Excerpts from an interview with Michael Diamond of Music & Media Focus
On Music and Nada Yoga (The Vedic Science of Sound) - “Music is a gateway to the inner world…a doorway to healing, personal evolution and peace. Inner peace lights the way to compassion and peace between all peoples.”
The journey from Rock to Zen - Alan’s profound interest in ‘Music for the Inner Journey’ flows naturally from more than 20 years of study of Shamanism, Eastern philosophy, Healing work and Meditation. A profound experience with a shaman in 1995 proved to be a catalytic experience in Alan’s life, and in his words: “My world view shifted and musical tastes expanded...as I explored the mystical, silent spaces which lay ’between my thoughts’', I was more able to connect to the power and beauty of the ‘empty space between the notes’...this changed my whole musical identity as a composer and performer”. A radical shift indeed, for a rock lead guitarist / songwriter from the concrete jungle of New York City.
About the Shakuhachi Flute - “Floating upon the breath, the Shakuhachi flute has a unique ability to point to the layer of silence beneath our world. Suddenly, I found my art entwined with my breath, and discovered a new musical voice."
On live performance - "My joy is in live performance... I love the ‘group vortex dynamic’ that is created within the sharing of music with others....that ‘coming together’. I hope to continue to be a medium to help others look within and explore the rich depths of the ‘inner world'."
Musical Influences - Alan's influences range from trumpeters Miles Davis and Chris Botti to violinist Jean-Luc Ponty...to Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Elton John and Todd Rundgren...and although the Shakuhachi flute is a long way from a Stratocaster, he includes Rock guitarists Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana and David Gilmour in the list of “The masters who have informed my playing, attention to tone, and heart as a musician.”
On the recording process of 'Fields Beyond the Known' -
"My intention was that each piece ‘capture a moment in time’... capture the flavor of what i was feeling in the moment of performance and the lush energy of the West Maui Mountains where it was recorded. Towards that end, I made the decision that each Solo Shakuhachi flute track be recorded in one take/pass...with a window in the studio open. As the tracks are very long (from 16:00-21:00 minutes) and the Shakuhachi is a very challenging instrument, each take was an adventure...a tightrope act....an exercise in deep breath and remaining ‘mindfully present’ to each moment and phrase."
"In my background as a rock/funk guitarist and percussionist, most of my musical background and performance/recording experience has been playing ‘in sync/ rhythm’ with other instruments or click tracks...basically, playing within the boundaries of defined tempos. With this CD, I chose to explore the 'approach...playing with complete freedom as to dynamics or tempo...moment by moment...phrase by phrase... ‘a relaxation from the boundaries of playing in strict metered time.’ WOW! What a sense of total expressive freedom I discovered. It was a very powerful awakening for me...akin to being given wings...allowing each ‘take’ and every performance of these pieces to be totally different in its subtleties and choices. On the CD, each melody is first explored ‘a piacere’, and then in tempo based sections...allowing me to explore each melody both ‘in and out of time’."
On being a 'life musician' -
"I play because i need to play. I create because I need to create. I share because I need to share. Creativity is my drug of choice."
"For years, music has been my canvas, my psychologist, my paintbrush, my vice and my voice. Im a life musician. Multi-instrumentalist....I bleed music...i still play drums on any available surface near me...lol. I think i have touched a musical instrument every day for the last 35 years."
On the connection between Rock & Zen - "The Japanese Shakuhachi flute has 5 holes and is tuned to the Oriental pentatonic minor scale...which by fabulous co-incidence is the most commonly used scale in Rock/blues guitar. So, I was intimately familiar with this mode before even began playing the flute and was immediately drawn to the possibilities and to the relevance of my melodic single note lead guitar and songwriting composition influences to this instrument."
"I have a strong belief that the eastern oriental harmonic scales and compositional textures were a big part of the birth of the blues and hence, rock music...likely in the mmixing of cultures during the creation of the railroads in America."
On guitarist Jeff Beck - I started playing Rock and Blues guitar at 14. Rock lead guitar helped me express a lot of the 'teenage angst’ i was experiencing at that time, but didn't feel that i had a venue to express with words. I still, to this day, express myself musically...just with shorter hair (laughs)."
While I was totally digging Hendrix and Santana, Jeff Beck was the first instrumentalist to really turn my head...I quite clearly heard passion, angst, joy in his stylings...subtleties and melody that captured me EVERY time i listened to the albums 'Blow by Blow' or 'Wired'. Im still so drawn to the care he takes in his approach to both the entrances and exits from a phrase....his bends, approaches, vibrato, slides and whammy...sheer genius....his continuing evolution as a musical force...the continuing eveolution in his playing...he remains, to this day, a deep influence to my Shakuhachi playing."
On Pink Floyd - "Pink Floyd introduced me to the idea that music could transport a listener into an alternate universe...an vast and expansive inner world. Ive tried to live in that dimension ever since...(laughs). David Gilmour’s melodic solos, attention to tone and vibrato, and incredibly beautiful singing voice were big influences on my melodic maturity.... as a guitarist, composer, songwriter and flautist.