Ode to Impermanence (2019)

Ode to Impermanence is a love letter to the nature of the universe that is forever arising and passing away. It depicts a journey of growth, from a place of anxiety and confusion to one of being at peace within the world. On a personal level, it is an expression of my recovery from depression, and the progressive rediscovery of the fundamental magic of being. It bows to the realisation that change is the essence of existence, that life and death are two sides of the same coin.

Throughout the process of making the album I spent many hours looking at the stars in the night sky and contemplating the losses I would experience in my life, all that had already arisen and changed, and the great mystery I found myself suspended within.

One big part of the sound of the album was a challenge to myself to make use of a 150 year old piano that was irreparably out of tune, without altering the notes after playing them. It took many weeks of effort to find a way to support those broken sounds to sing again. They are found throughout Ode to Impermanence and Signs of Life. I made use of an old harmonium in the same way. The middle section of Ode, which to me symbolises the cracking open of an awakening experience, uses many meditation bells found on my journeys in Buddhism, some from Maha Bodhi in Surry Hills, others from Wat Buddha Dhamma at Wiseman’s Ferry. I have also used recordings from my journeys in the Australian bush – these are mostly intentional, but sometimes I was recording while the birds around my house were feeling rather noisy.

I wish I could tell you what this record means to me; it is an unprecedented statement of achievement in my life, which has, amongst the good, involved an embattled history of fear, doubt and confusion, especially in accepting this particular human life here on earth. I am a sensitive person, and sometimes it has been very hard to keep going. My creation of this record is a milestone marking my return to wholeness.

The Pali chant in Signs of Life is taken from the Buddhist Reflection on Impermanence. These are the lines I have set to music:

“All conditioned things are impermanent
All conditioned things are unstable
Everything is void of self
Life is not for sure
Death is for sure
Truly conditioned things cannot last
Their nature is to rise and fall
Having arisen things must cease
Their stilling is true happiness”

released September 27, 2019 via Merkaba Music

Music by Christopher Sutherland
Mastering by Shawn Hatfield
Art by Christopher Sutherland & Shelby Friend

Rain-Soaked Heart (2019)

A collection of odds and ends, largely improvised outflows from an intense time in my life. The emotional landscape of Rain-Soaked Heart is that place where your heart has been broken open and you stand amidst the wreckage, unable to make sense of anything. Slowly life reorders itself, but things are different from this new perspective. The fragility of life is clear, and being held seems to mean more than it ever did. New loves are seen in the light of our suffering, and there is gratitude that any of it can be felt at all.

This is a water-bound record, both inspired by its flowing ways, and using the sounds of rain, rivers and water to create its many colours. I used field recordings all over the place, and created an electronic sample instrument that played the sounds of water across using a piano keyboard. I also used a technique emphasising natural harmonics to transform the sounds of rain into playable synth textures.

Self-released August 25, 2019

Music by Christopher Sutherland
Mastered by Shawn Hatfield
Art by Christopher & Shelby Friend