Christopher Campbell

Sound the All-Clear

Innova 750


01.  Sleepless Nights 3:35

02.  Sunface Streams Moonface 3:40

03.  All-Clear (1,2,3,4,5) 9:10

04.  Interlude 1 1:50

05.  North Wind 4:46

06.  Diamond Marimba 1:39

07.  Imago 10:54

08.  Interlude 2 1:10

09.  Shining Furrows 3:53

10.  Ritual Waking, Ritual Sleepwalking 10:39

11.  Home 3:37

12.  Capping Verse 1:33


    As if Chris Campbell’s album title, Sound the All-Clear (referring to the signal that imminent threats have now passed) wasn’t provocative enough, the first piece that you will be faced with in his track list is called “Sleepless Nights”. But it will not take long before you will be able to figure out what might have been going on during such nights, in the restless mind and stellar imagination of Mr. Campbell. His is an imagination filled with vivid, living musical sounds, both intuitively human but at other times, beyond; at moments, celestial, but at other times, earthy and guttural.

    These terse and potent sound poems are lean and economical, detailing rich ideas that float through spheres of memory. Repetition arrives sparingly, at the composer’s will and whim — but it never seems too late, or too early. There is often a sense of stasis, yet at no moment is there a feeling that “nothing is happening”, as the fascination for crystalline textures and anticipation of what’s around the next corner occupies the listener.

    The “sounds” themselves are finely sculptured, clear, bright and most often optimistic – even cheery. They are created, like perfumes are, from blended essences; of voice, piano, music boxes, sheng, prepared koto, strings, electric guitar, PVC flutes, balloon bassoons, Aeolian harp, toys, lithophones and other choice sound sources played by himself and others — miced and modified to Campbell’s tastes and palette. Some are rhythmic, some float, and others drone.

    Campbell’s worlds of musical colors are sprinkled generously throughout the tracks of this disc. Imago resonates with zooming buzz saws, inlaid electric guitar, plectrum ostinatos and violin filigree floating through mesmerizing rhythms. He finds an “insect world” of textures appropriate for Shining Furrows, a work of deep layering, otherworldly waltzes and delicate “finger piano” sounds. Ritual Waking explores tinkling, spacious, star-light, star-bright atmospheres with crotales ringing, before low droning pulsations creep in. It concludes with another Campbell “waltz” – this time sounding a lot like mandolin. As to which instruments and sounds are creating his unique combinations at any moment, your guess is as good as mine. But much of it sounds familiar – just a bit “different”.  A 21st century Gagaku ensemble.

    I can tell you, frankly, this may not be exactly the kind of music I thought to be leading him towards during the years he worked with me at Sarah Lawrence College. Somewhere, along his creative way, he took a toss and turn to discover his own personal motivations and sound world – most probably, on one of his sleepless, sleepless nights. His poetical insomnia and lack of REM become our apparent gain, arriving in the form of fresh and unusual visual-musical imagery.

— George Tsontakis 2010

1.  “Foreign pipes play so lowly and sad, home is miles away. All through the night rain falls down; the sound of silver waves.”  Homeleaving.

2.    For Alice Barstad.  There’s an old zen koan, “Master Ma is unwell”.  It goes something as follows: The temple superintendent approaches the old master and says “you look unwell…” (Master Ma is dying.)  Ma says, “Sunface Buddha, Moonface Buddha”.  An honest person is hard to find these days.

3.    Light and line melting upward into sky is as simple as 1,2,3,4,5.  The whole body should float with this one and then settle back to earth.   I was listening and learning a lot of Gagaku music when I wrote this.

4.    Tons of birds in a bush!

5.    Winter!  Saint Paul Minnesota!  -13ľF hermit winds.  Bahhh.  People around here say it’s too long, but I like it.  Winter in St. Paul is sharded and pristine like a desert.  No growth and nothing extra.   If you inhale deeply on very cold days you can feel the water of air freeze in your lungs.

6.    Circles within circles, with a nice soupy base coat.

7.    Throwback memory track. In Sioux Falls, SD, my family had a huge tree full of apples and cicada molt in the backyard.  The insects emerged with wings but left beautiful/intricate shells of which I was both terrified and curious.  Parts of this music is what a cicada the size of a Ford truck would make.

8.    More birds singing happily (?).

9.    Driving through Iowa in the summer you see the bean fields and the sun glinting off each leaf.  It’s a showcase. It’s 10,000 entry points into the great matter at hand.  The wind moves the leaf and then: awe, the light dances and the whole earth is waving.  This one is from a bean sprout or insect perspective. Starts with winter mind in anticipation; summer, harvest, and ends with winter.

10. Kinhin, a walking meditation. 

11.  Homecoming.  Sanctus. 


12.  Coda

— Christopher Campbell 2010






Christopher Campbell, Michelle Kinney, Jacqueline Ultan, Shannon Wettstein, Todd Hammes[.com], Susie Ibarra[.com], Philip Blackburn[.com], Phyllis Zumach, Serena Mira Asta, Susanne E. Smith, Greg Joly, Mary Ellen Erlandson, Juliann Johnson, Cheryl Hodges-Savola, Benta LeMunyon, Phyllis Lindberg,  Lora Barstad, Eric Barstad,  Flute Force[.org], Meredith Samuelson, Sara Mergens, Laurie R. Johnson, Penny Bartz, Don Hogquist, Mark Hirschboeck, Carl Samuelson, Brian Towne, Bert Bast, Jameson Jon Baxter, Larry Wilson, Ralph Johnson

Special thanks to all the people who participated and played on this album.  It was a lot of fun to make and I think we made a sound world worth exploring.


Producers: Christopher Campbell,

Philip Blackburn

Art: Adam S. Doyle

Recorded: Joe Johnson at Fur Seal Studio, and Christopher Campbell

Mixed: Joe Johnson

Mastered: Pete Lyman


Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Director, Design: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Christopher Campbell