On her latest album, Clear Light (a tribute to the oceans of our planet), longtime acclaimed and award-winning keyboardist Stephanie Sante returns to ambient and new age music — genres where she enjoyed considerable success a decade-and-a-half ago with her initial solo recordings — Into Light, Immaculate Conceptions and Inner Beauty.
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Although in the intervening years she released occasional new age music singles (“Fathomless Heart,” “Speak To Me,” “Leaves Fall”), Sante (pronounced sahn-tay) turned her attention to NuJazz, downtempo, electronica, groove, lounge and chill with the occasional overlap into either ambient or smooth jazz. While Sante enjoyed considerable success with these endeavors, she also knew she wanted to further explore new age music.
More information on Stephanie Sante is available at her website (stephaniesante.com). Her CDs and digital download tracks from those recordings are available not only at her site but also at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic and many others. In addition, her music also can be heard (and Sante can be followed) at many major streaming platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Google Play and more.
“I have a very strong bond with nature, especially the ocean,” explains Sante. “I went to the beach a lot when I was growing up and I have been a member of Greenpeace for many years, especially supporting their efforts to save the oceans and the sealife. I wanted this music to encapsulate the power and beauty of the world’s oceans, and to draw attention to not only to the wondrous aspects, but also to the problems confronting them.”
The album title, Clear Light, has a double-meaning. “People forget that just like flora and fauna on land, the ocean and its creatures require sunlight to survive and thrive. It is all connected. Sunlight is sustaining. And measuring the clarity and purity of water involves light.” The second aspect of the title refers to clarity of thought, turning our attention toward and educating people of the world to the ocean’s problems of pollution, species becoming extinct, fish tainted and unfit to eat, whales and fish ingesting or becoming entangled in plastics, and using the ocean as a dumping ground for human waste products. Oceans are such an integral part of our planet, they are affected by and in turn also affect climate change, global warming, the ozone layer, melting ice caps and other circumstances facing the world today. “I felt new age music was the best style to use to capture all the moods and emotions associated with ocean-life.”
To carry the ocean theme throughout the mostly-instrumental recording and to add a cohesiveness to the project, Sante begins each tune with a series of notes that sound like water droplets created electronically. What follows is full-bodied synthesized new age music with the synth most-often sounding like a synthesizer but supplemented by what Sante calls “a smattering of virtual sampled acoustic instruments” including the sounds of strings, piano, bass, percussion or drums, chimes, and wordless vocals. These tunes are multi-layered mesmerizing ambient journeys with gentle melodic content that floats throughout.
The album begins with the title tune, “Clear Light,” which “introduces this music, sets the stage and draws the listener into an oceanic epic adventure.” “Deep Impression” is Sante musically exploring what happens under the oceans — large teutonic plate shifts, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes — and “how those things impact the ocean sealife creatures.” On “Salacia’s Dream,” to go back in time, Sante uses the idea of the mythical Roman goddess who was the daughter of Neptune and presided over the ocean’s depths. “In the earth’s early days there was only ocean, and then in humankind’s ancient times there was mystery surrounding the sea, but always Salacia is there and on this piece I created the sound of her voice speaking under water.” “Jade Resonance” is about the kelp forests that sometimes have the color of Chinese jade. “We always think about the forests on land and how to save them, but we should also be concerned about preserving the kelp which provides a home for sea creatures, food for some and oxygen for the water.” The composition “Melt Like Snow” explores the juxtaposition of the positive nature of snow melting in the middle of a land continent and flowing down to the oceans, versus the detrimental climate-change melting of polar ice caps, continental glaciers and ice-sheets.
“The Color of Coral” refers to the extremely endangered coral reefs around the world. The coral is an organism with vivid colors when it is alive but usually turning white when it dies. “This music shows a reverence for this important underwater ecosystem of reefs built by tiny marine animals and used as protection by a diverse selection of sealife.” The tune titled “Fractured Echoes” refers to the ripple-effect of earthly change from the beginning of the planet through today and how we still feel these historical echoes through time, even if only in bits and pieces. “The climatic shifts now going on, both natural and man-made, are impacting our oceans,” says Sante. “Moonlit Starfish,” Sante explains, “is a fantasy piece. Imagine starfish one night dancing on the sandy bottom of the sea. There are at least 2,000 different species of starfish and we are just beginning to understand a little about them. It is believed that they can communicate with one another.” Sante is a fan of adventure movies (“like the classic Jules Verne tales”) so she wrote “Mariana” about the extremely deep and relatively-little-explored Mariana Trench where new sealife is discovered on each visit there.
Sante grew up in Marin County, California, near San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean. Two musical experiences changed her life. “I listened to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ and then I heard the Miles Davis album Bitches Brew, and those totally blew my mind.” She started playing guitar at age 15 and a few years later she began composing and joined various rock bands where she could play her original music. The groups toured throughout the Western States. She gravitated first toward progressive rock and then jazz-fusion influenced by Pat Metheny, Weather Report and Al Dimeola.
Wanting to expand her musical talents, Sante studied both classical and flamenco guitar at the Conservatory of Guitar and Voice in Salt Lake City, and then decided to go to college as a music major which introduced her to a wide range of classical music. She co-founded the band Clazz playing a fusion of classical and jazz. Sante began to explore electronic music, started playing keyboards and discovered the versatility of synthesizers. “In those years I was into Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, Larry Fast and Wendy Carlos.”
Sante moved to Boulder, Colorado, studied music engineering extensively (recording, mixing and mastering), joined “a rock band with a new age vision” for several years, and got deeper and deeper into electronic music influenced by Steve Roach, David Arkenstone, and Hans Zimmer. Sante released three highly-successful new age albums. Into Light was named the “Radio Airplay Winner” and was a finalist for “Best New Age CD” at the New Age Voice Awards. Inner Beauty was a New Age Voice finalist for “Best New Age/Electronic/ Space CD.”
Then Sante switched her focus back to her jazz-based roots with the album Coffee Culture featuring chilled grooves with acoustic and electric guitars (named “Best Concept Album” of the year by Muse’s Muse). Subsequent recordings — Prismatic, Cosmic Diva, State of Mind, Luminescence, As One, In Your Eyes and Shine On Me — received extensive airplay, chart action, acclaim and awards. The Akademia Music Awards named the tune “You and I” the “Best Song – Electronica/Ambient” of 2015. The tracks “Can You Hear Me,” “Afterglow” and “Shine On Me” went to #1 on the This is Lounge Radio Chart.
“Even though I had success with the NuJazz sound,” Sante states, “I felt that after 15 years it was time to return to new age music, the other genre I love, the other side of my musical personality. And since I am an environmentalist, I wanted to shine my musical light on the subject of our oceans, their beauty and their problems, in the hope that humanity can begin incorporating more good stewardship in regards to maintaining, preserving and returning the sea to its original pristine state.”