New age artist, instrument designer and ‘electronica high priestess’ Constance Demby has died at the age of 81.
Demby (1939-2021) was a multi-talented artist, who combined inspiration from the new age ideas of the 70s with her skills as a sculptor and as a multi-instrumental musician to create a unique body of music.
Demby described her music as ‘electronic symphonic sacred space music’. She used a wide range of instruments to create a new age orchestra: instruments from around the world, including the hammered dulcimer and Japanese koto; synthesizers and electronic effects; and instruments of her own design, including the ‘Space Bass’.
The Space Bass is a sculptural instrument capable of a huge range of reverberent sounds. Here’s Demby demonstrating the range of the instrument’s sonic possibilities in a 2019 video:
Constance Demby is best known for her 1986 Hearts Of Space album, Novus Magnificat. The album features Demby, with help from fellow synthesist Michael Stearns, creating “Music conjured by the future, rooted in the Western sacred tradition.”
The album became one of the most popular new age releases ever, as the category crossed over from its niche status of the 60s and 70s to the mainstream, getting its own Grammy category in 1987 and even dedicated radio stations.
Demby incorporated new age spirituality into her live performances, too.
She saw live performances as an opportunity for healing and spiritual transformation though sound. She performed in sacred sites with unique acoustics, including cathedrals, caves and Stonehenge, describing her performances as ‘sonic immersion’.
“Music is a realm of consciousness the listener enters by traveling on a beam of sound,” she said in a 2010 interview. “It opens the heart.”
Writer Dave Eggers, her nephew, described her as “Fascinating, supremely gifted, driven, and very funny,” adding “If there is a heaven, she composed the soundtrack.”