In the summer of 2012, William Stankay traveled to the Arctic region of Svalbard to develop an environmentally-inspired music experience featuring the mysterious sounds of Arctic wildlife seamlessly blended with his own musical interpretation of the remote archipelago. In 2013, he was awarded with an Artist Opportunity Grant from the Pittsburgh Arts Council to help fund the release of a debut album containing songs created using his customized Earth-based instrumentation.
Stankay's music is created using a process of merging sound from life on Earth, recorded in various locations around the world, with innovative musical elements and artistic interpretations of these unique places. Natural rhythmics and tones within the field recordings evolve into custom instrumentation and melodic structures, creatively shaped to be used musically in his original songs and score. A shifting glacier becomes a percussive drum; the breath of a whale vibrates at the center of an atmospheric swell; a chorus of bird calls harmonize with the human voice over a pulse of bass created from the growls of walrus. The goal of the Earthtones series is to connect people to their environment and surroundings through sound and music, exploring the dynamics of life on Earth and the ways that humans and nature interact, collaborate and conflict.
He has continued to expand his project with sound recording expeditions to places such as Iceland, the South Central Alaska, Shenandoah National Forest, Joshua Tree National Park and the streets of New York City. His music was featured as the soundtrack for Deborah Lindquist's 2017 "A Walk on the Wild Side" fashion show at MODA 360 in Los Angeles, an innovative exhibit of international art, fashion and film benefiting the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens’ conservation programs. The show featured an original score, created by Stankay, using only natural sounds of the Earth and wildlife.
In the summer of 2017, William traveled to South Dakota to record sound for the upcoming "Blood Memory" documentary, which explores how battles over blood quantum and “best interests” resurface the untold history of America’s Indian Adoption Era, and the ways in which a survivor of this stolen generation returns to heal her Sicangu Lakota community. He is currently scoring the film in collaboration with director Drew Nicholas, using natural sound and earth tones from the Badlands, Black Hills, Rosebud Reservation and surrounding areas to create the musical tapestry for the film's original score.
He has also collaborated with Vice on their "Designing A Plastic-Free World" campaign for adidas, creating an original ocean-themed score composed using 90% Earth-based sound and nature instrumentation. The music for the spot combined sounds from the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans with driftwood drum patterns, sand-based drums and rhythmic ambience designed from the sounds of birds, walrus and marine life.
The debut albums in the Earthtones series are slated for release in 2022, along with a documentary that shows the field recording process in various parts of the world during the development of the project.
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