Born on July 1, 1952, in rural Chicago, IL; moved with family to Southern California at the age of ten; married Diane Arkenstone (a musician); children: Quillon, Dashiell, Valinor. Addresses: Record company--Windham Hill Records, 8750 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211-2713. Office--David Arkenstone, P.O. Box 1211, Cortez, CO 81321. Website--David Arkenstone Official Website: http://www.arkensounds.com. E-mail--davidark@arkensounds.com.

David Arkenstone has been one of contemporary instrumental music's top-selling artists since the late 1980s. The storyteller perspective is a strong feature in Arkenstone's instrumental compositions. Acoustic and electronic instruments are often combined with guitars and keyboards. His music also frequently combines literature and art. His style is distinctly his own, reflecting his personal and modern versions of orchestral rock music. He stated in a Windham Hill publicity release, "I'm usually identified as a musician, and that's a very logical, practical definition of my role in the arts. On a more intuitive level, though, I believe a lot of people think of me as a storyteller. And that's the picture I have of myself--a person who invites people to explore the back roads of their imaginations, only I use notes and textured sounds in place of printed words or dialogue. Sometimes when I walk into the studio, I think of the phrase, 'It's not just a song--it's an adventure.'"

His debut album, Valley of the Clouds, was released in 1987. Since then, Arkenstone has had eight albums reach the top ten of Billboard's New Age chart. He earned two number-one albums--Citizen of Time in 1990, and In the Wake of the Wind in 1991. For the latter he earned a 1991 Grammy Award nomination.

His 1994 release of Another Star in the Sky was a brilliant example of Arkenstone's technological abilities by being the first album by an adult alternative/New Age artist that was recorded in Dolby Surround Sound.

Arkenstone's 1995 release, Quest of the Dream Warrior was a story written by Arkenstone with assistance from science fiction and fantasy writer Mercedes Lackey and production help from Michael Whalen. The story is about a young girl, Kyla, who tries to find her father through a land of darkness. Arkenstone used synthesizers, guitars, flutes, and a 24-piece orchestra to illustrate the story with music.

Spirit Wind, released in 1997, was produced entirely by Arkenstone, and was scored for a Discovery Channel production. Most of the music on the recording was for a movie called Legend of the Spirit Dog. In this story, a Native American tone communicated a simple message that all life is connected. Flutes and drums were used throughout the track to communicate the story of a boy making his journey into manhood. The boy seeks the wise guidance of an old teacher. Republic Pictures home video released the project in 1997.

Arkenstone also has extensive experience in creating pieces for film and multimedia projects. Some of these projects include the following: composing music and filming a video for the wedding of Princess Lamia of Saudi Arabia; performing live in Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, and throughout the Midwest; completing a score for an NHK Japan documentary about the crane's migration over the Himalayas and a score for an audiobook version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame; producing an album of his material performed by a group called Troika from Santa Barbara, California; and working on the soundtrack for a fantasy role-playing computer game called Lands of Lore II for Westwood Studios.

Creative Influences

Arkenstone was born in rural Chicago, and at the age of ten moved with his family to Southern California. Throughout high school and college, he played for various bands and performance groups, while also playing baseball. For a couple of years, he started a progressive rock band that was named after him. When technology permitted the blending of computers with musical instruments, Arkenstone settled down to find his own sound to go solo. He stated on his website, "Technology has produced some wonderful tools for making music. The computer allows me to fully orchestrate my pieces and really fine tune them."

Authors that heavily influenced Arkenstone include J. R. R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Ian Fleming (James Bond). Arkenstone also grew up listening to bands like Deep Purple, Yes, and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, along with classical music. These varied influences are reflected in his many talented works: "I have many other influences," he stated in New Age Voice (NAV). "You go through life and get a little bit here and a little bit there, and it all filters through you in the way that you look at the world. And you take things you believe in and apply them to your life." Arkenstone has learned to play a wide variety of musical instruments, including the bouzouki, a Celtic cittern, mandolin, guitar, harp, cello, flute, electronic keyboards, Turkish saz, and the pennywhistle.

What is "New Age" Music?

"New Age" music has sometimes been difficult to categorize, for it is often considered a blending of classical and contemporary rock. Many in the New Age music industry have called Arkenstone's works as being in a class by themselves, often referred to as Cinematic New Age rock. Arkenstone likes to refer to it as "world age" rock.

When interviewed by NAV, Arkenstone said that once the advances in computer technology permitted him, he could then "experience the different instruments ... all of a sudden, I had all these incredible sounds that are like textures and layers on my synths and my computer. I can't say that I just put it into a blender, because I really try to look for the right sounds for the right song. But all those influences have turned me into what I am."

Arkenstone feels that New Age music may be full of unqualified people who have given it a bad name, that when some people hear something new they often confuse it with "elevator music" or just label what they hear that's unique and different as "New Age music." He wants to clearly stay away from any such labels, proclaiming in NAV, "That's the last thing I want to make. I want to make exciting music that has a melody, that has emotion, that goes up and down. That's important to me as a listener, and I find that since I have to listen to my music more than I get to listen to any other music, I have to do music that I really enjoy day after day."

Arkenstone and his wife Diane created a record label, Neo Pacifica, with the goal of "providing an experience rich with imagery and a sense of adventure and discovery, that ultimately returns the listener safely to their surrounding." The label has thrived, with releases not only from Arkenstone, but from other like-minded artists such as Earth Trybe, Enaid, and the Marquis Ensemble.

Exploration and Enlightenment

Arkenstone's own solo albums have a similar sense of exploration and enlightenment. He takes his inspiration from travel, nature, and other recordings. He spoke to Barnes and Noble about the process he used while recording Celtic Book of Days: "To prepare ... I listened to a lot of Celtic music: traditional, the Chieftains, fiddle, pipes, whistles. I dissect and study it." A later album, Caravan of Light, was inspired by the Middle East. "I've always liked the Middle Eastern sensibilities, and their culture's nomadic aspect intrigued me," he told Barnes and Noble. "Culture and music spread along [their] trade routes, so this theme seemed like a good vehicle for me to do different styles of music." Caravan of Light was named the Best New Age Album of 2000 by New Age Voice.

Diane Arkenstone is also a musician. She and her husband produce her albums together, and he has played various instruments on her three releases. Together, Arkenstone and his wife recorded Music Inspired by Middle Earth in 2001, a tribute of sorts to Tolkien's created kingdom. The album was a way for Arkenstone to fulfill a long-held wish, which he revealed to RPGDot online. "I would do just about anything to score the upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy!"

In 2002, Arkenstone released his most pop-oriented album to date, Sketches from an American Journey. He was assisted on the recording by the Recording Arts Orchestra of Salt Lake City, Utah. "Most people don't realize that pop is a big part of my musical palette. I was raised on pop and rock music and performed it for many years," he revealed to Barnes and Noble. The album was a sweeping sonic masterpiece, critically hailed for both its technical mastery and musical evolution from Arkenstone's previous recordings.

In his spare time, Arkenstone enjoys baseball, creating 3-D projects, listening to world music, and writing screenplays. He has three sons named Quillon, Dashiell, and Valinor. He picked the name Quillon, which means sword, from a book of Latin translations. Dashiell is the first name of writer Dashiell Hammett, and Valinor is from a Tolkien book, The Silmarilliion. His five favorite composers are Jean Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Aaron Copland, and Igor Stravinsky.

Arkenstone found an agent to help him get further into recording for film and television. He has already composed music for the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and NBC, as well as the music heard in the video games Lands of Lore 2 and 3 and Blade Runner. "It's a lot of fun, even though it's a lot of pressure," he told NAV. "It's not like your own baby, so you're just helping it. It's quite a different animal from being the boss, which is OK."

by Bill Bennett

David Arkenstone's Career

Played for various bands during high school and college; started a progressive rock band named after himself; later settled down and went solo in New Age music; known for unique combinations of electronic and orchestration sounds; works often contain storytelling element; influenced by works from J.R.R. Tolkien and Ian Fleming; released debut album, Valley of the Clouds, 1987; Citizen of Time, 1990; In the Wake of the Wind, 1991; Quest of the Dream Warrior, 1995; created record label, Neo Pacifica, with wife Diane; released Middle East-inspired album Caravan of Light, 2000; released Sketches from an American Journey, 2002.

David Arkenstone's Awards

New Age Voice Awards, Best New Age Recording for Caravan of Light, 2000.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

PeriodicalsOnline

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

about 5 years ago

I just discovered him like six months ago, spending time at the book store listening a lot of cd's, i'm musicholic.., I saw his cd's sitting on the shelf, and I have to be honest..I grabbed the cd because the guy with a pirate dress style, wild long hair!!! and his good looking caught my attention; but I start listening "Visionary" and I love it!! and now..... I have "Caravan of Light" (thank you?!) and about this cd: the song: "Jewels Of the Night" made me cry.. I was in my facebook playing a game and listening Jewels of Light; playing and crying at the same time, for 2 or 3 hours, repeating and repeating that deeply melancholic melody. LOVE IT!!!!! These two cd's are my treasures..they are lovely Jackie