Quest for the Runestone: 
 AV talks with David Arkenstone



David Arkenstone




Quest for the Runestone

Releasing 7/1/2024

AV:  What was it that inspired or motivated you to revisit the fantasy concept albums that you did earlier in your career with this latest release called Quest for the Runestone? 

DA:  I remember having a lot of challenging fun creating ‘concept’ albums, reminiscent of what I grew up listening to. I've received many messages over the years from fans that loved the map or story that came along with my earlier albums. I've also heard from fans that were just children back then, letting me know they would open up the map on the floor while listening to the album or a parent would read the story to them while listening together. I also think the current trend of listeners using playlists of various artists had something to do with my wanting to create an engaging and cohesive listening experience throughout the span of an entire album. Albums are like musical song families, I think:  best experienced together.  

AV:  As a composer what were some of the first steps that you took to begin the process that would lead to an album that would musically capture the images from Dash’s story? 

DA:  I began by trying to select a ‘palette’ of sounds to draw upon for the different ideas and images that came to mind as I read the story. I knew I would represent Celtic, Nordic, and cinematic themes somehow, as that’s what the story suggested to me. Once I had the palette, I knew what sound colors I could use to give the album a cohesive identity. 

AV:  Is it more difficult as a composer to create twelve songs that tell a unified story, beginning to end, as opposed to simply twelve individual songs that are often only loosely connected?

DA:  I would say it’s generally a bit more difficult; though in this case I had a ‘script’ to follow, which made it simpler to find the areas I wanted to concentrate on that inspired me. Once I had the pieces that I knew I wanted to illustrate, it was an easier process to arrive at the melodies and arrangements. 

AV:  I’ve heard the term “cinematic” used to describe albums like Quest for the Runestone before but as a composer do you visually see the story playing against the music that you are writing during the creation process, sort of capturing the mood of each sequence of events from the story?

DA:  Yes, I totally see images of the pieces I am writing music for, which makes it easier to musically illustrate the different moods. Luckily, I have a fertile imagination and as I go through, I can see many details that add to the music.  

AV:  Do you think that music fans have grown to enjoy concept albums like this even more over the years as fantasy movies & television shows have whetted their appetites? 

DA:  I hope so! I do think fans of these genres are willing to spend time enjoying them, as an example in three-hour movies or an intricate series or hours gaming while listening to gaming score. So, a one-hour concept album should be quite doable!  

AV:  Did you have an idea of who you wanted to be playing with you on this album right from the start or did it become clearer as the compositions progressed? 

DA:  I had a definite idea from the beginning of a few of the musicians.  Then as the music evolved, I was able to find the others. Knowing my core musicians' styles made it easier to write music they could really bring their own musical personalities to. 

AV:  How do you go about presenting a project like this to other musicians to get them to participate in the creation of this album? 

DA:  The way I go about presenting a project to other musicians is that I usually start by sending them the demo tracks and a sketch of the music. Then we discuss what I want from them, and they suggest what they can bring to the project, or any ideas it may stimulate. 

AV:  Once you have your basic compositions completed, how is it that you begin the process of collaborating with the other musicians who will be playing on various songs on the album so that everyone is on the same page when it comes time to record? 

DA:  These days, because of technology, everyone can work from their home studio, or a local one. I send them the basic tracks of what they need. Everyone is on the same page because of my direction, and their excellent skills. Even if they’re not recording in the same room. Although we also had several sessions on this project where we were recording together.    

AV:  Do you ever get input from the other musicians that changes the direction a composition will take in its final form? 

DA:  I am frequently surprised by what the musicians add to my music. They bring their years of experience and style, and the compositions often grow beyond what I thought they could be.

AV:  You play a lot of instruments on Quest for the Runestone. Is it difficult to shift from one instrument to another if you are playing several instruments on a single track? 

DA:  Sometimes it is a challenge to switch around, as many instruments are not tuned the same. But after I sort that out, it usually goes smoothly, and I can concentrate on getting the performance I want. 

AV:  How did your love for Celtic and Nordic traditions shape and influence you as you were composing the music on this album? 

DA:  Stylistically, it seemed like the story told me what it wanted. That helped me select the instruments I wanted to use. I love the moods and emotions that Celtic and Nordic styles bring to my heart. 

AV:  As the composer and producer of the songs on this album do you have a feel for when a song fully captures the vision that you had in mind when you started the recording process? In other words, do you have a sense as to when to stop twiddling the knobs & call a song finished? Is that a difficult task sometimes? 

DA:  It can sometimes be very difficult to know when the ‘painting’ is finished. But sooner or later, there’s not much room left in the sonic field for anything else! But also, now with my experience I can better judge when I’ve musically said what I wanted to say with a piece. And many times, I can extend a piece or a section based on what another musician has recorded.  

AV:  I noticed that this album will also be available in Dolby Atmos as well. What is it that will be brought out even more when listening to Quest for the Runestone on a Dolby Atmos compatible system with appropriate speaker set up? During production are there other aspects of the music that you have to keep in mind as you record for Atmos? 

DA:  I think the Atmos process will be able to expose many small, interesting details that may have otherwise been difficult to single out in the stereo version. I didn’t have to consider the Atmos mix too much in the recording process, beyond making sure there was plenty of rich low end!  

AV:  Are there any songs on Quest for the Runestone that you are particularly proud of because of how well it turned out? 

DA:  It's hard to single anything out because I’m proud of them all, but I like how Prophecy came out.  Being the lead-off track, I think it sets up the album well. And I think Réann is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever written. I also love Ancient Magic Awakens as it contains so many of the elements I wanted to showcase in this project. 

AV:  I really thought that the back cover of the box was very well done with Reann and Tove against the snow covered mountains. Tell me about the image and the artist who created it for you. 

DA:  My friend and brilliant illustrator Manny Carrasco sketched the image of Tove, the hawk in the story. I had many of the ideas of the album artwork sketched out. A couple creative friends and I got together and experimented using some original sketches and AI design tools, and we came up with the final illustrations.  

AV:  Do you think you achieved your goal of creating something that is rich, engaging, and with a cinematic feel with Quest for the Runestone? 

DA:  I believe I created what I set out to create. I am extremely happy with this album. I do think people will appreciate the concept and the heart and soul I’ve put into the music and presentation. I honestly just can't wait to hear from folks who have experienced Quest for the Runestone from beginning to end!

AV: Thanks so very much for taking the time to talk to Ambient Visions about your upcoming album. We've been listening to it a few times here at AV and I think your fans are going to love it and will be ready and able to begin the quest for themselves on July 1 when the album is available. Thanks for all the great music over the years and here's wishing you many productive musical years ahead of you.


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