Feb 252015


I’m way behind on plans to collect new discoveries for our usual round-ups, but I thought I would leave just this one new disorienting thing for your listening and viewing pleasure before calling it quits for this Wednesday.

The architect of the video you’ll find at the end of this post is Nick Vasallo, the lead vocalist and songwriter for the excellent technical death metal band Oblivion – who also happens to be assistant professor in the Music Department at Cal State Polytechnic University (Pomona) and a composer of contemporary classical music whose works have been performed internationally.

For this piece, which is entitled “Inches From Freedom”, Dr. Vasallo conducted an experiment, using the talents of five performers scattered around the globe. Here’s how he describes what you’re about to see and hear:

“Imagine five separate forces from different origins converging at the same time. It is a balance between synergy and anarchy. Each performer has a specific set of written instructions. They aren’t playing music in reaction to each other, but performing individual interpretations of a narrative I have laid out.”

Each of the performers recorded themselves, with the exception of the drums, which were recorded by Dino Alikadich. Nick Vasallo mixed the music and edited the split-screen video, which shows each of the artists as they performed their pieces of this puzzle. And the artists are:

The Living Earth Show: Travis Andrews – guitar, Andrew Meyerson – drums

Gleb Kanesevich – bass clarinet

John McCowen – contrabass clarinet

ORE: Sam Underwood – tuba

After watching the video, I e-mailed Nick to ask him what inspired this piece and received this answer:

“So I’ve always been fascinated with paradoxes and I try to use them in my music. I wanted to blur the lines between control and anarchy. Each musician has instructions of what they can do and a timeline. So, instead of using harmony or melody to designate form I use absolute time and texture.

I also think composers don’t trust musicians enough. I totally trust these players to interpret my music in their individual ways. The title reflects the overall game plan of the piece, the performers are so close to freedom but don’t quite reach it. It also reflects on how there are things in this world that need a drastic change, but things won’t change unless we all have a common goal.”

If I had to label the resulting music in metal terms, I’d probably call it something like ambient/drone/sludge/doom. It builds gradually, becoming increasingly intense. Very cool.

P.S. Nick has also designed an on-line interactive version of the music that apparently will allow people like you and me to mix and match the individual tracks in different arrangements from what the video shows. That can be found here.

P.P.S. In case you’re wondering, the scene in the lower right-hand corner of the video is the Equinoxio Mexico Dzibichaltun.




  1. this is damn cool, i never should have given up baritone 🙂

  2. My imagination really wanted Bryan Funck to start screaming his guts out at some point during this song. Great track though.

  3. I was about to shut this off when the bass clarinet started going to town. That was great. I could have done with a bit more of that part and a bit less of the anxious waiting, but I’m guessing that’s what the writer was shooting for.

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