The Acoustic Instrumental Music of Mark Vickness' Desert Dream

The newly branded Mark Vickness Interconnected returns with his third album. In The Rain Shadow frames his acoustic instrumental music, this time by his move to the high desert. This full-length album comes at a time when "interconnected" plays a bigger part. In his first album, Places (2017), Mark collaborated on some of his solo acoustic guitar work with his family. The theme concerns the places he's been set to acoustic instrumental music. But he established, at the time, that the album was a study of his plucking technique. Not one to remain in the same workspace, Mark would follow his sophomore release with something new. For 2020s Interconnected, he composed for solo guitar and ensemble, hence, "interconnected."

His approach to In The Rain Shadow is more complex. Rather than compose for himself, adding more musicians to his ensemble would form Mark Vickness Interconnected. Revealing the intent of his process seems to have been the norm for his releases. However, this time, the album's theme takes precedence. In late 2020, Mark moved to the high desert and was immediately inspired by his surroundings. The album art, the title, and the track names say it all. This acoustic instrumental music represents his environment in the rain shadow. Check out our interview at the end of this article, discussing his varied musical approach. In the meantime, we'll look at what his latest release has to offer. 

Desert Dreaming Mark's Acoustic Instrumental Music

Owens Valley view

I've daydreamed about the desert, as I'm sure many have. Mark Vickness would have to make a move before composing his new album. Instrumental music about alluvial fans can't be the most interesting thing. Mark had to be around those fans daydreaming in the desert to get something out of it. "Alluvial Fans" is the only "official" single to promote this album. From what I can tell, it's the only track in the album that is a variation on a theme established by "High Desert."

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Themes are something that I brought up in our interview, and how each track is different from the other. I'm used to a composer establishing a theme for, in this case, the high desert. They would then do variations on each track. That could be happening here, but in a subtle way. Also, from a promotional angle, the release of music videos is my go-to for singles. Needless to say, this is to get a sense of the entire album before release. "Roadrunner" would be the second single, followed by "In The Rain Shadow" and "On The Cliffs Of Mohr."

12257044098?profile=RESIZE_400xIt's easy to tag this release as Mark having something to say about climate. In a way, he does when he expresses how inspired by the surroundings of Owen's Valley he is, which is very specific. Mark has taken the task that no one asked for, to musically conquer that small ecosystem that he dominates like no other. Mark would likely not want to play that role, but it's difficult for me to imagine a rival composer moving into that area to challenge him. 

Of course, this is more of a personal venture for Mark where he's setting that space he connects to with the acoustic instrumental music he's known for. He's praising it, giving it the soundtrack going through his head. Then, he laid it down with more than capable studio musicians to share his daily experience with the rest of us.  

"Covid changed everything. It deepened the joy I’ve always known as part of the experience of being in a beautiful place – a place with far fewer people, thinner, crisper air, and a different kind of energy born of being closer and more subservient to the natural environment. We live literally in the rain shadow, which is a meteorological term meaning on the sheltered side of a mountain range where there is less precipitation because of the wind patterns. Most of the titles on this recording are taken from geological or meteorological features we experience daily. They are intended to reflect this new appreciation for the opportunity to absorb the wonders of living in the rain shadow. It is humbling, awesome, peaceful, thrilling, tranquil and beautiful."

This has everything to do with what I love about complex instrumental compositions. The more I know about the personal connection the composer has with the source, the more I can appreciate the work.

Mark's Acoustic Instrumental Music Needs The Right Visual Artist

Being that the visual component is part of what started the creation of this acoustic instrumental music, by extension, Brian Judd's cover art is also important. Mark and Brian have known each other for several decades now. I asked Brian about his process with the painting and the music.

"Unfortunately, none of the tracks were available when I was painting. I spoke with Mark at length, though, about his love for this location, his new home there, and what he and his wife experienced from living there. I shared the painting with him at a couple of stages and received feedback about the color and composition, which I welcomed. Mark has the painting, which I included with the commission."

Oftentimes, I find myself lost in what a composer is trying to say through their music. As a listener, that's always on me. But In The Rain Shadow is a vision that is brought to life because it is fully realized. The time it took Mark to complete this work until it was done is not wasted. This music is confident, vibrant, and more compelling with every listen. 

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My Interview With Mark Vickness  

I got a chance to ask Mark some questions in this light-hearted conversation about his process.  

Cover Artist Site: Brian Judd

Mark Vickness Websites:

 Official Site

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