Chris Dingman
The Subliminal and the Sublime

Chris Dingman vibraphone
Loren Stillman alto saxophone
Fabian Almazan piano
Ryan Ferreira guitar
Linda Oh bass
Justin Brown drums

Commissioned by Chamber Music America, The Subliminal and the Sublime is an album-length new work blending jazz, contemporary chamber music, minimalism, and ambient electronica with subliminal layers of pattern and detail inspired by the natural world.

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JazzTimes

“This album is meticulously assembled in the service of deep emotion. For Dingman, phenomena of the natural world, like crumbling landscapes in Pinnacles National Park, are personal. So are circles of new redwoods that grow from the roots of deceased redwood trees. His achievement, through music, is to make those natural mysteries and renewals personal for us all.”Thomas Conrad, JazzTimes

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“In total, Sublime is exactly that—perfectly paced, beautifully performed. Chris Dingman has announced himself as a serious composer.”Frank Alkyer, DownBeat

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“The sprawling 62-minute work is compelling from beginning to end.”Nextbop.com
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About the Album


The glory of nature has been a primary source of inspiration for artistic expression dating back to cave paintings and up to the most modern technology-based art forms of our day. But the key challenge is to capture both its enormous grandeur and the microscopic forces behind it with equal focus and clarity. Remarkable composer/vibraphonist Chris Dingman accomplishes this beautifully with his brilliant five-part suite The Subliminal and the Sublime.

The Subliminal and the Sublime is based on the concept that, under the surface of our apparent reality, there are subliminal layers of patterns, detail and depth. When we look at these layers more closely, we have the opportunity to discover sublime truths about our world and ourselves.”

Commissioned by Chamber Music America, this major work was developed over an 18-month period, with its New York premiere in the Fall of 2013. It was inspired by Chris’ travels in the wilderness of the American West – including Nevada’s deserts, California’s Pinnacles National Park and a redwood forest – fertile environment for the intensive inner reflection and self-knowledge essential to create a work of this magnitude. Experiencing the power of nature in its massive splendor and its exquisitely minute detail, and relating it to his own life experience and emotional sensibilities, Chris applied all of this to the composition.

“I wanted to capture the feeling of both the close-range and the massive in the music – to get a larger yet more detailed view of everything….. It’s all juxtaposed and arranged together, so there are multiple layers happening at once.”

Chris’ critically acclaimed first album Waking Dreams established him as a talented and innovative emerging artist. The Subliminal and the Sublime proves that this tremendously important new voice has matured and developed to make a profound impact on the contemporary music scene… and not just in the world of jazz with which he has been primarily associated up until now.

While legendary jazz artists like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Bobby Hutcherson are vital to his music, Chris has been inspired by a wide range of other influences including Hindustani classical music, West African griot and desert music, Steve Reich, John Adams, Brian Eno, Sigur Ros, Boards of Canada, Milton Nascimento, Morton Feldman and Debussy – all woven into a singular artistic vision that is uniquely Chris Dingman.

Another indispensable ingredient demanded by music like this is the virtuosity of the musicians, who must be able to instill the spontaneity and synergy necessary to keep this mostly through-composed piece vital and visceral, while also adding the improvisational creativity that is essential to its organic flow. Loren Stillman on alto sax, Fabian Almazan on piano guitarist Ryan Ferreira and the bass/drums tandem of Linda Oh and Justin Brown add their consummate artistry to Chris’ vibes to flawlessly deliver that special substance.  

An assortment of other instruments and effects are utilized – Tibetan singing bowls, tympani, voices, bowed vibes, occasional overdubs – but nothing contrived or in any way undermining the purely natural essence of the music. The technology is used as another instrument for creativity, enhancing and underscoring the composition in a subliminal, but highly effective manner.

While the music is divided into five distinct movements, each conceived with its own distinct purpose, The Subliminal and the Sublime is first and foremost a unified whole. Each movement is comprised of a number of mini-movements all traveling on the same trajectory to the same destination – mapped by the extraordinary stimuli that Dingman experienced in nature. A swath of fireflies illuminating the midnight forest, an aerial view of vast water erosion and mountain patterns, the crumbling deformation of ancient volcanoes over millions of years, naturally expanding ripples in water, the surreal perception of time standing still – are all interwoven with the deeper emotional themes of the work.  

“Much like a river forges a canyon through the earth, habits of behavior over lifetimes form chasms in our mind and influence our every move. Many of these patterns are discovered only through deep meditation, yet they affect our closest relationships the most. These kinds of realizations made a strong impact on this music.”

The result produces a compelling, enthralling atmosphere of mystery and fascination throughout; so cinematic in its totality and painting such a vivid portrait of its subject matter that it is more than a soundtrack to the magnificence of nature, but a means by which a sightless person could actually “see” it in its radiant splendor.

“This piece expresses my appreciation for nature combined with a deep gratitude for the ability to observe it. It is my hope that the music can inspire people to reflect similarly on nature and their lives, so as to find gratitude and happiness in their own way.”

Inner Arts Initiative is proud to release The Subliminal and the Sublime as it launches its recordings program in an effort to further its mission to expand the role of music and art in society to enable people to gain a greater understanding of themselves and the world through art.

The Subliminal and the Sublime was created with support from Chamber Music America’s Commissioning and Ensemble Development program, funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Foundation.