Tom Caufield – An interview with the “Contemplative Music” artist. “The main commitment I have is that I always will keep the acoustic guitar front and center,”
Tom Caufield is an acoustic guitarist and songwriter whose music will put you in a relaxed state of mind. With catchy melodic guitar riffs, his songs will enhance your thoughts and give you the perfect ambience to think, talk with friends, or just concentrate on a daily routine. That’s the reason why Tom is a staple in coffee shops, wineries, and on home stereos. On his new album, “Things I Heard While in the Womb”, he adds just the right amount of reverb and echo to give you the feeling that there’s a wonderful experience ahead of you. I recently corresponded with him and he explained in depth why he delved into this contemplative genre of music.
R.V.B. – What kind of music were you exposed to at an early age? Did you come from a musical family?
Tom – The first music I remember was my mom singing ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Moon River,’ accompanying herself next to my crib with ukulele, in order to stop me from crying. Also ever present were the Christmas Carols I heard during the holiday season – ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Greensleeves,’ ‘Joy to the World,’ and the like. I think this accounts for why most of my music is very diatonic, heroic, hymnal, and almost sacred sounding, and also maybe why it yin-yangs between being major key and minor key, or modal cores.
Soon after that I was saturated with the optimistic, euphoric and melodically catchy music of the golden age of am radio. It’s a major influence – music that created a sound that seemed to say that things were getting better, that ‘good’ was winning. It was always really powerful to see some of the older boys in the neighborhood playing ‘Wipe Out’ and ‘Green Onions’ in their garages – four piece bands, live and really loud. It just lifted you off the ground and you really wanted to be a part of it.
I was also always acutely aware of soundtrack music when taken to the movies as a child. The John Barry scores for the James Bond films made a strong impression. My father played a bit of piano as well, and dug Sinatra, Bing Crosby and all the big bands of the 40s, and played those records on our ‘hi fi,’ so that was going on.
In Gramophone’s June 2017 issue, Kate Molleson reports on how the ‘classical’ music label is proving outdated for many of today’s creative artists and speaks to several musicians for whom the whole notion of genre is entirely irrelevant. Generic labels have always been more widely used by listeners, retailers and record companies than by musicians themselves (no musician wants to be put in a box!), and the artistic integrity of the experimentation and intermingling of musical traditions by many of today’s artists leaves all memories of ‘crossover’ far behind.
As Molleson says: ‘I’m not talking about crossover or fusion. Naff appropriation has been part of the music industry for centuries – plenty of Romantic composers plonked folksy songs into their music, but for the most part they plundered material out of published anthologies from the safety of their armchairs, and the complicating contours were smoothed out, prettified, made polite and assimilated into an acceptable language of formal composition. Porous boundaries between genres are only interesting when respect for and integrity of both genres is upheld.’
In the course of the article, Molleson speaks to composer Anna Meredith, conductor Ilan Volkov, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, and harpist Rhodri and violinist Angharad Davies. Below is some of their latest work, but there are many, many musicians and composers worth investigating, so I’ve added a few more…
Tom’s new holiday collection “I Heard It Was Christmas Day” is available in select Whole Foods outlets nationwide. The list price is $9.99.
Heartfelt thanks to Steve Romeis at One Source Distribution, and the Whole Foods team in Austin for allowing us in to the Whole Foods family.
Happy holidays to all!
October 7, 2016–January 16, 2017
The Met Fifth Avenue
The greatest French follower of Caravaggio (1571–1610), Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632) was also one of the outstanding artists in 17th-century Europe. In the years following Caravaggio’s death, he emerged as one of the most original protagonists of the new, naturalistic painting. Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio will be the first monographic exhibition devoted to this artist who is little known because his career was short-lived—he died at age 41—and his works are so rare. Around 60 paintings by Valentin survive, and this exhibition will bring together 45 of them, with works coming from Rome, Vienna, Munich, Madrid, London, and Paris. Exceptionally, the Musée du Louvre, which possesses the most important and extensive body of Valentin’s works, will lend all of its paintings by the artist.
July 24, 2016
At 77, Harold Budd’s career has taken him from bebop to avant-garde minimalism to the lush, atmospheric soundscapes he’s become famous for. Critics call Budd “the godfather of ambient music,” an honorific he rejects. “My reaction is very visceral and immediate,” Budd tells Kurt Andersen. “Maybe it’s just being called something — anything — that annoys the hell out of me.” But the label he absolutely cannot abide: “I used to go into record stores — when there was such a thing — and complain, ‘Get me out of New Age!’”
Whether releasing sadness or sending shivers down our spines, the songs in our ‘emotional toolbox’ can transform daily life … if we learn how to use them
Music is so much a part of almost all our lives that it seems peculiar to stop and ask what it might be for. It just appears straightforwardly to benefit us in ways that are too diverse and ineffable to start to take apart; this might be one arena where we keep the dread hand of the theorists away. Musicians themselves have tended to reinforce such an approach, rarely venturing to supply an additional prose commentary around what their chords are already communicating.
Canadian born, Argentine raised, American by choice – photographer Julian Escardo has provided all the images for Tom’s distinctive album covers. Like the music, his precise and formally composed pieces hint at the deeper, hidden poetry of underlying spirit and energy that the surface only implies. More of his work can be seen here.