Disciple by Mark Seelig


 

Mark Seelig

To visit Mark Seelig's
website
click here.

 

 

Disciple 

 

 

 

AV:  Before we get down to questions about Disciple, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got started creating the style of music that you do now?

MS:  Several years ago I went through a very severe health crisis caused by heavy metal poisoning. Along with some regular methods of clearing the body from toxins, I had also engaged in shamanic vision questing to understand what had happened to me.

During the journeying I would frequently listen to classical Indian music played on the bamboo flute ‘Bansuri’, and in one of my visions I felt that I was told to pursue the healing quality of this music by taking up the Bansuri myself. From that point forward I devoted as much time as possible to studying the devotional aspects of Indian Ragas. 

AV:  Your latest CD, ‘Disciple’, will soon be released for sale on certain internet sites. What was the inspiration for this project and when did you actually start work on it?

MS:  The inspiration for this album actually arose out of my work with Byron Metcalf and Steve Roach. We had collaborated on two albums, ‘Wachuma’s Wave’ and ‘Mantram’, released 2003 and 2004 respectively. While these two albums feature an ambient shamanic style, Byron and Steve strongly encouraged and supported me to think about a solo album where I would fully move into the spiritual and devotional sounds of Indian flute music.

I first started working on ‘Disciple’ early 2003 when I was staying in India. I had been lucky to slip my recording gear past Indian customs unnoticed – just a laptop, a portable audio interface, mics etc. – and so I layed down some basic tracks with flute, mantra chants, and overtone singing. Then I recorded two female Indian vocalists and one Sarod player. I continued to work in Germany, where I live most of the time, and then left for the US to add additional details like Byron’s percussion and Steve’s soundworlds to have a subtle ambient background..

AV:  Once you get an idea for a music project like this do you set aside the time to work on the music and dedicate your full attention to the project or is it a little less structured than that?

MS:  I wish I had the time and financial means to fully dedicate myself to a musical project. That’s not entirely possible, but the work is still very structured in terms of certain phases of several weeks, or sometimes even two months, where I would completely focus on the project. In these phases I do a lot of meditation and flute practice before I would actually do any recording.

Later on, more of the attention than I would have thought goes into communicating with people involved in the project and making sure that this communication honors the spirit in which the music is done.

AV:  Did beginning Disciple bring to mind echoes of your previous works and how do you let your new work be its own creation without becoming too derivative of what you have created before?

MS:  This is a question I have asked myself many  times, and in the case of ‘Disciple’ it is actually very easy to answer: The only thing that ‘Disciple’ brings from previous releases is the use of the Bansuri, and the chanting. But the style is so completely different that one couldn’t even think of a derivative because ‘Disciple’ is based on classical Indian Ragas and their devotional aspects.

In other words: ‘Disciple’ is very meditative and spiritual, supporting heart centered practice, deep meditation, Yoga etc., while previous productions lean toward holding the space for shamanic and visionary states of consciousness.

 AV:  On a project like Disciple (or any of your past projects for that matter) do you isolate yourself during the creation process or do you sometimes seek outside opinions as to how things are going?

MS:  In the case of ‘Disciple’ I have actually done both. It seems to go very much step by step for me, with the dynamics unfolding by themselves. First I have an idea, then I meditate on it, practice my flute, and begin some recording. That phase is isolated. Then I would collect feedback and continue with more work in isolation until I begin collaborating with other artists. For the six projects that I have worked or collaborated on, my contributions have pretty much all come about in this fashion exept for one CD that was recorded live.

AV:  Tell me about what you found satisfying within Disciple and is this feeling the same for all the music that you create?

MS:  ‘Disciple’ is my first solo project. In that sense it obviously carries a special significance for me. What was and still is most satisfying happens more on a spiritual level for me: It’s the fact that I somehow managed to musically manifest an expression of deeply felt gratitude for the gift of life, for friendship, and for all the wonderful people that make my life rich.

This may sound a little pathetic, but after over 25 years of intense spiritual search and practice it really was my intention with ‘Disciple’ to have it be the project of the ‘Goddess’, so to say … This Goddess, or ‘divine creative force’ - or whichever name we want to give to the mystery of life - that I heard in my shamanic healing visions back then, telling me to get up my courage and take up the Bansuri.

With other projects this feeling is not quite as personally spiritual, but the most satisfying aspects have been similar. 

AV:  If someone were to pick up Disciple what would they find there? Give me an idea of the feel of your latest release as compared to some of your other work. Would your regular listeners recognize it as your “style” or might they be surprised?

MS:  Well … I’ll take this as a chance to fully blow my own horn here, yes? But first a disclaimer: The beauty of this album lies in its simplicity. There is no musical grandiosity or display of technical perfection. The focus lies on the creation of a meditative atmosphere.

On to blowing the horn: At first sight, people will be drawn in by the energy of a pretty amazing cover design. Musically, people will find 4 very long, deeply devotional and meditative tracks that will give the listener a feeling of ‘oh, finally I can really sink into this energy without the piece being over after a few minutes’. The various Ragas, vocalists, and chants pull the listener away from external concerns into a serene mood of profound relaxation and even devotion.

Talking about the devotional feel of the music on ‘Disciple’, this latest release brings out a quality of my musical work which I haven’t yet pursued with this much focus. While the more shamanic productions, at least in part, reflect the challenges that life and the spiritual search can bring, ‘Disciple’ tries to fully honor and expand the bliss and ecstasy that lies at the core of the human soul.

People who may have listened to previous releases will be surprised, that much I can guarantee. With ‘Disciple’ I have come full circle in terms of musically reflecting the wholeness of life in all its difficult and blissful aspects.

AV:  When did you know that Disciple was done and that tweaking the mix would not make it any better?

MS:  This question brings a smile: I had sent the master to the company and was due to receive the CDs a week later, when the company came back telling me that there was severe damage to the master. I had to e-mail back and forth with Steve Roach in Tucson, AZ, who had mastered the project. He immediately acted and sent the German company a new master. Not without, however, having taken the time to listen to the new master again and adding a few tweaks here and there, topping the mix off to its full potential. So after two years of work, the project was not done until about a week before pressing up the CDs.

AV:   Do you ever feel apprehensive when it comes time to take a project like Disciple to the next stage and release it to the public?

MS:  Oh, absolutely. If I’m really honest: I can say that I’m actually quite shy about it. Not so much because the album is such a personal affair; it’s more because there’s a quality of simplicity to it which requires for the listener to enter a different space in order to enjoy the album. Now, for some people this will be exactly what they are looking for. For others, however, it might feel more like ‘when is something going to happen here?’.

As an example: On track one I take about 5 minutes of very slow Alaap-style flute playing before the female vocalist comes in with a Guru Mantra. 5 minutes is not much for a meditator, but a whole lot for a busy person listening to a CD. So I am particularly apprehensive about how the overall feedback is going to turn out.

AV:  What kind of feedback have you been getting since releasing Disciple? How closely do you follow reviews or the comments you receive from your listeners?

MS:  So far, the CD has only been sold to friends and participants of my shamanic groups. The initial feedback has been excellent: People have told me that the music has given them a profoundly heart-centered experience of opening to their inner peace and longing for the divine.

I have to be cautious here, though, as these are mostly persons who are involved in various types of meditation and spiritual practice. To get a complete picture, I have to await feedback from those folks I don’t know. I follow comments, reviews etc. very closely as it is important for me to learn about other people’s take on how my intentions with the music come across to them.

AV:  When you finish a project like Disciple and it has had a little time to settle down after the official release do you ever go back and take a critical look at the project and think about things that might have been done differently or have you already moved on in your mind to your next creation?

MS:  Right now, quite a bit of work has already gone into the next project. I am actually getting ready to have it mastered. But since recording for this next CD is all done I can say that I have spent more time critically thinking about ‘Disciple’ than I have spent considering the process around ‘Dharma Moments’, the new project.

If I approach the answer to this question from a modest standpoint – and given the incredible expertise that is achievable on the Bansuri, this is certainly a standpoint I want to adopt – I can say that I have discovered several passages on ‘Disciple’ that I would play differently today. After all, two more years of study are under my belt now, and I have a profounder understanding of all the Ragas that I based the ‘Disciple’ tracks on.

AV:  Being intimately familiar with Disciple what will listeners take away from this CD after they have listened to it a few times? What are your own hopes for this music when it leaves your hands and is given over to the listeners?

MS:  I would guess that one of the first experiences to take along after a few times of listening to ‘Disciple’ is the deep devotional and meditative energy the album can create. I would assume that people will later pull this CD out on occasions that support deep listening or even certain meditative practices or Yoga sessions and such, as opposed to using it for background music.

My secret personal hope is that the listeners may, through the music as a vehicle, be touched by the mutual divine core that I believe we all share. This is a tall order, of course, but I trust that this ‘order’ will be understood more as a prayer or intention set by someone who is trying to make himself and his music into a channel.

AV:  When will this release be available and how can AV’s readers get a copy of their own?

MS:  For now ‘Disciple’ is available through a shop on my webpage at http://www.mark-seelig.com. Within a matter of days it will also be available through the webpages of Byron Metcalf and Steve Roach at http://www.byronmetcalf.com , and http://www.steveroach.com . I am working on setting up other connections, but right now these three addresses will be the way to go. 

AV:  Is there anything else about this project that stood out in your mind that we haven’t already covered that you would like to pass along the readers of Ambient Visions as we close out this spotlight?

MS:  First I would like to thank Byron Metcalf and Steve Roach for their musical support, Joseph Inverso (http://www.visionaryartwork.com ) for generously donating one of his paintings for the album cover, Shruti and Anuradha for their vocals, and Chinmaya for the Sarod playing.

I am also very grateful to Michael Foster and Ambient Visions to be given the space to share in so much detail what ‘Disciple’ means to me and what it might mean to others as well.

During most of the Bansuri playing and chanting that I do on the album, my intention was to ‘get out of the way’, if you know what I mean, to let myself become a ‘hollow bamboo’ and be a listener to whatever music wants to come through. My hope is that this quality can arise in the listeners of ‘Disciple’ as well, so that across the distance we may share the deep space of heartcentered bliss and connection to the divine that lies at the core of our beings.

AV:  Mark, I'm always happy to give space to artists who are as dedicated to their craft as you are and allow them to speak through my site to those out there who might share a similar passion. I wish you the best of success when your new CD becomes available through the above mentioned sites and maybe we can talk again some time about some of your other projects yet to come. Thank you.