The search for meaning in life is a quest as old as humanity itself, and one that deepens the longer one looks. Those who seek such answers also undertake a journey, both spiritually and philosophically; for artist Joep Beving, Henosis – the closing chapter in a trilogy of albums – marks the end of his own, personal four-year exploration.
“This is my journey, and my search for understanding,” says Beving, the acclaimed composer/pianist who rose to eminence in 2015 thanks to millions of streams of the contemplative, atmospheric Solipsism. Self-released, the record “just kind of happened,” he says now, looking back. “It hit me by surprise.”
Concerned with investigating the self and how it relates to the other, he realized that the material he was writing for the follow up – 2017’s Prehension – was grappling with wider issues; as he puts it, “trying to grasp the unfolding of reality in every fraction of a second, and the idea that we are responsible for that reality.” In other words, he had zoomed out from the individual level to that of the collective.
Seeing where his journey would naturally lead, it was here that he conceived of Henosis and the trilogy’s overarching narrative – “a vision of what I was looking for,” Beving says, “and where I was going.” His destination was the vastness of the cosmos – that great, black void – in search of “the fundament of the ultimate reality and emptiness of the mind.” For inspiration, Beving visualized how such a journey would be experienced – different chapters, things happening and unfolding, drifting ever higher until you forget you “are”; no body, no ego. To reflect this, he moved away from the piano-only compositions of his previous work.
With the help of producer @Gijs van Klooster , with whom he shared his studio, he employed a diverse range of instruments, electronics, and effects to open up new musical worlds. It’s deeper too, and more dramatic, the warm, intimate sound of his beloved Schimmel piano a familiar voice guiding the listener into the unknown.
Fittingly, given the concepts behind it, Henosis is a vast, sprawling double album, twenty-two tracks that gently draw the listener in and lead the way, from the calm, contemplative ‘Into The Dark Blue’ to the otherworldly ‘Klangfall’. The deeper one travels, the grander the themes become;
‘Apophis’, a tense, drawn out blend of electronics and mournful strings, embodies evil and darkness while ‘Aeon’, the track that opens side two, represents the battle against that very evil almost like (an) “intergalactic warfare between good and bad, with a choir praising wisdom and truth.” By the time the title track floats into view, all woozy synths and heavy strings, we’re in “super deep space, where we let go of all things that are of matter.”
‘Nebula’ – written and produced together with @Maarten Vos , and one of Beving’s boldest, most experimental tracks to date – takes us even further, “a harrowing trip” to the very limit of both the cosmos and our mind.
Beving imbues his music with the same metaphysical grandness and sense of mystery that powers many of the great sci-fi stories, and yet he also suggests that Henosis deals with looking inwards as much as it does hurtling through the stars. “I believe that the answers are much more on the inside,” he explains. “So this journey, in a way, is also an internal one. My hope is to give people a space to be in for a couple of minutes or hours where they feel things just seem to be right, like a recognition that they’re understood or that they can just be.” Such moments are few and far between in the modern world. Beving’s quest is “a genuine longing for truthfulness and for existential essence”, but he also wants to lure the skeptical and the scared; to show people the possibility of a universal truth. “We’re all part of one thing, we’re all connected. And so we need to love each ourselves, each other, and this world we inhabit; establishing connections as humans makes our species stronger.”
Is Beving any closer to an answer? His quest has brought him full circle, and only by reaching for the heavens was he able to delve deep inside.
Henosis is a compelling artistic statement in its own right, but one whose richness is only fully grasped by contemplating just how far Joep Beving has journeyed these last four years. “Simple music for complex emotions,” is how he once described his music, but there’s nothing basic about Henosis; it’s the collection that represents the apogee of his talent, and a fitting end to his search so far.
(Additional credits: the album Henosis was created with the help of @EchoCollective , @CapellaAmsterdam and many others)