The 'Baptismal' project started out when Kramer invited me to collaborate with him on a project, and I tend to think in terms of what the listeners are open to hearing these days. In my mind was a recording that let the listeners leave the busy mind generated by mainstream media, so I came up with the idea of a baptism, immersive kind of LP in which the listener would Become totally present with the music. I suggested to Kramer the title 'Baptismal', and that the tracks would be called 'Gedunk', a comical reference to the idea of being immersed in water, my own baptism as a child in the Christian faith, the Baptist church. I started by sending Kramer several tracks of Zither-centric music in the length of individual LP sides. Kramer would complement the tracks with plush drones and return it to me. Then we would discuss. Soon we had enough material to move toward completing the album. I performed with piano keyboard, ZITHER and voice. We collaborated entirely by sending audio files back and forth via online transfer. We haven’t had physical contact at all during the project, but it went smoothly with some minor suggestions to help us to shape up our navigation til we finally arrived. The album cover was suggested by Kramer, which I think is very appropriate. The project started in 2022. Mark Kramer, an old young friend. We connected in New York City when he was here in the 80s.
-Laraaji, Jan. 2023
I met Laraaji by chance in NYC's Central Park one fine summer day in 1985. I'd been thinking about the wisdom vs. the futility of starting my own record company a lot in those days, and as I walked through one of the parks many tunnels, I heard what I'd recognized to be Laraaji's 'Day of Radiance' playing on what i'd assumed to be someone's beatbox. I thought to myself, "How nice it is to be alive in NYC in 1985 on a day like this in Central Park and knowing that someone loves this wondrous LP from Eno's Obscure Records label as much as I do."
But when I emerged from the tunnel I saw not a beatbox but Laraaji himself sitting in a lotus position on a hillside, hammering gently on a zither plugged into an echo pedal and a small battery powered amplifier. I sat down about ten feet in front of him, shut my eyes, and LISTENED. About an hour later, the music carefully rolled into the natural silence surrounding it, and I opened my eyes. We met each other's gazes, and smiled. "Peace", he said. We talked and became fast friends. A few days later he was in my studio, Noise New York, recording a zither improvisation that would soon become his contribution to the very first Shimmy-Disc release, a compilation titled 'The 20th Anniversary of the Summer of Love'. The so-called 'Ambient Music' scene was still in its infancy at the time, and we agreed then and there that we would someday, when the time was right, make a collaborative LP together. Someday turned into some decades, and not long after Shimmy-Disc was relaunched in 2021, I called my old friend and suggested that we make good on our dreams. He agreed and suggested the title 'Baptismal', and the imagery instantly began blossoming in my head.
'Baptismal' began as Laraaji's beautiful idea and became Ambient Symphony #1 in four Movements. Three of those movements fit onto the vinyl LP. All four are on the 60 minute long CD and cassette. Next comes Ambient Symphony #2. There will then be a third, to complete the cycle. I am deeply honored to see my nearly 40 year friendship with Laraaji manifest itself into a series of collaborative compositions that can be experienced long after both of us are gone.
-Kramer, Jan. 2023