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Karl Kalbaugh on EvO:R
Karl Kalbaugh is EvOR's resident Didgeridoo player. The didgeridoo is an Aboriginal
instrument from Australia. I had no idea what a Didgeridoo is so I though I would add
a small and limited description to the beginning of this page.
A Didgeridoo is possibly the oldest known wind instrument, traditionally made from eucalyptus branches
or saplings. Then, naturally hollowed by termites. The shape and size determine the sound and pitch
of the instrument. Wax will sometimes be used at a large end to fashion the mouthpiece.
Karl, please feel free to add other information you feel necessary to this description.
Interview: with Karl Kalbaugh.
By Staff Writer: Frank Cotolo
A passion and a quest blend world music with self-expression
Tell the readers a bit about your media background.
You are a veteran of media work, right?
KK: I started as a bottom-of-the-ladder employee at a recording studio
in Washington, D.C. My primary jobs were washing coffee mugs, changing light bulbs
and gophering for the mixing engineers. I then began making transfers to
quarter-inch tape and worked my way up to multi-track. Of course this was
all analog. Then something almost miraculous happened--disk-based recording
and editing! Suddenly, the playing field was leveled. I was learning to
operate this new gear along with the senior engineers. Of course, I remained
humble by doing things like erasing a client's master, second-guessing senior
mixers--hey you interns, never do that-and generally acting cockier than my
abilities warranted. You know, pretty much what all-new hires with college
degrees do. Now, I work for Park Group [http://www.parkgrp.com] in Washington,
where I mix and design soundtracks for TV and film and mix and master an
occasional music project, like my own.
There is a strong emphasis on Kalil Gibran as the inspiration for your first
CD. Why were you drawn to his work?
KK: Every once in a while you run across a statement, or maybe a quote,
in my case a whole book, that speak truths. And when you hear it, you know it.
It kind of rings inside of you. Gibran's The Prophet had that effect on me.
His emphasis in that book, though written as a story, is all about where you
need to be to experience life on a spiritually fulfilled basis. In my mind,
in order to get to that point, one has to be at peace-with one's self, one's
neighbors and even one's enemies. So, I'm drawn to the work of Gibran because,
I want to lead a spiritual life and maybe help others find that path, too.
And my music, to me, is a natural extension of my spiritual path.
You have some interesting musical influences. They are more 'world-folk'
-oriented than many. Tell the readers about your international music muse.
KK: I find indigenous music very visceral; sounds that generate a response
that might be genetically ingrained in us. I use indigenous instruments in my
recordings to tap that response in listeners. But I also use these instruments
with true respect and gratitude to those indigenous peoples. My primary performance
instrument is the Aboriginal didgeridoo. Many people have told me how earthy it
sounds, or even, "It sound like the voice of the earth". I become inspired by those
comments. And I seek to enhance that response in the studio, many times by adding
other instruments, both Western and indigenous. Terra Nova [the CD] not only
contains didgeridoo but also bamboo flute, Tibetan-style chanting, vocals from
various African traditions, doumbek. The Western instrumentation includes piano,
Hammond B3--though I would argue that a B3 can evoke that visceral response,
too--flute, various guitar styles, Moog, a rock drum kit; a genuine world fusion.
The Terra Nova project has an agenda. You are passionate about the
world-peace situation. Just where does this passion originate?
KK: I know we all have differences. Superficial like skin color and
other differences like social or political ones. I feel that it's high time
that we stopped using difference as a justification for prejudice. I think
that its time we use our differences as means to dialogue. Though, perhaps
it is far too easy for me to espouse world peace as a citizen of the United
States, with a roof over my head, a full belly and all my essential needs
more than fulfilled. Perhaps if I was an Afghani refugee I might feel differently;
perhaps more concerned about how I'm going to feed my children.
But there's an arbiter in all this. If you're like me and believe in God and
believe that he can do all things, then you know that world peace is possible.
This is where my passion for world peace originates because through God's grace
we can achieve world peace. So, my passion and quest for world peace is part of
my belief system.
Henry Miller said that people with passions to do things to try
to save the world take on feats that can never be accomplished and
that these people do these things because they are afraid to face
what is wrong with themselves. Do you really think world hunger can
be stopped and do you think you are embracing a project that masks
your personal growth?
KK: Iwould never suggest that I am trying to "save the world."
That would make me delusional! However, I do believe that one person can
make a difference to another person. That is really my focus. It comes
down to doing what is right. As to world hunger, yes it can be stopped.
Especially when you look at the research that Stop Hunger Now has done:
$100 can buy seeds for 100 families to grow vegetables to feed themselves;
$200 can buy 2,000 pounds of rice that can feed a family of five for one
year; $500 buys 12,500 meals of soup mix; $5,000 buys food for 250 orphans
for one year. Hunger kills over 30,000 victims-every single day. Two thirds
of the human family goes to bed hungry in a world that produces more than
enough food for everyone. At least 1.3 billion people live on less than $1
per day; 700 million are desperately and chronically hungry. Enough food
is grown to provide an adequate diet for every one of these starving people.
So, that $15 copy of Terra Nova goes a long way.
As to "masking my personal growth": I am at a loss to understand how
Terra Nova could be doing that. After all, the musical aspect of the
project is personally indulgent in that it expresses my feelings. So,
it's a chance to grow as a musician and it's a chance to do something
good for other people without expectation of reward. Now, if someone
can explain to me how that can possibly mask my personal growth,
then I'm all ears!
Why have you chosen music to make your statements?
KK: I can't sculpt nor do interpretive dance worth a darn.
How did you record this project and who helped you put it together?
KK:I recorded Terra Nova at my workplace in Washington, D.C.
I used an AMS/Neve Libra console and Audiofile disk recorder/editor.
No MIDI was involved. It's all live tracking with no quantizing or
tempo/meter corrections. I engineered, mixed and mastered the whole project.
My guest musicians, of course, added so much to Terra Nova.
Lim Peacock and Eric Heiberg on guitars; my lovely wife, Susan, flute;
and doumbek and djembe master Pete Barnhart. Miranda Hoof, who did vocals
for Reformation was a real inspiration to watch work, with her mid-eastern-style.
Will you be doing musical projects in the future that are solely self-absorbed
or do you plan to do more benefit-like work? And why?
KK: Objection, your Honor! Leading the witness! Well, if I continue to
do record projects for benefit organizations, I'll go broke. As we all know here
at EvO:R, being indie and doing your own CD means you layout your own money. So,
Karl's Project #2 will hopefully pay not only for itself, but pay for expenses
from Terra Nova and part of Karl's Project #3. It's also high time that I get
myself to Australia to study with Aboriginal didgeridoo masters!
One would assume you feel much of today's popular music is self-absorbed
pulp and that there is an audience for more substantial works. What are your
feelings about this?
KK: I do think that there is an audience for more substantial works.
I think there are many folks out there that will enjoy the emotional
trajectory of Terra Nova. I realize, of course, that that might be problematic
in getting airplay. However, there are at least three tunes on Terra Nova that
would appeal to some program directors. I don't really believe that all of
today's pop is garbage. However, I am bugged about the over-quantization of
current pop music. All downbeats quantized/justified to the perfect 128th note.
I also think some music to be "over-produced" without any real benefit to a
CDs musicality. Of course, I think that speaks more to what marketers
want versus what musicians want. Isn't it great to be indie?!
In a so-called perfect world, how do you see music working to maintain
KK: I think of music as a way to express subtleties that can not be
communicated with words. I don't think music can make or maintain perfection,
but it can express the desire and passion for perfection. And maybe such
music might get some people thinking. Maybe some influential people will
begin to think differently, also; people who may serve in governments. It
could plant the seed.