Calistoga. It was Christmas. I played the zither for her, and then we sat down for the Christmas meal. She requested some music to accompany dinner, and then I put Beethoven's String Quartet Opus 59, No. 1 on the record player. Dad and Mom were visiting that year, and it was quite a scene. My kids were running wild and Dr. Brico told me that they were the most spoiled children that she had ever met in her life. I wasn't worried about that, however. I was apprehensive because this would be the first time that Dr. Brico would meet Dad who, back in 1946 when I was three years old, had ordered my lessons with Dr. Brico terminated because he did not want Dr. Brico to turn me into a "God-damn prodigy." They both had such strong temperaments, I wondered when the fireworks would begin! I was concerned that Dr. Brico would light into Dad, chewing him out for taking her youthful student away from her.
Dad had been drinking quite a bit, most likely to bolster his endurance of this scene at the home of his crazy composer son and his wild kids. After dinner, as I was heading out the door to drive Dr. Brico back to Calistoga, he pinched Dr. Brico's butt, and then he winked at her and called her "Babe"! I assumed that once safely in the car, she would give me an earful about Dad's insulting behavior. That didn't happen, however. In the car she told me she thought Dad was great! He was so honest and playful. She was crazy about him.
Meanwhile, during this same period, I met my future wife Mary Ellen Bickford. She and her friend Norman Miller were producing the Rainbow Light Show in nearby Forestville. We teamed up to create the "Transformative Visions Seminar" to not only introduce people to positive music, but also to the use of visionary and transformative art in conjunction with music.
We produced three Transformative Vision Seminars. The first was held in nearby Sebastopol, the second in San Rafael, and the third in Berkeley. The seminars concluded with a 20-minute zither concert. At the end of the third seminar, I put away the zither and I moved my family back to my home state of Colorado in 1984.
Mary Ellen, me, and Suzanne during one of the Transformative Visions Seminars - 1980