journeys vol. 2

Vibraphonist Chris Dingman has forged a deeply personal and unique musical vocabulary through his solo playing in recent years – years that have offered up profound challenges both globally and personally. journeys vol. 2 inevitably reflects the introspective and harrowing time period during which it was made. But the moving and transportive new album is also a striking portrait of Dingman’s singular connection with both his instrument and his listeners.

Comprising a set of music that is perhaps even more emotionally raw and searching than its predecessor, journeys vol. 2 also looks forward to the way Dingman’s solo practice has continued to bloom and evolve as we’ve begun to find joy and solace in community once again.

Release date: February 3, 2023

“I’ve noticed myself tuning in to people’s mental state during performances,” Dingman describes. “It sometimes feels like sensing their points of tension and trying to find how they can be released. I’m more aware of what’s happening energetically in the room and the audience’s response from moment to moment than I ever used to be.”

When Dingman released journeys vol. 1 in early 2022, he had no way of knowing just where his own journey would lead. He’d found a new and unexpectedly profound relationship with solo performance via the time he spent playing while his father was in hospice care, five hours of which were compiled on his 2020 solo debut Peace. That experience proved to be the gateway to a transformative new avenue of personal expression.

Surprisingly, out of a time of unprecedented isolation Dingman discovered new and intense means to connect with audiences. As restrictions have lifted he has returned to live performance, albeit with a newfound sense of purpose and often in unpredictable spaces. While he has continued to appear in traditional concert venues, he has also played in spaces geared toward meditation, sound healing, and spiritual practice. In partnership with the organization he began a twice-monthly series of virtual performances through Zoom called Transformations, for which viewers explain the issues and hardships they’re facing and Dingman channels those thoughts into the music.

These unique experiences and deeply personal communions have undoubtedly led to changes in Dingman’s music both in and outside of those healing contexts, though he struggles to put those effects into words. “I’ve been trying to put my finger on it,” he says. “It feels kind of like watching the grass grow – you don’t necessarily notice it until much later, when you look back and realize that something has changed drastically.”

Whether you believe that its impact is the result of something purely biological, a simple matter of vibrations and brain chemistry, or that something much more transcendental is occurring, Dingman’s music has the stirring power to transport the listener to another realm, spiritually or metaphorically (if there’s any real difference between the two). It’s impossible to listen to the music of journeys vol. 2 without sensing the ways in which the music both conveys and evokes emotions, and how keenly it can alter one’s mood.

“While I’m playing I often slip into a sort of semi-conscious state where I experience something akin to a dream,” Dingman describes. “That’s usually a sign that the music going in the right direction. A big part of my live performances, both in person and online, has been trying to instigate or conjure that state for other people.”

In some ways Dingman’s solo music has taken his own personal response to the creative process and made it communal, which he’s amplified by sharing other practices with audiences. That includes automatic writing, which he’s long practiced in response to his own improvisations (and which often yields his song titles), and which he’s encouraged at concerts, whether participants share the results or not. When they do, the parallels with his own internal thoughts and imagery can sometimes be uncanny. These coincidences echo the way that Dingman’s study of mbira, the African thumb piano that, in the culture and traditions of Zimbabwe, is used to summon ancestral spirits in ways that remind him of the waking dreamlike state he, and some audience members, achieve during performances.

Many of Dingman’s influences and inspirations – jazz, meditation, African music, spirituality, dreams – have converged in his solo music in fascinating and stunning ways. journeys vol. 2 beings with “ride,” whose rippling rhythms are directly inspired by mbira music, specifically the beat of the hosho, the percussive shakers that provide accompaniment for the mbira. The piece was born from a period in the fall of 2020 when Dingman would play mbira in New York’s Tompkins Square Park with other musicians, an early attempt to reconnect after months of solitude.

Dreams are a recurring theme in Dingman’s work, dating back at least to his 2011 debut, Waking Dreams. “dream, ever dream” suggests something perpetual in that liminal state, conjured here by cyclical and ever-shifting repetitions that feel like something between minimalist composition and chanting. The captivating permutations expand and deepen in concentric waves throughout the piece’s absorbing sixteen minutes. A sense of stillness is belied by the title of “transit,” recorded in the dead of winter and redolent of the stark grays and muted atmospheres of a snowy twilight, sunset on snow conveyed via the shimmering bowed vibes.

“enter” is the album’s centerpiece, excerpted from a much longer improvisation for which it became the emotional core. Untethered from the exploration that led there, “enter” feels, as Dingman says, “like a sacred space where everything cleared away very quickly and the music was left floating free.” It’s easy to get lost within the piece, which feels achingly private, intimate, and fragile, though it builds to a cathartic and crystalline beauty. The piece also provides the raw material for “return,” which ends the album as vol. 1 did with a sampled and processed reimagining, constructed solely from the sounds of the vibes without any added synths or electronics.

A journey may not always have a destination, and with this second volume of his own journeys Chris Dingman reveals that there are nearly infinite places to explore, outwardly and inwardly.

Credits and Thanks

All compositions by Chris Dingman (Between Worlds BMI)

Mixed and Mastered by Dave Darlington at Bass Hit Studios, NYC
Design by Ariel Lapidus

Special thanks to Zaneta Sykes, Carolyn Dingman, Betsy Braverman, Ike Sturm, Kristofer Ek, Stuart Lennon, Thomas Yates, Kohei Oyamada, Thomas Loewner, Kirk Leonard, Stacy Mar, Frederic Isler, Matt Kilmer, Anne Pope, Hannah Barnard, Renae Travis, Tiffany Leung, Cathleen Caron, Ralph Parus, Erin Hogan, Ana Hernandez, Erin Krebs, and Bibby Smith

This music was created and recorded on Lenape territory

© & ℗ 2022 Chris Dingman, under license to Inner Arts Initiative, Inc. All Rights Reserved.