Last year, we introduced the emerging genre of Christian Ambient music (you can read more here and here). And we're now featuring some of the Christian musicians and artists who are creating this meditative, reflective music. In the previous post, Mike Graff, also known as Dear Gravity, spoke to us about the inspiration behind his new 'Pilgrimage' series of EPs, and today, we're excited to chat with Kirk Smith, who creates minimal yet uplifting ambient music as We Dream Of Eden. His debut album, First Light, creates a space to think, a place to breathe, and a place to dream, while featuring combinations of the organic and imperfect sounds of real-life blended with the precision and playfulness of modern technology.
How would you describe the music of We Dream Of Eden to someone who has never heard it before?
Minimal yet uplifting. Lots of space that is delicately filled with pianos, strings, guitars, and synths. The music is simple in its delivery but always evolving in its soundscape. It doesn't demand your attention, but it will take you somewhere if you give your attention to it. It's perfect for studying, reading, meditating or just picking up around the house while unwinding in the evening.
Tell us a bit about your debut album, First Light?
I've been a music producer for about a decade--mostly hip-hop, pop, and singer-songwriter stuff, but I have always enjoyed listening to this kind of music. Last year, I decided to dedicate early mornings and some late evenings to composing ambient music. Initially, it was just as an outlet for creativity, but as I shared the music with friends and family, I started thinking about releasing the music as an official project. At the time, I was learning a lot about the Old Testament and, in particular, the first three chapters of the Hebrew Scriptures and how they are so rich in meaning, and that they are designed to be meditated on and contemplated. I am a pretty contemplative person and I love the idea of Eden so that's where the name comes from. Plus, I just like the way it sounds. The initial concept of First Light was to be a sonic representation of what it might sound like to wake up in the quiet of the morning and really contemplate the things of God.
What inspires you as an artist? And how does that link to your Christian faith?
My boys inspire me. Two little guys with one on the way. I love their joy and their curiosity, their passion and playfulness. I want that as an artist, and they give me permission to just play, which is nice. A lot of my artwork comes from combining finger paints and nature because I like to think of God as a childlike-painter who is just having fun with colors and creating from a place of joy. Musically, anything could inspire me: A sound, a song, a story, or a random YouTube video of some amazing artist. But most of the time it's a sound; to me, the texture of an instrument can be even more important than the notes that instrument is playing. I am a piano player at heart, so a lovely piano sound can really take me places, or a really beautiful synth patch.
How do you feel your music fits within the Christian music scene?
Having just started this journey I have to say that I honestly don't know. But many people have messaged me about playing my music during their devotional times, whether reading, writing, praying, studying, or just while at work and that is simply amazing and humbling to me. I've been a worship leader for years and some of my favorite moments in worship are the "in-between" places where we are not quite sure where to go next but we know God is doing something. It's a place of waiting and resting, but also listening and engaging with your mind and heart with the Spirit of God. So I guess this music could be like that, like the "Selah" in Psalms, the space between the verses, where we sit and take in, reflect and reorient, be still and know.
What does Christian ambient music mean to you?
To me, ambient music is designed to serve its listeners. For lack of a better term, it can be known as "functional music," in that it creates sonic and emotional spaces for people to go about their daily activities. It's not always meant to be the focus so much as to be a part of the landscape of the listeners present moments. So. one aspect of Christian ambient music could be to create an environment that serves people in their devotional life. Though Christian ambient music doesn't have to be just for Christians, I think this style of music is a great way to help all people go to deep places of contemplation and imagination, asking the big questions of life, to be stirred by beauty, and hopefully resonate with the eternity that is already set within their hearts.
Huge thanks to Kirk for sitting down with us and sharing the inspiration and heart behind the music of We Dream Of Eden. First Light is out now on all digital music download and streaming sites, including Bandcamp and Spotify. You can also find out more about We Dream Of Eden over on Facebook and Instagram. And as always, feel free to explore our playlist of Christian Ambient music, which includes music from We Dream Of Eden, as well as other artists we've featured on this column over the past year.
Wishing you peace and love wherever you are today.
Ben Tatlow is an ambient music producer and one-half of Salt Of The Sound. Alongside his wife Anita, they write music for times of prayer and reflection: their EP In Prayer was described by NewReleaseToday as leading the listener "into a place of meditation and rest." They also curate a weekly email-based devotional series, entitled Monday Morning Meditations.
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