Musical composer Mitch Stevens was moved after he viewed Moab’s night sky for the first time.
“I started writing music to accompany the night sky,” Stevens said.
Stevens eventually created an entire album of songs inspired by the stars, “Sounds and Songs: Celestial Preludes for Modular Synth Ensemble.”
On Sept. 23, the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC)will host Compositions for the Fall Equinox, a listening party the release of Stevens’ album.
The evening’s music was created digitally, using a computer program that allows Stevens to insert musical notes to produce sounds from scratch.
“I took an electronic music class in college that opened my eyes to what music could be,” he said.
Originally from Iowa, where skies are not quite as dark as Moab’s, Stevens moved to Moab in March. He said he was struck by the landscape, but even more enraptured by the skyscape.
The freelance composer and multi-instrumentalist said he has been inspired by French Impressionism, Renaissance polyphony, twentieth-century minimalism and Celtic folk music.
Stevens said the work he will perform is a continuation of a practice called musique concrete, a French term that means a type of music composition that uses recorded sounds as raw materials, with sounds often being intentionally obscured or appearing unconnected to their source.
“I use a lot of synthesizers,” he said. “I wanted to be a composer in high school and, without an orchestra, had to find ways to produce music on my own.”
The songs are not all digitally sourced, however.
Makeda Barkley, arts and special events assistant at the MARC, has observed Stevens in the process of composing, where he records himself playing various instruments– including flute, hammered dulcimer, harpsichord and piano – which he then edits and incorporates into the songs. The album includes flute and hammered dulcimer.
“The music is both soothing and exciting,” Barkley said. “It definitely evokes space; it’s magical sounds that you would associate with space and stars.”
“I think of every track as a vignette – I aim to tell some of the stories I imagine going on in space,” Stevens said.
The opening track “Le Voyage du Clair de Lune” (Moonlight’s Journey) pays homage to French composer Claude Debussy and evokes light traveling from the sun to the moon’s surface, Stevens said.
Stevens, 24, studied piano performance and composition in college and said he has played piano his entire life. He’s also a folk musician who, in addition to harp, dulcimer and flute, performs on guitar and various whistles. He also teaches guitar and piano lessons.
“Most of my performance experience is as a concert pianist,” he said.
The listening party will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the stage room where ambient lighting will be set up to help create a thoughtful mood, with a couch and comfortable chairs where people can hang out.
Stevens said there will likely be a visual component to accompany the music. The event is free, although donations will be accepted.