QSound Artist Spotlight: Celestial Image
Dennis Jennings is the electronic composer behind Celestial Image, and his music ranges from classical to celtic. Dennis, who has been recording in QSound for a number of years, composes his music using computers, analog synths, and a variety of traditional instruments.
How did your career in music begin?
"Back in 1974, I enrolled in a class at Cleveland State. It was the first electronic music class that was offered at that University. And it was taught by professor Rudolf Bubalo, who was a recording artist as well. And I was the only non-music major in the class, so I was a little intimidated. Most of the students there were senior music majors. The main focus of the course was to have every student create a five minute piece, and so I created a five minute musique concrete -- I think I used some electronics in there, but most of it was created from tape loops and different things. And then, on the day we were to play our pieces for each other and the professor, the bus I was riding on to the University was late. So I arrived at the studio and put my hand on the door, and I could hear my piece being played. Immediately I thought the worst -- that they were getting the really bad ones out of the way first. I entered the small class room, where there was no place to hide, and Professor Bubalo said my piece had a surreal quality, like a Dali painting. And that was it -- it was that one word of encouragement from a professor that made me think that maybe I should get serious about this. Within two years, I was on a plane headed for Philadelphia. I had been hired as the sound technician and electronic "music man" for a major planetarium that was being built in Cleveland."
Who engineers and produces your music?
"I'm the chief cook and bottle washer on that end. I sort of engineered a little production technique of doing the composition, and then producing the actual instrument sounds and then adding the different studio techniques to it -- reverb, QSound, phasing, and amp simulations."
What kind of equipment do you use?
"I started with analog equipment. I still have my EML 101 and Studio 200. Now I primarily work with the computers, and do everything via software rather than playing with patch cables. I find that I now have a tremendous amount of control, and it's fun now."
How many CDs have you recorded?
"I've done four CDs. 'Celestial Christmas' has done the best. Then there is 'Light', which is light classical, a little on the new age side. There is also 'Eclipse', which is leaning more towards rock. And finally there's 'Emerald' which is mostly Celtic. My first CD, I'm not offering right now because I'm going to redo it. It was called 'Fractal Etudes', and was a musical study based on fractal mathematics, and I'd like to redo those using the new technology that I have. But there are a few tracks from there that are still available on other discs."
What are your goals in coming up with a final sound?
"It depends on the piece that I'm working with. I've always been a big fan of adding dimension to a piece. I suppose that goes back to my different influences, plus working in a Planetarium where you're dealing with a hemispherical projection screen so you're thinking of where things are in relation to other elements, rather than just on a flat plain. So it's about working with depth. So, I liked getting a sound that is a layered sound, with things in the forefront and things that create a soundscape. Helping to create the soundscape is where QSound comes in."
How did you discover QSound?
"It came bundled with Cakewalk years ago, and I was curious so I tried it. I liked the sound I got so I've continued to use it, and I would say 99% of my music has QSound in it."
What's the coolest thing you've used QSound to do?
What does QSound bring to your music that you couldn't achieve otherwise?
"It's a unique depth perception. It expands the stereo field to make things "bigger". I tend to use QSound to expand the sound field for special effects, as well as adding dimension to the various instruments beyond reverb and digital delay."
What's your opinion of the MP3 revolution?
"We wouldn't be having this conversation without MP3s. I would just be plodding along here, and you'd never have heard of me or known that I use QSound. It's been a real revolution in the true sense of the word, where a person with a computer and access to the Internet can get his stuff out to the world and have people hear it. Basically, it's allowed me to build up a following and a business, and is a great way to get my music heard. Regarding the piracy issues -- in the beginning I was against the file-swapping, but then I noticed that there was a steady stream of people visiting my site, and I wasn't spending much on advertising. When I did a search on a file sharing website, it came up with my music! And that was such a thrill to know that people thought enough of my music that they were sharing it with their friends and putting my songs in the same file folder with all of these major artists in various genres. I could never get that kind of exposure in a record store."
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Celestial Image can be found on the web at www.mp3.com/celestialimage.