Stream of Consciousness

Matthew Barlow has been a guiding light in my own musical journey. The inventive sound artist runs Twin Springs Tapes from his home near Asheville, N.C., which released the Inner Travels debut, “First Light,” and my first ever tape in 2013. This year, Barlow has released three splendid collections of his own adventurous and relaxing music – Now Age, Of Waves and his Sound Meditations series on Soundcloud, which might never see physical release.

Me: What is the story behind your Sound Meditations project on Soundcloud? These songs have been delightful.
Matthew Barlow: Thank you. There is a lot I could say, but I’ll try to keep it simple. The concept was born out of my interest in Buddhism, namely its philosophy on consciousness, the nature of mind and meditation. I’ve also been practicing yoga a lot, so all of these things have been informing my music. I suppose the sound meditations are my way of integrating all of those things. The basic idea of a sound meditation is to just open up and allow for a stream of consciousness to occur. Being present. It’s ultimately about the experience, not so much the end result. With each meditation, I am balancing being present and aware, while at the same time, trying not to attach myself too much to passing ideas or thoughts about the music. The looping is essential because it provides a kind of feedback loop, where I, being the creator, must perform. However, as the sounds are looped back, that is where I try to maintain a mindful presence with what I am experiencing.
When you finish recording and become a listener, what do you hear in this music?
Well, that’s the thing. During the performance/recording, I am trying to balance being both creator and listener, perhaps with more emphasis on being the listener – the experiencer, if you will. Whenever I am listening, either during the performance or after, part of the “meditation” aspect of all of this is that I am just trying to allow myself the experience of hearing, but not trying to attach myself to any concepts of what I may be hearing. It is allowing myself to be present with the sound, and for the sound to be present with me.
What are you working on in regard to sound healing?
The sound meditations are really my first exploration into that realm. I’m hesitant to use the word “healing” as that may have connotations attached to it that I may not be able to guarantee! I like “meditation” because it can have as simple or as deep of a meaning ascribed to it as the listener wishes.
Any plans to release this music?
At this time, no. I don’t even have any of the original files on my hard drive. Once I’ve uploaded them to Soundcloud, I delete the original projects/files.
Well, it goes back to the idea of a stream of consciousness, and to the pure experience that a sound meditation aims to produce. Another huge tenant of Buddhism is that nothing lasts forever. All things arise, and all things fall away. Impermanence. So I, having the initial experience with the sound meditation as I am performing and recording it, once that has concluded, it’s done.

How long have you been making music?
Been playing music since I was a teenager … dabbling in MIDI-based music for a few years now, since 2010. Prior to that, the guitar was my primary mode of expression. So, moving to MIDI has been a huge transition for me. It’s been a lot of time and hard work trying to find my voice in this form of music-making.
Is that why your discography is so diverse? Do you even hear it as being diverse?
Certainly! The wonderful thing about working with MIDI and computer-based music is that it opens so many doors. There is just so much more that one can do with it, as opposed to the limitations, say, with a guitar.
But on “Of Waves,” you seem to have creatively married your two primary modes of expression – the guitar and MIDI.
I’d agree with that. And that was definitely an intention of mine, going into putting that album together. I really wanted to keep the sound and tone of the acoustic guitar present and recognizable, and the MIDI aspect allowed me to move the guitar beyond its inherent limitations.
How about being an artist and running Twin Springs Tapes? Is it difficult to balance both roles?
Aside from time constraints, no. Twin Springs is really just an alter ego if you will.
How so?
Well, the label operates out of my love of music, and has nothing to do really with my being a musician. For example, I would never release my own material on Twin Springs. That’s not what the label is there for. And it ultimately serves as a catalyst for connection, connecting with people and artists around the world. It’s such a wonderful vehicle for that, and for me personally. That connection is what continues to drive me with the label. You might even say that the tapes are all just a byproduct of that connection.

What is the origin of the name Twin Springs Tapes?
I grew up instilled with a very strong sense of family, of connection with family. Outside of my grandparents’ home, they had a sign by the road that said, “Barlow’s Twin Springs.” They lived in the country, and the Twin Springs referred to a couple springs that were on their land. The photo of the man and child that you see on the Twin Springs sites are my Grandpa and my cousin. So, there is a deep connection there, and so, Twin Springs Tapes is an homage to my family, in that sense.
Were other people in your family musicians? I seem to recall your parents released a tape once?
Yeah, both of my parents played music. They still do. My brother, Dustin, also has been doing music for just about as long as I have.
MIDI-based music?
Yes, although his has more of a focus on guitar and other live elements.
Has Twin Springs Tapes surpassed your expectations? Do you consider it a success?
It certainly has in the sense that, when I started it, I really did not have a network in place that would help support the label. So, I had no idea if anything would catch on or not. Over two years later, the label has connected me with so many amazing people and has given me the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. I am humbled by that. The support that the label receives is so amazing, and I can’t thank everyone enough for that. As along as the label is providing people with good music, while at the same time continuing to connect all of us, then that’s a success in my mind.


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