Pete Ardron is a writer, producer, engineer, remixer, performer and DJ who has released over 20 albums of his own solo, band or collaborative projects, including the band Orchid-Star, and before that Glow & the Dept. of Luminosity, and 3 albums of Kundalini Yoga mantras, and more, with Kwali Kumara. He has worked with a variety of other artists including Afro Celt Sound System.
He has conducted at the Royal Albert Hall and was awarded an Hon PhD from the UK School of Esoteric Crystal Sciences for his first album – Crystal Matrices.
He has worked in a number of very different scenes, styles and genres but a consistent thread of psychedelic, world and classical influences is present throughout. He is also a reluctant producer of visual art to accompany it where necessary.
His interest in spirituality in music was inspired by an enduring passion, since the age of 13, for the music of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, who died believing he could elevate humanity (not just those attending) to the next stage of its evolution with one 7-day performance in India incorporating all the senses.
“Even I’ll admit that Scriabin was probably a bit delusional but it inspired an interest and belief in the transformational possibilities of music which has always been important to me. He also led me to explore theosophy, which taught me, if nothing else, that searching for the truth – in your own thoughts as much as in books – is far more important than believing in something.
My own ‘spiritual credentials’ might seem pretty poor – the older I get the more agnostic I become about even the most core of beliefs, but the less that bothers me – I’m a happy sceptic, though an instinctive cynic any time I meet someone who wants to sell me something new off the God shelf.
I’ve produced Kundalini yoga mantras without ever having practised Kundalini yoga and crystal meditation music having never experienced anything remotely out of the ordinary from a crystal (or meditated). But there’s no conflict or hypocrisy there to me. I do not need to fully believe in the science or teachings behind someone’s practices to respect what they are trying to achieve and want to aid those practices with music if I can.
And you don’t need to believe in god or an afterlife to believe in spirit. To me the two things that most show our evolution/advance as a species are not space travel and microchips, they’re music and laughter. And they’re also the two best reasons for discussing the existence or definition of God.
I wouldn’t even try to explain humour but we have evolved a brain that will subconsciously process mathematical relationships between the frequencies and volumes of sound waves and interpret them, in a fairly universal way, as portrayals of specific emotions or even experience those emotions themselves – crazy, huh?! Whether that’s the result of some external divine guiding hand or the natural evolution from a gravitational singularity 13.8 billion years ago it’s pretty incredible, and if it’s the latter that’s enough for me to consider that whole process divine – to call it God for want of a better candidate for the title.
So for me the spirituality of music is essentially a self-contained thing – the power of Mozart’s Requiem does not rely on the existence of the god that is prayed to therein, but is evidence on its own of something more to this world than can be easily explained by physics. Music will always be our direct physical connection to both nature and supernature. It’s not a man-made language – nature did that for us, we just create the different dialects and decide what we want to say in it.”
Pete’s first contact with the new age music scene came after a request to provide ‘crystal meditation music’ to play on a stall at the 1987 Alternative Medicine Exhibition (Here’s Health). Although not a crystal user he wanted to make the music specifically relevant to the subject and spent several weeks first trying out mathematical formulas to find a system where he could musically represent the physical structure of different crystalline structures, the idea being that if our brains are subconsciously perceiving the mathematical relationships in music they might also pick up these additional relationships and somehow align easier to the vibrations of the crystals. Two weeks before the event he decided to rush-release it as an album and the first copies were sold there.
It was well received by crystal practitioners with a number reporting some fairly exceptional results, including John Armitage, who presented Pete with his Hon PhD after running a series of tests with various practices, with and without the music, and had consistently in all areas had better results with, but Pete remains sceptical even of his own work.
“There was a lot of maths but no real science here and I am inclined to believe that the music’s suitability to the task probably had nothing at all to do with the additional maths. Generally speaking, artificial methods for constructing music do not work as well as natural intuition working within the frameworks music already provides us.”
Pete’s second album – Music for Colourspace – written originally for an art installation, was used for Here’s Health’s featured charity the Rainbow Tree in 1989 and led to an invitation to write an album for one of the smaller new age labels. The first few tracks of what was to become Goddess were excitedly received but on completion Pete was told they couldn’t release it as it was, as there would be complaints about the last track! Rather than change it he released it himself, but it was an awakening that the new age scene as it was was not something he had much in common with and his close connections with it ended after that.
“I know a number of musicians, like myself, who feel their natural home ought to be with new age music but are reluctant to embrace that title because of a wider reputation for blandness that the genre acquired in this country at the end of the 80s. I used to joke that the new age movement was a mix of hippies trying to open their minds and yuppies trying to close it down after a day at the office; the problem for me was that the UK new age music scene mostly only catered to the latter.
Don’t get me wrong, there are good reasons to produce quiet, simple, peaceful music, that might be described as bland by some; music is such a powerful tool that it can ruin a practice just as easily as enhance it, if it’s the wrong medicine. But there also should be a place for music which embraces the magical, mysterious and powerful – music that screams out ‘there is more to this world than this’, music that takes you on its own spiritual journey.
That’s certainly been embraced by other scenes/genres – from psychedelic music (and I would not want to argue against the validity of a spiritual experience inspired by the combination of music and psychedelic drugs) to even a lot of Christian music.
Tara, from Goddess, is still one of the best things I’ve ever written, but peaceful and relaxing it is not – it’s meant to be a full-on religious experience! I’m still very proud of it and am currently re-recording the album, over 30 years later, an acknowledgement that however good a writer I was back then I had much to learn as a producer.”
In 2015 Pete was approached by long-time friend Kwali Kumara to produce an album of Kundalini Yoga Mantas. He jumped at the chance to work on something specifically spiritual and their first album Exalted was produced in a few months – a collection of six 11-minute mantras set over psy-chill, dub, liquid drum & bass and other grooves with orchestral and traditional Indian and Celtic instruments and electronic sounds weaving intricate harmonic twists and variations around the static vocal melodies.
What was intended as a one-off project turned into a continuing collaboration with two more mantra albums, Ecstatic and Euphoric, and, in 2022, Elemental Temple – Part One, a double album of ambient and not-so-ambient 31-minute pieces, designed, like the mantras, to work as meditation pieces or pure listening. They are currently working on Part Two.
“If you look through my catalogue you’ll find music specifically written for spiritual purposes, music with a spiritual subtext (or storyline) and music which is only trying to reach you on an emotional or physical level. But in life I don’t see a reason to separate the physical, emotional and spiritual sides of things so don’t expect the dividing lines always to be clear in my music either. Yes, ‘Crystal Matrices – music for meditation derived from the internal mathematics of crystals’ does what it says on the tin, but don’t be surprised if a chillout piece goes a bit mystical or a mantra suddenly turns into a psychedelic Irish jig!