Tom Heasley - Where the Earth Meets the Sky
2001. Tom Heasley is almost certainly a new name for most Hypnos listeners. He's a classically-trained tubist (that is, he plays the tuba) with a widely varied musical background -- free jazz, and a great range of experimental work in addition to more conventionally "musical" music. Heasley has performed and recorded with a wide range of musical innovators such as Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran and Anne LeBaron, as well as with many luminaries from the worlds of jazz, free improvisation, and rock.
WHERE THE EARTH MEETS THE SKY is the Hypnos debut by Heasley. Tom's work impressed Robert Rich, who recorded and mastered the then-untitled collection of deep tuba atmospheres, and who found the material unique, special, and appropriate to what Hypnos is doing. We have no doubt that once the ambient, space & atmospheric music audience gets over the issue of "tuba?!" they will quickly see what we recognize in the recording -- a deep, restrained sonorous richness, and a very nice divergence from the usual "synths and samplers" sonic palette common to our genre. Put aside any preconceptions you may have about the tuba as an unlikely instrument for beautiful, restrained ambience. If you like the Hypnos sound, you'll love WHERE THE EARTH MEETS THE SKY. It's a truly deep, organic, and beautiful album and Hypnos takes great pleasure in bringing it to the public.
Track listing with sample MP3 clips:
Where the Earth Meets the Sky
Purchase direct for $9.99
Reviews"Best of the Year List (2001)"
"For those who imagine landscapes while listening to music, Tom Heasley's work will surely conjure up visions of Sunset Beach at dusk or Haleakala Crater just before dawn. His album, WHERE THE EARTH MEETS THE SKY, is a study of the stillness in moments between states. The tuba, wondrous in its corpulence, is the sound source from which this album stems. Harmonic, slow and full, Heasley's pieces are the light of live studio improvisations. Using electronic processing and the physics of sound, his current of sustained notes transforms into a confluence of layered tones. Cavernous reverberations set a soft glow to the waves of sound and the listener is lulled by the sonic scenery of this smooth ambient soundscape. In his homage to the horn, Heasley, an artist in pure sound, attempts to realize that twilight colour between the purple and the grey, all from the full course of a deep breath."
--Chuck van Zyl, Star's End Radio host
"Tom Heasley's Where the Earth Meets the Sky, a new Hypnos release mastered by Robert Rich, is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING short of fantastic. I've been too overwhelmed to review this in the twenty three hours since I've received it, but this is quite possibly on the best Ambient/ Space/ Atmospheric discs by a newcomer that I've heard EVER! You must check this out Tuba ambience never sounded good, actually I never knew what it sounded like anyway till now!!! :-)
A must purchase!!!"
--Matt Borghi, on the Space-Music internet mailing list
"Many thanks for sending me the CD. In a rare pattern, I have actually listened to the CD three times! That may not mean much to you, but for me now that is a big deal - when I often barely listen one time through. So that tells me that your CD defintitely has lots to offer.
I particularly like Track 1, Ground Zero. Compositionally I think that is your best, and I have responded to that track particularly. Track 2, Western Sky, also interests me. Certainly the other tracks have a lots of great sounds, and some great phrases...."
--Stuart Dempster, recording artist
"Tuba master explores the infinite drones & minimalist possibilities of his chosen instrument . Recorded and mixed by Robert Rich this is a gem of an album. One for those who find inspiration and joy in the works of Deep Listening Band or Stuart Dempster. One of the highlights of last year and a fantastic release for Hypnos."
--Hans Stoeve, Powerspot Radio, NSW Australia
"...i highly recommend it to any ambient music fans out there. I know it's been mentioned here before, but i think it's worth mentioning again. Very contemplative, with what sounds like quite an intuitive sense of harmony. This is very much a "vertical color of sound" type of record. I had no idea the tuba was so versatile!"
--Peter Koniuto, Loopers' Delight
"First, before using CD, the inside cover exhilirates the viewer. ( The inside cover is exhilirating before even using CD. ) A musician with a tuba on his head, more or less incognito. But what has this Bavarian music type instrument to do with heavy meditation tones? Much, because Tom Heasley does not only have classical training in tuba, but because of his curiosity and joyful experimentation feels at home in intellectual musician circles. His special interest lies in the development of acoustic possibilities for which his instrument seems unsuitable. A big mistake since Heasley brings out an astonishing effect using technical remedy for his clumsy wind instrument. Working with the electronic equipment gives the tuba its full sound and creates a special listening experience with this album.
The Heasley debut has 4 parts of about 15 minutes each that were played without change in the studio. The first 2 pieces produced long lasting mixed sounds that could hardly be recognizable as coming from a musical instrument. Especially "Ground Zero" is total art. The solemn etc. etc. tones of " Where the Earth Meets the Sky" have a quality of overpowering stillness and unending expanse. The listener is transported into a dreamy state as in a massage of the soul. The cover tries to mimick this impression ... Parts 3 and 4 are a little more experimental but produce a texture of intensity. The combination of tones show that Heasley will have more possibilities to offer.
Already 20 years ago the jazz trumpeter, Jon Hassell, and Brian Eno worked in a similar direction. His some what undigestible sound creations are not every one's cup of tea and cannot be compared to Heasley's gripping designs. At that time Hassell already worked with a a multitude of rhythms, etc. that could be of interest to Heasley in possible future development. He could enrich his personal sound language with certainty.
Ambient Icon Robert Rich... recognized this special quality of Heasley and offered his studio for this album. Working together on a joint project would be very possible and most interesting, considering the melding of both styles would be a most fruitful undertaking. Who would have thought that? A tuba - thanks to Tom Heasley a stroke of luck in the exploration of new Worlds of Sound."
--Stephan Behn, Antwort, Germany
"The Hypnos label has been around for a few years, quietly releasing ambient and space music. Recently Hypnos put out this gem by Bay Area tuba player Tom Heasly. In the past Heasley has worked the jazz/free improv/new music worlds with Pauline Oliveros, Loren Mazzacane-Connors, Charlie Haden, Bobby Bradford, Don Preston and others. But now he's gone solo by attaching a microphone to the bell of his horn and routing the signal through digital echos and reverbs. The result is stunning: many layers of sustained tuba drones that leave one in a meditative state.
Besides an amazing two shows in NYC - Nova Nights @ Two Boots and Downtown Music Gallery, he's been playing all over the Northeastern USA and Canada since late August. I also caught him in Philadelphia at the Gathering concert series (
"When I started playing this CD I didn't look at the press release or the cover (like I always try to do, to keep an ahum open mind) I thought this was just another Hypnos release: deep washes of sound, digital processing of synths or maybe guitars, but I was very surprised to find out that this was all made with a tuba, throat singing, loops and OK the usual digital processing. The four lengthy pieces go by floating really well with lots of small harmonies popping up, playing their tune and then disappearing again. Very nice release."
--Frans deWaard, Vital E-Zine
"The thundering rumble of an incredibly low tuba note ushers in the ambient/drone album from musician Tom Heasley. Where the Earth Meets the Sky is a fascinating and almost uniformly successful exploration of the sonic possibilities of an instrument rarely considered to have many ambient qualities, Iıd wager. The moody, atmospheric, and sometimes even dark soundscapes traversed by Heasley and his Mirafone 188 Tuba (aided by his own throat singing, some loops, and some digital processing) are composed of shifting clouds of tones, drones, and vocalizations.
Sometimes, as on the opening ³Ground Zero,² the effect of the vague yet distinct musical ³voice² of the tuba, massaged and processed through loops and reverb, is quite profound, rivaling spiritually dense ethnic drone music. At other times, the shadowy nature of the music becomes darker or more emotionally neutral. However, I would hesitate to call this recording noir-ish, as even when the songs evolve into these gray areas, there is an underlying element of profundity (with no trace of pretentiousness, I might add).
There are differences in all four cuts, for example the presence (or absence) of Heasleyıs throat singing (which for me, at times, seems to be a tad intrusive in the overall flow of the album, although not demonstrably so). However, I usually played this album through as a single piece of music and I think it functions quite well that way. There are no rhythms to differentiate one track from the other; in fact, there are no percussive elements to speak of that I could discern.
At times, I was reminded of the work of Coyote Oldman, because, like the duo of Michael Allen and Barry Stramp, Tom Heasley works his own brand of studio wizardry to transform the sound of his tuba into something that is, by turns, spacy, forlorn, mysterious, and even ethereal. As weird as it may sound, there were moments during this CD when I thought I was listening to vidnaObmana or Steve Roach!
While the occasional lack of overt musicality (not always the case, however, as some passages are smoothly melodic - for a tuba, that is) may take some getting used to, I think that open-minded (open-eared?) ambient enthusiasts will gradually warm to and even embrace Where the Earth Meets the Sky. I certainly did. As I listened to the sustained notes fading into nothingness or coalescing with other notes, vocalizings, or textures, I found myself marveling at the spiritual reaction I was having to the music. I donıt toss around the term ³profound² that much, but this is the third time in this review Iıve used the word. When reviewing this album, I feel the term is wisely used. Where the Earth Meets the Sky is a richly nuanced recording and comes highly recommended."
--Bill Binkelman, WindAndWire.com
"Recieved "where the earth meets the sky" today. there are certain ambient discs that immediately conjure up vivid, almost film-like, images in my mind. for example, lustmord's "paradise disowned" offers up a view of the world in a post apocalyptic state - i can visualize small bands of people picking through the remains west minster abbey just looking for anything to remind them of what it was like before the bombs dropped. robert rich's "seven veils" takes me on a tour of modern the arabian world with all it's riches, contradictions and atrocities. which leads me to your cd - and bear in mind that the above two albums are the ONLY two (Eno's music from the Apollo mission also but that is from a movie) that have affected me in this way, so i don't often hear a CD that conjures up such strong images. the first two tracks on your CD conjure up images of Hannibal crossing into Troy on his invasion elephants - it is very strong, foreboding yet natural sounding. it has been in my player for two solid days. i am not just blowing smoke up your skirt just because you sent this to me. the combination of instruments, textures and general ambiance you have selected for this disc are very "different." in a world where everyone with a tape recorder and a length of pvc pipe is making "ambient music" this disc stands out simply because of the disparate elements and the execution with which they are performed. I can feel the Earth move below me and visualize a great mountain range before me that i must cross if i am to survive - over dramatic on my part? - maybe but i am very impressed with this recording. i didn't really now what to expect from the Tuba, throat singing and robert rich's involvement. i figured hit or miss - well, this is a definite hit. the disc , not as seperate tracks, but as a whole is very hypnotizing and good god the tuba sounds! what a great instrument for the "ambient" genre. who'd of thunk - be careful you may have opened a pandora's box where everyone is rushing out to get tubas. i can almost smell the endorsements - you'll have your own line of tubas. my only criticism is that the "vocal" chants are a little too "out front" for my tastes - but only at first listen, after that they become part of a greater whole. the third track "monterey bay" is the weakest on the disc but it still works in context. the final track being the title track is a great conclusion which puts me on the sacred western coast of the united states staring off into the pacific as the sun is swallowed by the sea and the earth rotates into the darkness. twilight. the great tuba rising , indeed."
"Traveling on long dark rays of sound, Tom Heasley ventures to the place Where the Earth Meets the Sky. What makes this expressive journey even more unique is Tom's instrument of choice...
Forget "oompah-pah"... these transmogrified tuba sounds spread into never-before-heard panoramas of sonic exploration!
Delicious low drones (which rival any synth) seep into Ground Zero (17:02), then expand into layers containing brighter sweeps and warmly spiraling swells of brass. Imagine a wide terrain twisting beneath a cover of undulating streams, fading as evening gradually falls. Sinuous streams perform slow-motion acrobatics in the Western Sky (14:46), moving like cloud formations in vast billowing slurs. In the final moments, a few strands of throat singing slip through. In a darker region, Monterey Bay comes alive... from an uneasy near-silence, animalistic flutters emanate in growling moans and giant-mosquito drones to be subdued by a preternaturally lengthy series of foghornesque blares. Beautiful resonance rises like a mist. A bit of throat singing gives additional texture to the rolling waves which occur Where the Earth Meets the Sky, a rather spooky expanse of organically evolving currents which hovers in a mysterious shroud of sound.
Tubular! Extra points to Tom Heasley for bringing something so ordinary-yet-unusual into the ambient arena. You'll find an 8.8 from me placed upon the otherworldly planes Where the Earth Meets the Sky. Expect only the finest from Hypnos..."
--David Opdyke, The AmbiEntrance
"At first listen, this seems like typical floating ambient music, albeit very good floating ambient music. But what's with the guy on the inside cover with the tuba on his head? Well, that would be Tom Heasley, previously unknown in the ambient scene, though that may not be the case for long. Though he was known more in experimental and jazz circles, Heasley could carve out a unique niche for himself in ambient tuba. Now, before you start laughing, put on the CD and listen. The resonant tones of the tuba, with loops and digital processing, have the perfect sound quality for deep, and I mean DEEP drones. The end result, at least on the first couple of tracks, sounds not too far removed from more ethereal works by the likes of Steve Roach. The CD was recorded, mixed and mastered by Robert Rich, and the quality is top-notch throughout. 'Ground Zero' starts with ominous low rumblings, eventually stretching out into a long, languishing piece of dreamy drifting. The first time I popped the CD in, I got midway through 'Ground Zero,' and then had to leave. I strongly resisted the urge to hit the stop button. It's that good, very captivating and relaxing. It reminds me of Jean-Michel Jarre's most ambient work, his 45-minute "En Attendant Costeau" from the CD of the same name. 'Western Sky' is even more expansive and quiet. These first two tracks conjure up images of drifting mists and breathtaking sunrises over the mountains, similar to the soft pastel hues on the booklet. For the last two tracks, the disc turns more experimental. 'Monterey Bay' starts with stretches of silence interspersed with seemingly competing tones, suggestive of whales having a little argument or something. It's challenging but oddly appealing, with shadings subtle and dark. The last note hangs eerily, fading into oblivion. The title track is even darker, featuring wordless throat singing by Heasley. His voice is used as an instrument, adding to the ghostly, captivating soundworld created. Adventurous, unique, and well worth exploring."
--Phil Derby, Sequences
"Where the Earth Meets the Sky is a classic example of the "Hypnos" style of dark ambient minimalism. The disc features Tom Heasley on loops, digital processing, throat singing and the Muafone 188 TUBA! That's right! Tom performs on the ambient tuba! There has not been a more eclectic or imaginative use of an instrument since 1989 when Markus Stockhausen contributed an ambient flugelhorn to "Flux + Mutability," by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay. Like that great CD, this works surprisingly well. Tom manipulates his tuba expertly on this meditative and introspective set. (He performed the entire CD live in the studio.) After the first couple of notes (announcing "Hey, it's a tuba!"), even the most diligent and practiced listeners will not recognize this as a tuba. Tom lays down a gentle and smooth drone to augment his loops and voices. He also carries a very subtle with this exotic instrument.
Taken on its own merits, this set stands proudly and rightfully with the rest of the Hypnos catalog. It is difficult, however, to overlook the novelty and seeming juxtaposition of the "ambient tuba." Listeners who are able to get past that will enjoy the dark and melancholy ride to the nether regions of the inner and outer selves. This is a first rate CD from a first rate label. It is also a strong choice for placement in the year's top ten!"
--Jim Brenholts, Ambient Visions
"Tom Heasley is almost certainly a new name for most of Ambient/ Space/ Atmospheric enthusiasts, but make no mistake about it, while he's a classically trained tubist he can hang with the best of the electronic soundscapists. Where the Earth Meets the Sky is a thoughtful and sonically rich recording that easily draws the listener in and takes them to another place sonically. Robert Rich was initially impressed with Tom's work and undertook a recording, and subsequent mastering, the recording sat nameless for a time until it was picked up as a release for Hypnos. This recording has a very unique sound from the low resonant Ground Zero right on through the last, title track, Where the Earth Meets the Sky. Each of the four tracks on this recording is approximately 14-17 minutes long. Where the Earth Meets the Sky is nearly perfect ambient music it's subtle, it's beautiful, and it changes just enough to engage the listener without commanding the experience. Another fantastic disc from Hypnos, Robert Rich, and a great Ambient start for Tom Heasley."
--Matt Borghi, The Organization of Sound