Constance Demby

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Constance Demby
Birth name Constance Mary Demby
Born May 9, 1939
Oakland, California, U.S.
Genres Ambient, space, new age[1]
Occupation(s) Singer, painter, sculptor, multimedia producer
Instruments Piano, hammered dulcimer, synthesizer
Years active 1966–present
Associated acts Robert Rutman, Dorothy Carter

Constance "Connie" Demby is singer, experimental musical instrument inventor, painter, sculptor, and multi-media producer. Her work falls into several categories, including ambient or space music.[1] She is considered a pioneer in new age music[2] best known for her album Novus Magnificat.[1]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Constance Mary Demby was born in Oakland, California on May 9, 1939.[3] She started playing classical piano at age 8 and by age 12 was performing concertos.[1] Her family moved to Connecticut and Demby went on to found a jazz ensemble in high school, where she developed her skills as a improviser, and later became a multi-instrumentalist, taking up voice, hammered dulcimer, koto, ch'eng, harpeleck, tamboura, and later the synthesizer and her own handmade instruments.

East Coast and early career[edit]

Demby studied sculpture and painting at the University of Michigan,[1] but interrupted this formal education In 1960 when she moved to New York's Greenwich Village. She continued to work as a musician and sculptor, combining these disciplines with her first sheet metal sound sculptures built in 1966.[4][5] She had been torching a sheet of metal in her sculptural practice when she noticed the low tones and unusual sounds that the vibrating metal produced, which subsequently led to the development of her first handmade instruments.[1] In 1967 Demby used these sculptures in a series of happening-style events at the Charles Street multimedia gallery A Fly Can't Bird But a Bird Can Fly, owned by Robert Rutman. In one piece called "The Thing", Rutman wore a white cardboard box and banged on Demby's sheet metal creation with "a rock in a sock." In another piece entitled "Space Mass", Rutman projected film upon a piece of curved sheet metal onto which Demby had welded several steel rods that she played as a percussion instrument. Rutman later remarked, "We thought it would sound good as a xylophone, but it didn't."[5]

Demby and Rutman moved to Maine, and in 1970 co-founded the Central Maine Power Music Company (CMPMC) with fellow.[6] Ranging from 6 to 20 members at any given performance, the group had a rotating roster of guest artists that included hammer dulcimer player Dorothy Carter and video artist Bill Etra.[7] The band toured the East Coast, playing at planetariums in Massachusetts, as well as Lincoln Center, the World Trade Center, and at the United Nations Sculpture Garden in New York. Demby's co-founder told a reporter in 1974:

The best way to describe our music is to call it "not music." You see, it often happens that when people hear us play, they say, either in anger or in delight, "That's not music!" It's somewhat akin to the paintings of Jackson Pollock. When the art buffs first saw his work, with the paint drippings and all, they said, "That's not painting."[8]

In 1976 the CMPMC disbanded and its founders moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. While Rutman went on to pursue directions in contemporary classical and industrial music with the sheetmetal instruments that they had created, Demby headed down a quieter path. She studied yoga with Sant Ajaib Singh Ji and formed the table-and dulcimer duo Gandharva, which gigged at coffeehouses and on the street. She made her recording debut on Dorothy Carter's debut album Troubadour. Demby's first solo album Skies Above Skies comprised devotional prayers set to music made entirely by Demby on hammer dulcimer, ch'eng, tambura, synthesizer, cello, piano, organ, and voice reciting lines from sources as wide ranging as the Bible to Hindi scripture to the Popol Vuh.

California and recordings[edit]

Demby made her first pilgrimage to India in 1979. In 1980 she moved back to California, settling in Marin County just north of San Francisco. She founded the record label Sound Currents to release her second album Sunbourne, inspired by "The Emerald Tablets", an ancient script by Hermes Trismegistus.[1] Her hammer dulcimer album Sacred Space Music followed on the seminal Hearts of Space Records ambient music label.[9] Demby performed at The Alaron Center in Sausalito spawning her Live at Alaron album and the themes in her definitive studio album, Novus Magnificat.

Instrument design and use in film and healing[edit]

Demby continued to develop her experimental musical instruments, which she called the Whale Sail and the Space Bass. These 10-foot-long sheet metal idiophones are played with a bass bow to create low resonating tones.[1] George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch licensed the sounds of the Space Bass for use in their film scores, and The Discovery Channel filmed the Space Bass in Gaudi's Park Güell in Barcelona for one of their specials. The Space Bass is also featured on the soundtrack for the IMAX film, Chronos, directed by Ron Fricke.

The International Space Sciences Organization commissioned Demby to create a score for the film I AM, and Demby's album Spirit Trance features four selections from the film. Another song on the album, "Legend", was composed for Alan Hauge's film James Dean – an American Legend, but due to complications with the James Dean Foundation it was shelved.

In 2000 Demby moved to Spain where she composed the Gregorian chant-inspired Sanctum Sanctuorum. After returning to the U.S., Demby has toured the West Coast presenting concerts and healing workshops, and her Sound Currents label subsequently released Sonic Immersion, a vibrational sound healing attunement through use of the Space Bass.

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

  • Skies Above Skies (CS, Sound Currents / Gandarva, 1978)
  • Sunborne (CS, Sound Currents/Gandarva, 1980)
  • Sacred Space Music (CS, Sound Currents/Gandarva; 1988 CD, Hearts of Space, 1982)
  • Novus Magnificat: Through the Stargate (Hearts of Space, 1986)
  • Set Free (Hearts of Space, 1989)
  • Aeterna (Hearts of Space, 1995)
  • The Beloved (Living Essence Foundation, 1998)
  • The Heart Meditation (Living Essence, 1998)
  • Faces of the Christ (Sound Currents, 2000)
  • Sanctum Sanctuorum (Hearts of Space, 2001)
  • Spirit Trance (Hearts of Space, 2004)
  • Sonic Immersion (Sound Currents, 2004)
  • Ambrosial Waves – Healing Waters (Sound Currents, 2011)
  • Ambrosial Waves – Tidal Pools (Sound Currents, 2011)

Live albums[edit]

  • Constance Demby at Alaron (Sound Currents, 1984)
  • Attunement: Live in Concert (Sound Currents, 2000)
  • Live in Tokyo (CD-DVD/Sound Currents, 2003)

Compilations[edit]

  • Light of This World (CS/CD, Sound Currents, 1987)
  • Polar Shift (Private Music)

As guest[edit]

Tours[edit]

  • Tokyo / Live in Tokyo
  • Egypt / The Pyramids, Kings Chamber
  • Spain / Barcelona, Sitges, Valencia, Esplugues
  • Brazil / Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo
  • Canary Islands /Underground Volcanic Cave performance
  • Los Angeles / Laserium Cyberstudios, Sacred Music Festival
  • Massachusetts / Strasbourg, Fitch & Haydn Planetariums
  • NYC / Museum of Modern Art, UN Sculpture Garden, Lincoln Center for the Arts

Awards / Reviews[edit]

  • Voted --"One of the 10 best albums of the decade" – Pulse! Magazine
  • Voted --"One of the 25 most influential ambient albums of all time" – New Age Voice
  • Voted --"One of the 25 best gateway New Age albums" – New Age Retailer
  • Voted --"Editor's Choice" – Third Annual Digital Audio magazine awards
  • Voted --"Top 50 definitive CD New Age Library" – CD Review
  • Voted --"TOP 15 – Electronic New Age Albums List"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Wright, Carol. Constance Demby biography at AllMusic
  2. ^ "Why new age music is more punk than you think". q. CBC Radio. Feb 11, 2016. Retrieved 8 October 2016. 
  3. ^ ASCAP (2009). "Works written by: Demby Constance Mary, CAE/IPI No. 127.53.77.66", database of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
  4. ^ "Bob Rutman's Steel Cello Ensemble". Klangraum Krems Minoritenkirche. 2007. Retrieved 4 October 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Palka, Adrian (2015). Dogantan-Dack, Mine, ed. Artistic Practice as Research in Music: Theory, Criticism, Practice. London: Routledge. pp. 219–36. 
  6. ^ Lewis, Bob (Aug 23, 1989). "Bob Rutman: The Studio Sessions" (Video). Newton, Mass: VideoVisuals Inc. 
  7. ^ Continuo (Dec 11, 2012). "Central Maine Power Music Company". Retrieved 4 October 2016. 
  8. ^ Van Der Heide, Anna (1974). "Central Maine musians play 'not music' music". Athens. Central Maine Morning Sentinel. Retrieved 4 October 2016. 
  9. ^ Murphy, Tom (May 11, 2015). "Recap: Ambient Music Legend Robert Rich in a Parker Living Room". Westworld.com. Denver Westword, LLC. Retrieved 8 October 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]