The electro-acoustic artist known as East Forest has often skirted around the edges of various music scenes: ambient, pop, New Age, contemporary classical. But the overriding principle behind his work is to, as he puts it, “engender inner well being” within the listener.
That same idea has been the guiding force of Ram Dass, the spiritual teacher whose book Be Here Now has been the chosen guide for many people seeking enlightenment through practices like yoga and meditation ever since its initial publication in 1971. Knowing how closely connected their work and their individual journeys are, it seems miraculous that it took until last year for their paths to finally cross.
The sonic results of that meeting are about to be unveiled to the world, via a series of EPs and an album, all set to be released throughout 2019. The first, Ram Dass 1, will be available on January 25th. The news of these releases comes with a first taste of their collaboration, which you can hear below.
The core of these releases is the words and voice of Ram Dass, recorded by East Forest (aka Trevor Oswalt) during a visit to the former’s home in Hawaii. The idea was a simple one: recorded Ram Dass’s words and set them to music, but it was a process that required a lot of patience. Due to a stroke he suffered in 1997, Ram Dass has aphasia, a kind of brain damage that slows down his ability to process his thoughts into words. “The result is that there are often long pauses in between his words,” Oswalt remembers. “For instance, “The … (30 seconds) soul … (60 seconds) ... lives in …” and so on. It required a great deal of meditative focus just for me to follow along with this thought process.”
After a three-hour recording session, Oswalt took these words home and started building his compositions around them. “I worked to create music that supported the feeling of what he was trying to impart, almost like a film score,” he says. “And I aimed for the musical phrasing and instrumentation to dance around his voice, to help create a sonic world for each track.”
As you’ll hear from “I Am Loving Awareness,” the track shared below, the music is a beautiful wash of violin drones, piano and wordless vocals provided by devotional singer Krishna Das. Popping up through it all like little bursts of color is Ram Dass, letting us know that one simple way to “get out of our minds, our thinking minds,” is to use the song’s title as a mantra.
The first EP from this collaboration is out this Friday, with the next two arriving in March and June, culminating in a full-length album, out on August 9th.