Geoff Hall

 

 

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer Geoff Hall has released a new age, orchestral-ambient debut album, Understanding the Signs. “The CD is a collection of instrumental pieces, each written and orchestrated to depict a particular image, story, and feeling, “ states Hall. “While remaining true to individual, everyday experiences, the pieces are also symbolic of our ability to recognize and respond to the world around us – the signs.” 

 Hall, a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music Professional Program, composed these modern, instrumental pieces by combining elements of electronic, film, new age, ambient, and neo-classical music. Featuring gentle melodies, a variety of synthesized sounds, carefully arranged string sections, and orchestral instrumentation, these original compositions pull the listener into a well-developed soundscape. 

 “When I finished the CD and stepped back to think about how these pieces fit together - musically and emotionally - I realized there might be a connection to this music for other people. These compositions attempt to capture some of the emotions that are connected with thoughts and experiences we all have every day.  Whether it's sorrowful, hopeful, triumphant, lonely, wistful, exhilarated or reflective, I hope there's something in these pieces that people can relate to." 

 Understanding the Signs is available in the CD format and as digital downloads at a wide variety of online sales sites including iTunes (mastered for iTunes available), CDBaby, eMusic and other outlets. Hall’s music can also be heard on over 90 streaming radio sites including Pandora and Spotify.

Born in Virginia, Hall moved frequently as a child, but spent the majority of his developmental years in Memphis, Tennessee. His earliest memories of music are of listening to his parents play John Denver records at home and of the orchestral concert performances on the Fourth of July. At age 12 he began playing guitar when a friend introduced him to the rock‘n’roll music of Rush and taught him some basic chords. “In those days I was influenced by a wide range of guitar players -- Alex Lifeson of Rush, Eric Johnson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Trevor Rabin of Yes, David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, and Andy Summers of the Police among others.” 

Throughout his teens and early twenties Hall performed in a local rock band and as a solo act. Hall continued to study music and music theory throughout his teen and college years. At 21, “I was introduced to acoustic fingerstyle music and heard Will Ackerman for the first time.  For a long time after that, I left the electric guitar behind and immersed myself in that solo acoustic playing style. As I discovered other players in that vein, my emphasis really shifted from electric to acoustic, both steel-string and nylon-string. I started listening to Alex de Grassi, Franco Morone, Don Ross, Michael Hedges, Andrew York, Ottmar Liebert, and other great players in that solo guitar space. After a few years, I was hooked, and my electric guitars rarely made it out of their cases.”

Hall spent the first half of his music career performing on guitar and the latter half studying piano/keyboards/synthesizers, composing, orchestrating, arranging, and producing - while managing to continue playing guitar along the way. He has studied and performed electric, acoustic fingerstyle, and classical guitar across numerous genres that include solo guitar, classical, folk, rock, and heavy metal. Hall is especially grateful for the guitar instruction he received over the years from legendary players such as Shawn Lane, Alex de Grassi, and Franco Morone.  

The next musical evolution for Hall encompassed his passion for film scores. “When I was a teenager I had occasional opportunities to take guitar lessons from Shawn Lane. I soon realized he was a huge fan of film scoring and an accomplished pianist – in addition to being a phenomenal guitarist. Shawn actually helped me to expand my awareness of film scores because it made a huge impression on me that this incredible guitar player found a lot of his inspiration from the works of John Williams and other famous composers.  As I started to hear the scores for  films like GladiatorBraveheart, the Spielberg movies, and way too many others to try to list here, I developed an immediate interest in the impact and complexity of orchestral and hybrid music.” The works of John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, James Horner, and others have inspired Hall, and the styles of these composers echo in Hall’s film score compositions, (some of which can currently be heard on SoundCloud).  Hall’s study program at Berklee College focused on “Orchestration and Scoring for Film and Television.”

Following a long run with the guitar, Hall’s first steps into multi-instrument composing began in the early 2000s when he purchased his first keyboard, built his own studio, and began to explore the possibilities of creating orchestrated works using a combination of live musicians and modern technologies. “When composing I will often begin by sitting down at our piano; I have always found it easier to visualize concepts on the piano as opposed to the guitar,” explains Hall. “I often start with piano to begin ‘sketching’ an initial idea which could be melody lines, harmonies, and/or progressions. Then I move those ideas to my studio and begin orchestrating and arranging them. From that point, I’ll continue to develop ideas until the final orchestration and arrangement fall into place.”

Although Hall plans to play guitar prominently on future recordings, a nylon-string guitar is only heard on one piece, “Gone But Not Forgotten,” from the Understanding the Signs album. The music on the project was created using a wide range of instrumentation. Everything from modern synthesizers to ethnic instruments to traditional orchestral instruments were used — and in many cases, blended — to create the sonic ambience in these soundscapes. In addition to a brass section on “Gone But Not Forgotten,” tympani on “Perseverance,” and cymbals on “Knowing,” Hall employs some ethnic instrumentation including the bazantar, a 38-string acoustic bass most often used in East Indian music, on “To Go Alone”; African drumming on “Toward a Perfect Moment”; and a variety of synthesized and ethnic drums on “The Run” just to name a few.

The album begins with “The Run,” an energetic, yet somehow relaxed and flowing, modern hybrid-orchestral piece with a strong rhythm and a prominent cello section.  Hall shared with us," That piece is about the harmony you can achieve with your surroundings and that rare out-of-body experience you can have when you've worked hard enough to earn it.  While athletes are familiar with this experience - as it’s intended in the piece - it can also apply to any other hard-won success in life.”  “To Go Alone,” the most ambient composition on the album, exudes a high and lonely vibe that represents the journey or trial of an individual who must find a way on his/her own. The title piece, “Understanding the Signs,” uses the five voices of an orchestral string section to layer a series of beautiful melodies, countermelodies, and harmonies featuring everything from multi-layered arpeggios to pizzicato and sustained strings. While the instrumentation and arrangement typically lend themselves to a decidedly classical style, the piece also features a modern compositional approach with an uplifting energetic feel. 

“Toward a Perfect Moment” features synthesizers, affected piano, strings with various effects, and ethnic drumming.  The piece has strong forward momentum and captures "the emotion you feel when you're on your way to a special destination or event." The slow and sorrowful “Gone But Not Forgotten” utilizes nylon-string guitar, a boys’ choir, piano, horns, and strings - especially a strong cello line. It combines a sense of both loss and reflection. “Perseverance” features an ambient vocal line that transitions to a strong percussion section with triumphant energy. “Knowing” depicts awareness both learned and innate. This tune flows along with rhythmic and melodic piano, synth, and a blend of traditional and effected percussion. The orchestral “Something More” is a reflective piece that lends emotional weight to many everyday questions about the direction of our lives and what might be next.

“It's exciting to have completed Understanding the Signs,” states Hall.  “I hope that anyone who takes the time to listen will find some personal connection with these pieces.”