by Caitlin Hardee - Sept 8, 2011
In Whitman’s vibrant liberal arts setting, it’s common to find students who are equally devoted to creative pursuits and the great outdoors. This August, The Pioneer spoke with a musician who embodies this philosophy—Dean de Benedictis, son of 10-time Emmy Award nominee Dick DeBenedictis. Dean de Benedictis is known for pioneering a form of a cappella ambient music that he refers to as Acambient. He is head of the electronic music label Fateless Records. His latest project—to record his music on the summits of the Cascades.
“I got into the outdoors a long time ago, but I only got into actual climbing because of this project,” said de Benedictis. “It’s been two years so far, and it looks like it’s going to go on a third. The Cascades are a serious force to be reckoned with.”
De Benedictis clarified the source of his inspiration for such an undertaking.
“Actually, it started with a movie I saw, about this guy who, when the World Trade Center was built, he walked it on a tightrope. Man On Wire. It was inspired by that. I felt kind of reduced by that movie, like no artistic accomplishment I make will ever have some kind of tactile proof of being . . . death-defined? That guy actually took his artistic accomplishment to an extreme physical level. He did something that no one would ever dream of doing, or have the bravery to do. I thought to myself, if I could take this laptop to the top of a volcano, that has a panoramic view, it would be the ultimate atmosphere to be inspired by.”
De Benedictis elaborated on his recording method.
“For this particular project, I’m trying to utilize only my voice. It’s a series of looping techniques in the software. It’s almost a cross between choral music and space music. Many layers, many registers.”
Seeking an art defined by death has not been without frightening moments. De Benedictis related his most harrowing experience, on the slopes of Mount Adams.
“I try to climb solo anywhere where it’s safe enough. Adams I’ve done by myself, against the advice of many. My only threat, I feel, on Adams, is getting lost, which I’ve done already once, and almost lost my life doing it. I shouted for help, and those people who helped me said, ‘You shouldn’t be on here by yourself.’ That was the scariest moment.”
Asked if he was carrying a GPS device or cell phone, de Benedictis smiled ruefully. “No, I get pretty cocky about my ability to find my way back, and I pay for it often. I did have a compass, but I didn’t get my bearings, so it would have been useless. I went down the wrong slope and ended up on a completely different face of the mountain. I had to find my way back to the base of the mountain, and by then it was nighttime, so I started shouting for help. I’ve gotten lost, but not quite that badly, where I was fearing for my life on a mountainside.”
When his musical quest is completed, de Benedictis plans to release his material in a variety of formats.
“It’s gonna be a film. I’m going to start a film company for it, and thus a website for that film company, which will have all of the shorts that I’ve made so far. I’ll probably have the bigger films available for purchase online. The music will all be available, both through my website, and some of it through iTunes and CD Baby.”