The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tim Smolens of High Castle Teleorkestra

Tim Smolens of High Castle Teleorkestra

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tim Smolens of High Castle Teleorkestra

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I produce and arrange music that draws on a variety of genres not typically put together, and assemble it in such a way that hopefully leaves the listener hearing it as unified. You could vaguely call it “progressive,” music, but it doesn’t have all that much in common with music typically stamped with that label.

Describe your first musical memory.

I made my mom take me to buy a 7-inch single of “Eye of the Tiger” which I had heard in Rocky when I was about five years old. I still like that tune to this day as it has an amazing energy that should get any listener pumped up for any occasion!

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I got to play cello on a John Zorn song that was arranged and produced by the Secret Chiefs 3/Trey Spruance called Hamaya on (Masada) Xaphan, Book of Angels vol. 9. It was a great honor since I had been a big fan of certain Zorn music for years. The kicker here is that I am not even really a cellist. I play contrabass which has similarities but cellists have much more melodic dexterity and therefore possess a different skill set that is not native to me. With some coaching from Trey he was able to coax a few takes out of me that sounded much better than I would have expected from a hack cellist like myself. I was surprised.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Every day, but I am having trouble pinpointing specific examples.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Hopefully towards truth and beauty but probably more often towards emotional release and a portrayal of the artists current state of being. Some art lifts us up towards that to which we aspire to, while others pull us back down by cinematically portraying the battles, roadblocks and adversity that routinely populate our paths. Both have their place.

How do you define success?

From an artistic standpoint success is when the result is better than what was planned. The artist worked hard but the subconscious elements (seeds) of the work took root and sprouted a life of their own as well.

As uncool as it is to talk about financial success, if you can’t make a living from your art you will have much less time to work on it which is the boat I currently find myself sailing in.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Well I work as an ER nurse so you I will spare everyone the details!

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

Music composition and recordings using all pure intervals (just intonation), which is much more difficult since western music uses a compromise of a tuning system (equal temperament). It is so much more beautiful and has an incredible resonance but is hard to pull off because many musicians do not know how to tune in such a way, and many instruments are incapable of it (fixed pitch instruments).

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To elevate the listener from the mire (lead) of their current state to a more transcendent state which they seek (gold).

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

My 13 year-old daughter’s upcoming softball tournaments.

High Castle Teleorkestra, The Egg That Never Opened (2022)

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