Michael Whalen – Sacred Spaces


“This new project describes my spiritual journey,” says two-time Emmy® award winner and Grammy®-nominated composer Michael Whalen about his upcoming new electronic ambient album Sacred Spaces, due March 6, 2020 via Solace. “Over the past decade, I realized I am 100 percent responsible for whatever my relationship with a higher being might be. When I first had the idea to do an album about the search for a higher power, I was imagining an orchestral project — a symphony. There was a point where I ran out of gas, maybe because part of me didn’t really want an answer. A couple of years ago, I revisited some themes I’d written and thought that maybe I should do this as an electronic project.” The result is Sacred Spaces, at once a tour de force of haunting melodies over percolating rhythms and a musical expression of Whalen’s personal reconciliation with a universal puzzle: The existence and nature of the divine.

Press release by Peter Giles/Giles Communications

“Sacred Spaces is the expression of something that is impossible to say,” he adds. “Music can go to a lot of places words can’t. This is that record.” Whalen was passionate about building Sacred Spaces on a foundation of original sound design. Though it employs a cornucopia of synths, Whalen avoided using the stock sound presets that have become clichéd in much of today’s ambient music. Instead, he dove into creating and programming his own sounds in fine detail, as he has done on his past electronic work. Every timbre heard on the album is original.

“When I settled on Sacred Spaces being an electronic album, I worked exclusively on creating sounds over the course of about four months,” he recalls. “I might start with an analog synth, a digital synth, a sampler, a guitar riff or drum loop I’d recorded at someone else’s studio, anything at all. I would then program and process the daylights out of it all. I must have created over 800 sounds in the end. Once that had happened, the record itself came together in maybe six weeks.”

The fruits of Whalen’s labor are abundant on tracks like “Ordinary Miracles,” driven by an ever-morphing sixteenth-note rhythmic pulse. Whalen explains the title thusly: “Often, to see the miraculous is simply to be present in the love, generosity, and commitment of people.” The downtempo, contemplative “1000 Paper Cranes” marshals Japanese melodic motifs into a tribute to Hiroshima victim Sadako Sasaki, who succumbed to radiation sickness after the blast. “There’s a Japanese legend that if you create a thousand origami cranes, you’ll be granted a wish,” says Whalen. “Sadako’s wish was a world without nuclear weapons.”

Here’s a recent interview with Michael about the album and technology:

Sacred Spaces is informed by over three decades of experience and artistry. Listeners and critics alike have marveled at Whalen’s sound design for countless commercials and video games, as well as his scores for films such as Veronika Decides To Die (2014) and themes for HBO, CBS News, ABC’s Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, National Geographic, the History and Discovery channels, NHK, ESPN, and much more. His fascination with sound design has deep roots as well.

“When I first learned that Ben Burtt, the sound designer for Star Wars, struck steel cables to create the pew-pew blaster sound, something clicked,” he recalls. “I thought it was so cool that you could process a sound and end up with something that sounds nothing like the original source but is musical and inspiring.”

The ten tracks on Sacred Spaces call to mind an observation by the neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music: A balance between familiarity and surprise is a hallmark of the most pleasing and engaging compositions. Sacred Spaces brilliantly strikes this balance, mirroring the equilibrium between safety and wonder that leads to the very sense of the divine Whalen expresses musically. Sacred Spaces is a masterful electronic opus and well poised to become the ambient album of the year.

Pre-order Sacred Spaces here: https://fanlink.to/SacredSpaces