Michael Stearns

Musician Michael Stearns is the featured interview subject of Dreams Word #10.

His official website is http://www.michaelstearns.com/.

elana and stearns
– Thanks to Jon Werner for the photo of Elana and Michael

This under-construction summary of his musical biography was written by Christopher in 2015, from published interviews. Mistakes are entirely due to misinterpretations by Chris. I have never met Michael. I hope to soon be in touch with him, as his web site includes links to his interviews.

Michael is from Tuscon, Arizona and composes using keyboards and other instruments.

As a teenager, he played surf music in several bands, including one that got to back up Paul Revere & the Raiders and The Loving Spoonful.

He went to college, but instead of following the expectations of his finishing his studies for a professional degree, he turned on, tuned in to the revolutionary rock music of the late 60’s, and dropped out of school. He assembled instruments and reel to reel tape equipment and started experimental creativity with sounds.

Drafted in the Vietnam era, his bilingual skill with Spanish led to domestic Air Force assignments having to do with linguistics and intelligence, including Haitian language and culture. He also worked at a radio station. Throughout this time, he added to his creative studio equipment and also explored spirituality.

After his return to civilian life back in Tuscon, he played in a pop music band and made plans to sell off the music gear to become a Sufi mystic. Just before he did, a Haitian woman came to town to present a spiritual workshop along with her colleague, who combined tape loops and Minimoog to create meditative sounds. They invited him to relocate to Los Angeles, their home town, to also provide music for moving meditations through spiritual dances.

In L.A., Michael got involved with other musicians doing similar work and eventually became quite busy with the spiritual movement classes. At this time Michael also studied microtonality and gather ambient sounds in Mexico.

Another of the spiritual dances musicians did film work and got Michael into scoring for B movies, an easy way for him to get used to film scoring. This led to his working with Marice Jarre and then being invited to compose the soundtrack for the IMAX film Chronos. The success of Chronos led to Michael being able to establish his own production company for motion picture and theme park soundtracks. Originally in the L.A. area, he relocated the studio to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He also was involved in the creation of some large art installations, including Lyra, a giant harp played by dancers moving through it.

The Dreams Word interview continues beyond this but I don’t have those pages.

Although Michael and I have never met, he has had an important role in a turning point in my life.

Michael’s score for the film “Dali, the Endless Enigma” turned out to be very important in my life. It is where Elana (many years before I met her), met someone who became an enthusiastic member of Electronic Dreams and part of the Metadreams group that helped Elana plan the editorial aspects of Dreams Word. After her death, this individual’s encouragement was a major factor in my establishing this new site as soon as my own cancer recovery made it feasible for me to do so.

I would like to ask Michael some follow up questions:
* Were the Sufi movement classes a descendent of Gurdjieff’s work? If so, was the Enneagram ninefold concept in some way connected to music theory for Michael?
* Is it physically possible for the Lyra to be reassembled and used again? What would it take to do so, or to create a new one? Are there any photos or videos of it?
* Are there any logistical difficulties dealing with Hollywood-based film studios when doing his soundtrack work from New Mexico, compared to when he was right in L.A.?

Michael played for a live audience for the first time in ten years at the Ambicon 2013 festival. The audience was appreciative of this being the first time his then ten year old son got to see him on stage. As he requested, the audience was kind, and held their applause after each piece so that his pre-planned surround sound effect transitions between pieces could sustain the ambient mood. His performance rig included a Parker Fly guitar, a keyboard, a sound module that looks like it might be a Roland V-Synth module, two laptop computers (one of which looks like it might be running Pro Tools), and some other electronics including a knob bank that controlled sound tonalities. He apologized that he had inadvertently left his flutes, which he’d set out on the bannister, at home in the rush to get up very early to get to the airport.

As this kind of oversight is something that can happen to anyone, I whimsically propose the term “on the bannister” to refer to any time an instrument or musical part, which was fully intended to be included, is inadvertently or accidentally left out.