Legends, Myths and Lavender

Legends, Myths and Lavender

Radical honesty is easily applied when judging others, much harder to apply to oneself. Stephan Moccio found the space and courage required to look deep into his psyche while staying at Miraval Studios in the heart of Southern France. The Canadian composer, producer and pianist used his time there to meditate on the true nature of being, and channelled his feelings into Legends, Myths and Lavender. Moccio’s suite of 17 solo piano miniatures evolved during his month at Miraval, inspired by the abundant natural riches of Provence, among them the region’s ancient forests and lavender meadows. Legends, Myths and Lavender explores thoughts of mortality, family, illusion and reality, and life’s purpose—heavyweight themes translated into highly personal, strikingly beautiful keyboard pieces. Its tracks flow from the same stream of melody that has always nourished Moccio’s music, whether conceived for movie soundtracks, the pop charts or his growing number of solo recordings. Together, they chart the course of a spiritual journey. “Home” and “Polaris”, the album’s first and last tracks, represent facets of the place where we begin and the place to which we return. Between those two poles lie life’s excursions, setbacks and celebrations. “The Wanderer” conveys what Moccio describes as “beauty in impermanence”, something to be welcomed not feared. “We’re all wanderers through life,” he says. “Often it’s about confronting your own soul, your own demons. If you’re able to come to terms with them and be honest with yourself, then you will get through it. Impermanence is part of life. If you can accept rather than fight that, then I think you’re better off.” Miraval offered Moccio a retreat from the demands of work in Los Angeles. He travelled there soon after turning 50, armed with a sharp awareness of life’s transience. Here he could take stock and create under ideal conditions. “I was already questioning many things,” he recalls. “I was questioning how my career choices have affected my family and my time with my kids, which was a big thing. I’ve had an illustrious career, but it’s come at a cost. I’m not saying that I regret it. I’m just saying I want to change certain things in how I handle that, moving forward.” Moccio’s musical invention was supported by the calming ritual of daily routines. Despite spending up to 15 hours a day in the studio, he made time to walk alone and record whatever came to mind on his iPhone. “It could be about anything,” he notes. “About the creative process or my feelings that day. Some days it would be, ‘I miss my family, I miss my kids’. And then I’d go back and record for two hours, have dinner, then record until midnight and repeat the process the following morning. That discipline created boundaries and goals that allowed me to go crazy, in a good way—to go wild and experiment.” While his initial improvisations began to take shape as distinct compositions, he recalled the rituals he encountered as an altar boy at the Catholic church where his mother was organist. “Catholicism and the Church, and, more importantly, church music bled into my life, my art, my music,” notes Moccio. His abiding sense of spirituality was amplified by the psychogeography of Miraval, the site of a long-dissolved monastery. “Even if I hadn’t wanted any element of spirituality in the music, it was impossible to avoid because it was present in the world around me. It felt like this was spiritual music.” His connection to the place surfaces in the introspection of “Communion”, the album’s longest track, and permeates its reflections on the natural world, “Lavender Fields”, “The Sound of Snow” and “Soleil de Provence”. Legends, Myths and Lavender considers the concealing disguises so often worn by those seeking success in the creative arts, the stuff of “Make-Believe”. Stephan Moccio used his time at Miraval to divest his own masks, raising eternal questions in “You Can’t Run From Yourself” and “The Unveiling” without supplying categorical answers. “We create our own mythology to survive this crazy life and our own versions of legends. Sometimes we tell ourselves lies. I know I have, and I fight that a lot. That’s what ‘You Can’t Run from Yourself’ is about. But I didn’t solve any questions about the meaning of life. We’ve used these four words as a creed for the album: feel more, think less. And I hope Legends, Myths and Lavender awakens a certain feeling in people.”

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