Matt Starling Releases ‘Music for Nina,’ An Ambient And Immersive Escape

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Trever Hadley

Matt Starling released “Music for Nina” on Heart Dance Records on Nov. 20 (Courtesy Matt Starling)

By Hannah Keating, Arts Writer

 

Creating music isn’t something that Matt Starling just does, even though he has built a life and career in and around it. Instead, music seems to be an integral part of how he understands and shapes the world around him. The multifaceted musician has just released his new composition “Music for Nina” through Heart Dance Records, a selection that is sure to be played by those seeking respite in sound.

 

Background

Starling was raised in a highly musical family: his mother was a flutist, his father a string player and his grandfather a reputable pianist. His other grandfather, however, was a physicist who was fascinated by instrumental amplification. This deep-seated love not only for music but also for the study of it informed Starling’s education and career in the arts. 

He graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Music Education and an appreciation and interest in music technology. This passion led him to a career in Utah, teaching music in public high schools, running a small recording studio, developing a reputation as an audio engineer and founding the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, a group that collaborates on interpreting the work of contemporary composers in new ways. The group has recorded five albums based on both established interpretations and new compositions. Most recently, they released an album titled “Return” from their work with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Starling has also released several titles under his own name, including a selection of minimalist piano works composed by Erik Satie and an ambient single entitled “Origin.” 

 

“Music for Nina”

Music for Nina” is Starling’s most innovative and intensive project to date. The title comes from Starling’s own life from when his partner asked him to create music that captured the feelings coming from their relationship. After listening to music together late one night, she fell asleep and Starling launched into an almost 18-hour recording session, experimenting with what would become this ambient soundscape based on themes of love and bliss. 

Starling made “Music for Nina” in dozens of loops organized into 23 different groups, which contain a certain melody and variations on that melody. In its original online environment, the composition plays out in a unique order every time, starting from the same predetermined loop and continuing through different sequences based on a probability setting.

“To manage the density of musical information I framed nearly all of the musical sounds with some amount of silence, the timing of which was not too carefully selected,” Starling said. “Each edition of Music for Nina is a unique documentation of how this generative process unfolded during other playbacks.”

As I write this, “Music for Nina” has just hit streaming platforms in its full realization. On my chosen music streaming platform Spotify, Starling has released “Music for Nina” as a six-minute-long single. He also released an hour-long album for meditation and an 8-hour-long album for sleep.

“It’s my sincere hope that this music might ease anxiety, aid in sleep, promote meditation and generally offer support to those who are seeking inner peace,” Starling said.

 

Thoughts

Listening to the gorgeous waves of sound in Starling’s work is like an escape — a nearly out-of-body experience from the weight of sitting at the same desk, staring at the same laptop while sitting in the same Zoom lecture once more. “Music for Nina” pulls me away from the anxiety I carry, sending that soft, tingling feeling of relaxation across my skin. It is a truly powerful, creative endeavor. From listening, you can feel the emotional depths of Starling and the beauty of the love his music is rooted in.

 

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