We talked to the talented musician and composer Christel Veraart over an email regarding her latest album, Pleiades. How did she get the inspiration to compose the music and what all conspired during the process and how has been the reception among the listeners–we talked about it all.
Q1. What was the inspiration behind creating music for your newest album, Pleiades?
While thinking about how to shape Pleiades, I became fascinated by the number seven, which Pythagoras considered the most spiritual of all numbers. Following my fascination with this number, I learned about the ancient philosophical concept of the Music of the Spheres, which regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies — the Sun, Moon, and planets — as a form of music. The number seven appears in music, mythology, science, and of course the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades. All this led to my celestial musings on these stars.
My eternal search for universality formed the main inspiration for Pleiades. Space, the stars, the seven sisters, — it is hard to imagine anyone not being inspired by them. They live in a place (space), void of time and idiom, and as such provided me with the perfect backdrop for my album. A backdrop where my voice could take center stage and neither language nor meter would interfere. As you so aptly captured in your review: “Vocal music is often limited in its reach due to the language cognizance of the audience”, and I am humbled you feel that my music, “defies all such boundaries.”(Full Review)
The inspiration behind creating Pleiades also came from an experiment to see what would happen if I made my world go quiet if I could silence my own judgment and training, and embrace whatever sound would spontaneously present itself to me.
Creating Pleiades felt like I was guided by the gentle glow of that star cluster in the night skies. As if I gave voice to messages I heard the Seven Sisters whisper into the spheres, as a shaman might converse with their spirit world. For me, creating an album is magical, and it is hard to capture what is really at play during the time of creation. I think reviewer Dyan Garris captured best what I was unaware of myself:
“…Christel sings in “tongues,” with languages that may be foreign to the ears but not to the soul. Channeled, one might say, although she doesn’t present it as such as far as I know…” (Full Review)
Similar to many before me, the Pleiades have woven themselves into my daily life and continue to fascinate me every day. I feel privileged to live in a community where the early morning dark skies allow me to salute the Seven Sisters before starting my day in the studio. The music for Pleiades might be complete, but the influence the stars have on me endures in visuals and stories. Only the stars know what else may unfold.
Q2. How did you conceptualize what kind of song you will devote for each star of the constellation?
I wanted to create seven distinctive songs that had a similar overall structure, so that listeners could imagine their own stories and associate them with each song and its associated star.
The process of creating music for Pleiades felt like capturing a dream. If I at all conceptualized what kind of song I wanted to devote for which star, then it was done at a purely subconscious level. Now that Pleiades is finished, I know so much more about this famous star cluster than when I was in the process of writing. The more I read, the more surprised I am myself by how well the titles fit the star characteristics as described in the Greek myths with which I have now become completely enthralled.
Q3. What conspired while deciding which instrument to use and whether you want to have some session artists or not?
It might sound strange, but this album seemed to fall into place by itself, as I matched the instruments largely to the mood of the song. There are no session artists. I am solely responsible for performing all instruments and vocals.
Q4. What is the intent behind every song for the listener–the message that you want to convey?
I don’t know that there is intent or message behind the songs as I feel that is up to the listener to decide. However, in general, I do believe that life is your canvas and all the experiences it presents, the palette you can choose from to paint your work of art.
The quiet, contemplative times we are going through at the moment, due to the pandemic, handed me the perfect canvas to paint my songs. Have you ever written something and surprised yourself at what you just wrote? That is how I feel about how Pleiades was created. Improvised as if in trance, listening back to the way I used my voice often puts a smile on my face, as all kinds of memories come flooding back of the different places I have lived, and of the different sounds I picked up along my travels. Life truly is my soundboard and all that it presents me, my tonal palette to choose from to write my music.
Q5. What kind of reviews and comments have you received till now about the album?
I feel very grateful for the wonderful reviews I received thus far. Aside from your review, here are a few excerpts:
Dick Metcalf (Contemporary Fusion): “…Christel’s total talent brings brand-new perspectives to ambient music… her stunning vocal work will reach down deep inside of you and touch your heart… in our oh-so-troubled times, her music will help you focus on the positive and rise above the fray. Her new album, “Pleiades”, brings the stars to your soul!…” – (Full Review)
Paul Asbury Seaman (Bandcamp): “Veraart is a distinct new voice in the space-ambient scene, bringing an intimate chamber music feel to the genre. Her musical glossolalia will remind some of the secret-language vocalizations of Lisa Gerrard. A more apt comparison—also recommended—would be Jennifer Grais who has recorded with tribal ambient master Byron Metcalf, or Serena Gabriel (collab. w/Steve Roach). Like them, Veraart’s crystalline voice is strong enough to avoid the clichés of wispy-voiced new-age sirens …” (Full Review)
Keith Hannaleck (New Age Music Reviews): “… this woman breaks all barriers and creates something so unique and refreshing that you just have to keep listening. That is the goal of any recording artists so mission accomplished Christel Veraart…” (Full Review)
Kathy Parsons (Mainly Piano): “… Christel Veraart pays homage to the cluster of seven stars known as The Pleiades. Also known as “The Seven Sisters,” there is one track named for each sister and the messages that they whisper into the spheres … Soothing and ambient with more than a touch of magic, I can easily see this album hitting the top of the charts in no time!” (Full Review)
BT Fasmer (New Age Music Guide): “ … Pleiades” by Christel Veraart is a phenomenal ambient album! It is highly meditative and there is a lot of variation in sound without breaking the overall design… The need for a break from 24/7 newscasts and social media is perhaps even greater now than ever before. Christel Veraart’s “Pleiades” will take you mind lightyears away in an instant, guaranteed. That is a major accomplishment.” (Full Review)
Q6. Any favorite among the songs?
No, I love them all. Whenever I listen back I cherish every minute of capturing their sounds. My husband’s favorite for meditation is “Maia”, one of my friends tells me she weeps every time she hears “Merope”. A fan told me she danced with her partner to “Asterope” and my sound engineer loves “Alcyone”. No one yet has told me that there was any of the seven that they didn’t like.
Q7. Usually, after how long do you think you would like to start thinking about a new album or a song?
To celebrate the upcoming Holiday Season I am releasing an Ave Maria by Giulio Caccini. There are many Ave Marias that have been composed but this is the one dearest to my heart as it has traveled the world with me. Apart from their religious significance, to me Ave Marias are universal greetings of respect and recognition of spiritual powers that tap into realms of unity, oneness, and inter-connectedness, sometimes considered another dimension. This particular Ave Maria is connected to a myriad of memories, and you can find out more here: https://christelveraart.com/news/
Increasingly I am drawn to space music, a sub-genre of ambient music that focuses on texture rather than formal compositional schemes. With never a lack of inspiration, it is more a question of when to release what is already written and not when to start thinking of a new album or song. Various other places in the world continue to call at different times so what to expect next is still very much to be determined.
Q8. Any message to for our readers?
In general, I sense the world around me like a painting. Because I have moved around the world so much and have called so many places my home, I have through my music created a sense of belonging wherever I find myself. My music reflects how I experience the beauty and challenges of places both real and imagined. I create islands of calm in a fast-moving world in the hope my music will take the listener on a journey where they can dream and create their own story.
For many of us, these unprecedented times have stripped away the illusion that we are in control. Even those who haven’t thought of themselves as spiritual may sense something deeper going on. An awareness that we need comfort and peace and that maybe, just maybe, it may be found in a place we never imagined before. You are asking for a message to your readers. If anything, I would like to remind them of the universal; – when tribulations are perceived as gifts, magic may happen.