Constance Demby, whose ethereal music, part of which played on instruments she designed, was much admired by New Age devotees, spiritual seekers and electronica fans, died on March 19 in Pasadena, California. She was 81 years old.
Her son, Joshua Demby, said the cause was complications from a heart attack.
Ms. Demby’s 1986 album “Novus Magnificat: Through the Stargate” was a breakthrough for both her and the genre, selling over 200,000 copies, a substantial figure for this type of music. Pulse magazine named it one of the top three New Age albums of the decade and called it “a historic and comprehensive electronic symphony reminiscent of baroque sacred music with crystalline effects that take you beyond the realm of experience. daily.”
More recently, tracks like “Alleluiah” and “Haven of Peace” from “Sanctum Sanctuorum,” released in 2001, have caught the attention of a new generation of fans, said Jon Birgé, owner of Hearts of Space Records, his label for 20 years.
Mrs. Demby considered sound, when properly harnessed, to have transformative and even healing power.
“Music is an area of consciousness that the listener enters by traveling on a sound beam,” she told Malibu Surfside News in 2010. “It opens the heart.”
Eleni Rose-Collard, her former assistant, saw the effects of Ms Demby’s music on audiences, including those who came to her studio for small-scale house concerts.
“Her home concerts were magical, immersive, calming, profound,” Ms. Rose-Collard said by email. Ms. Rose-Collard herself suffered these effects.
“One of my deepest memories was being there with her while she was composing ‘Novus Magnificat’,” she said. “I was across the room, I fell to my knees, I crawled towards her, I put my head on her knees and I sobbed.
Ms. Demby’s studio was teeming with synthesizers, computer monitors, and various instruments, including one she named Space Bass, which she created in the 1960s when she was an artist in SoHo, making sculptures.
“I brought this 3 meter long mirror-finished steel sheet to the studio and hung it up to start burning it,” she recalls in the 2010 interview – and was transfixed by the sounds emanating from the metal as it flickered. . She added brass and steel rods and other refinements, and the Space Bass was born.
There was also the Whale Sail, another sheet metal creation, as well as a hammered dulcimer that she and famous instrument maker Sam Rizzetta designed specifically to achieve lower notes than a traditional hammered dulcimer can produce.
“It ended up being almost five feet long,” she wrote on her website, “because that low C string required a certain length to get the note. The resonance is such that the sound of a struck string remains in the air for almost 15 seconds. “
Writer Dave Eggers, a nephew, recalled how his aunt’s albums and artwork brightened up his Chicago youth.
“Every time Connie made a new album, she would send it to us,” he said via email, “and the contrast between our house in many shades of brown and its records and posters, all with ethereal themes and rainbow colors. , was dramatic.
Later he would visit this studio where she made her music.
“Out of place in the Sierra Madre, in a light-flooded front room, the Space Bass emitted sounds of thunder and crashing oceans,” he wrote. “Most of her compositions were from another world – like she was composing the soundtrack of the World to Come.
Constance Mary Eggers was born on May 9, 1939 in Oakland, California. Her father, John, was an advertising manager and her mother, Mary Elizabeth (Kingwell) Eggers, was a housewife.
She grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. At the age of 8, her mother acquired a grand piano, which sparked Connie’s interest in music.
“I watched her two hands interact,” she said. “In a few days, I was taking piano lessons.”
In the 1960s, she was married to David Demby; The marriage ended in divorce. She spent much of that decade in New York City, where she met musicians including Robert Rutman, who would become well known as a multimedia artist. When Mr. Rutman moved to Maine, so did Ms. Demby and others. Around 1970, she joined him in the Central Maine Power Music Company, a performance group that made much of their music with homemade instruments.
“He gave concerts in various auditoriums,” a local newspaper wrote of the band, “sometimes performing in front of a large, enthusiastic audience, and sometimes in front of a bewildered and resisting handful.”
Ms. Demby lived in Spain for some time before settling in California. She has taken her music all over the world. Mr. Eggers recalled hearing her tell stories of performances at Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. She has often performed at planetariums and other astronomical facilities, including the Mount Wilson Observatory in California.
His music has been used or sampled in a number of films. Her other albums include “Set Free” (1989), “Aeterna” (1994) and “Spirit Trance” (2004).
His son survives him.
“What Demby likes to do,” Ms. Demby told the Los Angeles Times in 2000, “is play energy and play audiences like one of her instruments.”
Mr Eggers said he spoke to his aunt frequently, most recently a few weeks ago as his health deteriorated.
“Her memory was not good and she couldn’t remember many friends or recent events,” he said. “But she knew his music. She knew everywhere she had played and the name of each composition.
“Out of nowhere, she started talking about paradise,” he added. “I think I’ll be welcome there,” she said. ‘I think they would like the music I made and they will open the doors for me.’ “