Symbiosis blend the natural timbres of flutes, guitars, woodwind and voices with shifting textures and gentle percussion to create soundscapes that are either calming and refreshing, or thought-provoking and atmospheric. The resulting music is by turns restful, eerie, seductive and evocative, and since its official launch in September 1990, Tears of the Moon has provided inspiration in the performing arts and education, for relaxation, and has often been featured in both TV and radio soundtracks.
The driving force behind Symbiosis is Clive Williamson, who sees the sound studio as an integral part of the music. His production uses state-of-the-art digital techniques to bring both acoustic instruments and synthesizers to life, giving each piece of music a character of its own.
“As we worked,” Clive says, “two distinct styles emerged, so we divided our first album, Tears of the Moon, into a set of moods or ‘atmospheres’ – images in sound really – and some more meditative, ‘ambient’ pieces, which can be listened to at a variety of levels. They can have a peaceful and calming effect heard at home, at work, or while travelling. You could say they are the perfect antidote to the stress of modern life!”
Some of the atmospheres are more jazz-based and musically developed, offering more active listening and transporting the listener to another place, “Maybe flying over a mountain range, or walking on a wind-swept sand dune. It’s like music with pictures, only you don’t need a television: just your CD player or walkman!” Some haunting synthesizer moods are beautifully counter-pointed by the joyful and serene performances of oboe and cor anglais player Sarah Devonald, Flautist John Hackett (a classically-trained musician perhaps best known for his work with brother Steve Hackett from Genesis) and by lyrical guitar from Richard Bolton.
Rhythm plays an important part in the music of Symbiosis, but its pulse is by no means overt! Gentle Latin and African hand percussion are featured, but sometimes the rhythm is an unspoken slow pulse. The ambience tracks are almost subliminal in their ability to impart a sense of peace and tranquillity to the listener.
The musicians involved in Tears of the Moon are the previously mentioned wind players John Hackett and Sarah Devonald; jazz guitarist Richard Bolton on the innovative STEPP guitar synthesizer, acoustic and electric guitars; violinist Nicki Paxman; and Rupert Flindt on fretless bass. Clive Williamson sings wordless vocals, whistles, and plays a variety of global flutes and percussion, keyboards and synthesizers. His favourite instrument is the quena, a large, five-note flute from the Andes which has a wonderful breathy, haunting quality. It’s heard on A Secret Place on Tears of the Moon and Dragon Teasing on Song of the Peach Tree Spring, and it comes from the land which gave birth to the title for this album.
‘Tears of the Moon’ is the name given to the precious metal silver in an ancient Inca legend, and although modern musical influences and technology have played their part in the creation of this album, there are certainly echoes of past lives and civilizations in the music of Symbiosis.