The Shepherdstown Chronicle interviews Curt about Magnanimous Records:
Recently, The Shepherdstown Chronicle talked to Curt Seiss, on of the the founding members of Magnanimous
Records in Shepherdstown. Along with his wife, Daniele, Curt began the project in 2001.
The Shepherdstown Chronicle: What prompted you to start a record label
specifically for ambient music?
Seiss: I like all kinds of music and, especially around here, there are great venues for Appalachian and
bluegrass musicians. But we chose to start a record label that specialized in atmospheric music because we
felt like there was a void of different, I mean actual modern, music being produced in this area. There were a
lot of musicians without a platform.
SC: What are some of the qualities of ambient music?
Seiss: Whereas pop music tends to put a spotlight on the performer, ambient musicians try to blend into the
background. It's not "muzak," but it is about creating a mood for the listener rather than stealing their
attention. There's an aesthetic quality that you can either choose to ignore or pay attention to, like musical
wait -- it's hard to describe.
SC: Which brings me to my next question, as an "ambient music outsider," I often find that descriptions on the
web or in print tend to be pretty lengthy with a lot of heavy intellectual and artistic descriptions.
Is ambient music an elitist genre?
Seiss: Well, there are people out there, musicians and fans, who sort of snub anyone who isn't part of the
"counter culture," but those people do absolutely nothing to benefit anybody. It may seem like more of
an effort to get into this kind of music if your not used to it, but it's really accessible to people if they
are willing to try something new. You'd be surprised.
SC: What about the music of Magnanimous Records? Is there a specific sound you're looking for?
Seiss: Not really. We have about half-a-dozen artists. There is a unified thread running through the music,
but the types of sound vary widely.
SC: So, will I find myself singing along to one of your albums?
Seiss: Probably not. The description "ambient" or "aesthetic" sort of implies that the music is not going to
conform to what I would describe as the conventions of modern western pop music and musical
SC: Such as?
Seiss: Well, melody, chorus, verse, rhythm - stuff like that.
SC: Sounds real appealing.
Seiss: Okay, Okay. So no one wants to sit around and listen to a drone or something that doesn't vary in
tone or texture or say anything - we do have structure. It's just more of an environmental or naturally
SC: This all sounds very complicated.
Seiss: I know. When you start talking about this kind of music, at first you feel like there are a lot of
restraints, but within that there's a lot going on. We're not totally devoid of the qualities that engage an
SC: Your latest release is "Petit Somme" by Polyphasic (a.k.a. Lincoln Miller and Lars Wigren, a.k.a. Foxbludd
and Missionslang) which you say is designed to assist in a 20-minute power nap. What do you like
about this album?
Seiss: The reason I'm really proud of this album isn't just the quality of the music - which is phenomenal.
What's great is that these guys created a concept for their album and they stuck with it. They developed their
original idea, with huge amounts of time spent just preparing to play, and then they actually
Followed Through and
created a final product. It may not sound like much - but it's huge!
You can tell when you listen that they didn't just slap this together.
SC: Have you taken a power nap to it?
Seiss: Yeah, but I had had a few beers, so I didn't wake back up - but it was a great sleep.
SC: I'm sure the artists will forgive you. Okay, final question - why do these ambient musicians always
have such weird fake names?
Seiss: Well, like I said, it's not supposed to be about spotlighting the artist, so that's part of it.
It's also partly marketing - you know, a catchy name. A lot of these people are real introverts
though, which shouldn't invalidate them as artists, not being "out there" and all, they just
like to be anonymous.
SC: Real crowd pleasers then.
Seiss: Hey, we've had some great live shows!
SC: Well, from what I've heard, your fans certainly appreciate what you're doing. Keep up the good work
Seiss: Thanks Chronicle person.
go to magnanimous records