the music and keyboards of Kenneth Lee Roberts and the music,
vocals and lyrics of Megan Buness, the debut CD by Moon Over
Mountain, The Colors Of Life is a worthy musical experience
that merges music from a wealth of styles. Blending keyboards and
spatial electronics, the lead track Yes, I Am Here sounds
like a mellotron-inspired instrumental that Mike Pinder of the Moody
Blues would appreciate. Though half of the album is instrumental,
the classically trained vocals of Ms. Buness also brings her own unique
instrument to several tracks that combine vocals, sometimes without
lyrics, making for a worthy keyboard-driven New Age pop sound. Programmed
drums contribute to a recording that is very much DIY-sounding, yet
the well-recorded sound is for the most part both edgy and meditative.
Speaking about the variety of styles to be found on The Colors
Of Life, Ken Roberts tells mwe3.com, "You know, weve
struggled to try to communicate to our listeners what it is that were
up to musically, and, whatever it is, we dont feel very comfortable
characterizing it in terms of any genre. Having said that, there are
certainly elements of New Age, electronica and pop in The Colors
of Life but there was never any attempt to shoehorn any given
piece into a slot of that kind. The individual tracks emerged as whatever
they are from the process of trying to work out how best to get at
what the compositions were about." A renowned vocalist in the
Denver, Colorado area, Megan Buness also performs with one of Colorados
top five chamber ensembles, so she also brings her classical music
training to the Moon Over Mountain vocal tracks. Compared to neoclassical
electronica, Moon Over Mountain also brings a sense of humor and humility
to their music. While it would be no easy feat for Moon Over Mountain
to become as well-known as vintage electronic music artists like Jean
Michel Jarre, it's clear that fans of Jarre, Pinder and Vangelis will
be sure to enjoy The Colors Of Life, if they could only hear
mwe3.com presents and interview with
Kenneth Lee Roberts of
MOON OVER MOUNTAIN
When did you form Moon Over Mountain and what did you set out to achieve
on your first album? Seems like theres quite a variety of deep
and meaningful music on The Colors Of Life. Did you try to
cover as much musical ground as possible and would you categorize
the album as New Age, electronica or more pop in nature?
Kenneth Lee Roberts: Megan and I began collaborating in the
Spring of 2012, and subsequently worked out quite a number of compositions
together. The Colors of Life represents what we liked the most
of what weve done between then and now. Yes, youre right,
what we respond to as composers are the events in life that somehow
stick in our minds as telling us something important about what it
means to be a human being in a difficult, but also wonderful world.
The challenge then is to find the right mix of instruments, melody,
lyrics, percussion and so on to best communicate whatever it is that
You know, weve struggled to try to communicate to our listeners
what it is that were up to musically, and, whatever it is, we
dont feel very comfortable characterizing it in terms of any
genre. There is a valuable side to genrefication in that
it helps listeners to find more of what they like and I think
most composers also find a lot of inspiration in the best work being
done by others, which may lead them to create works something like
them. But the flip side of that is that any and every genre can decay
into imitation or cliché, and then the music loses touch with
life. Theres also a temptation to turn out product
when some particular sort of music is very successful commercially.
We wouldnt have anything against this album selling well, but
were wary of going too far down that road as a source of musical
motivation. That can really be the beginning of the end. When Ive
seen bands headed down that path, its always made me shake my
Having said that, there are certainly elements of New Age, electronica
and pop in The Colors of Life but there was never any attempt
to shoehorn any given piece into a slot of that kind. The individual
tracks emerged as whatever they are from the process of trying to
work out how best to get at what the compositions were about.
How did you meet vocalist / lyricist Megan Buness and how would you
describe the musical chemistry on The Colors Of Life album?
Have you done any other releases of is this the first?
Kenneth Lee Roberts: Well, we actually met at a writers
self-help group called Little Spec (for speculative fiction).
Megan asked us if wed offer some feedback on a few things shed
composed. I really loved what she was doing, which led me to ask her
if shed like to try to work in collaboration, and she was agreeable.
The musical chemistry that evolved has ended up being really quite
fascinating, with the finished pieces sounding quite different from
the sort of thing either of us was doing individually. Often what
I was up to would inspire something quite different in the lyrics
she would write, or the arrangements I would do would bring out a
much different side of what shed originally had in mind in composing.
Music by itself is rather abstract, and has a startling capacity to
take on a life and direction of its own, even as you compose.
Our first CD was something entitled In Flight, but we
didnt much pursue release to the public, and very few
people have heard those pieces. Weve also done some original
Christmas music, and new arrangements of our favorite classics, which
attracted a bit of favorable attention, but that music was never heard
by many listeners, either. So, for all practical purposes, this is
our first release.
mwe3: What is it like living in Denver area in Colorado? Where
are you and Megan Buness from originally? Seems like Colorado is one
of the more progressive states in the US today. Plus its great
to get a break from global warming and the tropical saturation of
Kenneth Lee Roberts: Denver is the only sizable city in the
west-central part of the US, with strangely flat and empty plains
to the east, and rather epic mountains to the west. While Denver itself
is pretty metropolitan, and fairly typical of large cities everywhere,
the incredibly beautiful mountain playground is just minutes
away, and has been the inspiration for a lot of music. Theres
an extremely lively and diverse musical scene here. In that regard,
its a lot like what I imagine the Bay area must have been like
in the 1960s.
Megan is from Montana, and has unbelievably musical parents who met
while studying music in graduate school. Ive never met anyone
less neurotic. It seems to me those fresh, wide open spaces have left
their mark on her. I grew up, for the most part, in a suburb on the
western side of Orlando, Florida, sandwiched in between never-ending
orange groves to the west, and Orlando proper to the east.
had a strong influx of Californians here, who have brought their politics
and outlook with them, and weve now got Democrats in control
of the house and senate, as well as the governorship.
Ha! Yes, tropical saturation does capture that feeling
well. I first moved to Colorado from Florida more than twenty years
ago. I can remember leaving the airport in Orlando in shorts and a
sports shirt, and still being pretty soggy, then stepping off the
jet at Denver International just a few hours later, looking at the
Rockies, and thinking: Okay, Ive been humidified down
there in Florida just about long enough. Time for a change.
mwe3: Who are some of your musical influences, musically or
otherwise and what period of music history did you grow up in? Being
a keyboardist, what artists or bands were you most influenced by?
Kenneth Lee Roberts: I spent my high school years listening
mostly to progressive rock. I especially liked the Moody Blues, YES,
and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Pink Floyd had just released
Ummagumma, and I thought some of the directions they took there
were impressive and very distinctive. Sometimes Id also hear
something I liked in the way of pop or folk, and I liked some Motown,
too, especially Marvin Gaye, but by my senior year I was listening
to a lot of classical. I quickly discovered that I actively disliked
a lot of it to this day five minutes of Brahms makes me want
to commit suicide - but what I did like, I liked a lot. It was ambitious,
made use of instrumentation that could go places an electric guitar
couldnt, and at its best it was a lot more complex in a meaningful
way. At the same time, though, it was often hard to really take to
heart and identify with in the way that I could with something written
by, say, Neil Young. So it was interesting to see a band like The
Who trying on classical tropes and turning them into something of
though, Im not conscious of any of that having any direct bearing
on what I do when I sit down to write a piece of music, except in
the sense that all those years of listening gave me a sense of what
is musically possible. But I can say that my intuitions about what
makes for good music and, maybe even more so, what makes for bad music,
grew out of all that exposure.
mwe3: What can you tell us about the first track Yes,
I Am Here? Its really a haunting reverie kind of track.
Are you using mellotron on that track and what keyboards and other
instruments are you playing on the Moon Over Mountain album? Some
parts remind me of Mike Pinders mellotron sounds.
Kenneth Lee Roberts: The melody for Yes, I Am Here
was written by Megan, and her original lyric for it, which was quite
good, was about personal renewal. But when I began working with it,
the title suggested to me the sort of situation in which someone is
suffering, and a friend or loved one is trying to offer them some
comfort, and perhaps having that miserable, frustrated sort of feeling
we sometimes experience of not really being able to be of much help
no matter how much we might want to. And after making that emotional
connection with the piece, it almost wrote itself in that direction.
All of the instrumental choices were dictated by the attempt to get
that sort of experience across as clearly as possible.
No, the mellotron-like instrument there is a synthesized flute voice
that I like quite a lot
its very expressive, and from
the moment I hear it, I seem to know what it wants to say.
The instrumental choices on The Colors of Life range the gamut,
and include almost anything that might be found in a symphony orchestra.
But two instruments kept asserting themselves over and over again:
Spanish guitar and a sometimes forlorn, sometimes lively brass voice
that lent itself to a surprising variety of moods. Piano and assorted
synthesizer pads are called upon for their contribution in a number
of pieces, but they usually behave themselves pretty modestly, although
the piano does carry the melody in a few places.
complimented by the comparison to Pinder. It says a lot about him,
I think, that he did so much to make use of the expressive possibilities
of the mellotron.
I might add that Megan seems to be able to play just about anything
a human being can strum, strike, or blow into. My own talents in that
direction are far more modest.
mwe3: The instrumental track 4, I think its Dry
Your Eyes sounds kind of like Tangerine Dream style. Its
great. What inspired that track and were bands like T. Dream and Jean
Michel Jarre big influences?
Kenneth Lee Roberts: Thanks very much. I had a really lovable
friend, an unusually standup kind of guy, who became ill rather suddenly,
and passed away while still comparatively young. His wife was terribly
distraught at his loss, and I found myself completely unable to say
what I wanted to say, so I wrote Dry Your Eyes instead.
But it didnt come easily. Something about the original composition
dissatisfied me almost to the point of anger, and I ended up rewriting
it more than a dozen times over the course of several years. By the
time I was finally relatively satisfied with it, shed moved
away, and I havent been able to discover where. So, ironically,
after all that struggle, shes never heard it.
I have tremendous respect for Tangerine Dream and for Jarre as well,
but I was so bent on trying to straighten out this frustratingly wayward
composition and getting it to say what it was supposed to say that
I was never aware, at least consciously, of drawing upon any sort
of creative inspiration from them. In a way, Im still not quite
happy with it. It ended up wanting to go its own way, and I finally
had to give in and let it. Ive learned that the subconscious
mind has intentions of its own, and sometimes were carried along
for the ride, however willingly or unwillingly.
mwe3: Track 8 After The Work Is Done is very interesting.
Is it supposed to be lighthearted kind of track or what was your idea
Kenneth Lee Roberts: Yes, youre right about that. Its
a piece that was built mostly around a mood, and, utterly unlike Dry
Your Eyes, just poured itself out. I would imagine that the
59th Street Bridge song by Simon and Garfunkel, or Red
Rubber Ball must have originated in much the same way. It was
a lot of fun to write, and I hope its equally fun to hear.
Heart Of The Song is classic. What can you say about that
track? Should be a pop classic!
Kenneth Lee Roberts: Thanks again! Well, that ones another
gem of Megans. But as short as it is, it was still a bit of
a miserable struggle to hammer out. She originally sent me what she
had in rather fragmentary form, we email back and forth a lot when
were at work. I think she got a bit stuck with it, but, fragmentary
or not, I loved what shed done immediately. She works out her
ideas on the piano, and never includes any percussion, but in working
with it and trying to feel my way into what I thought the song was
about, I ended up combining the melody with a catchy sort of percussive
figure that I thought provided a nice contrast to her wonderful vocal,
and then worked out an arpeggiated synthesizer phrase that seemed
to complement the percussion in turn. A lot of the satisfaction in
composing comes during the moments when the various uncooperative
elements finally come together as they should. But getting to that
point can really be a trial at times.
mwe3: With so many musical directions to choose from, what
other plans do Moon Over Mountain have for 2019? I hope you get to
release another Moon Over Mountain CD this cool!
Kenneth Lee Roberts: We appreciate your kind words. Its
always good to know that weve managed to do something that had
As matters now stand, we plan to release another CD a little later
this year, with a somewhat different creative direction. As always,
the compositions are derived from our life experiences, but the instrumentation
is somewhat different, a little more complex, and the moods conveyed
are more intense, and if anything more diverse. The overall result
can probably best be described as haunting. Most of these
pieces were longer in the making that the tracks of The Colors
of Life, and some are longer. And weve been discussing another
project beyond that one.