Hayden Arp, a musician based in Oberlin, Ohio, believes that music is a universally social experience. When we spoke with him on June 19, he expressed how he wanted his music to play be a part in the interconnectedness of the human experience, ideally to connect people who might not be connected in other capacities.
“The whole apparatus that surrounds the artwork of music has a huge capability of bringing people together and making them feel connected to one another and something larger than themselves,” he said.
We discovered Arp when he gave an acoustic performance of Prince’s “I Would Die for You” with Lucy Dacus, who opened for Lord Huron on June 14. It speaks volumes for how good Arp is at bringing people in. Arp isn’t apart of Dacus’ band, he only tours with them to perform that one hauntingly beautiful song. He was on stage for less than five minutes, and now we will never forget him.
He has a few songs on his bandcamp from various projects, but what really caught our attention was his 15 song album A Communion (live).
“I want to use music to create moments of communion in the world,” he said, which explains the album title.
The description of the album reads, “Songs about confluence. Performed in the dark on 10-14-2015 in Fairfield Chapel.” Albeit simplistic, it speaks volumes for how much Arp cares about the experience of his music.
The album is recorded live with very few cuts. According to Arp, it was a concert first, and a recording second. He was trying to record the moments experienced, as opposed to just recording the music.
“I’m trying to get back to the real nowness, in this case thenness, the real moment… Maybe it’s just me wanting to hold on to my own memory of what that looked and felt like,” Arp said.
One of Arp’s main focuses is how music makes people feel. He is aware, edging on hyper-aware, of how the room makes you feel. He talked a lot about having the lighting exactly right, making sure that someone says hi to the concert-goers when they come in.
One song that really caught my attention on the album was “Voices.” It’s a very dark and powerful song. To Arp, it means, “religious angst in a dark way.”
But, he was quick to note that his own interpretation of songs isn’t necessarily right. The song doesn’t have a narrative arc or anything, it’s written to have a feeling. He wrote it in the summer of 2014, not really thinking about what it meant.
“Some songs resonate, and you can’t really figure out why,” he said. And that’s what “Voices” did for me.
Especially poignant pieces of the album are the interludes. They were created as the natural breaks in the show, the silence and white noise becoming just as important as the music.
“Interlude III” is my favorite. Arp talks about not being able to see anyone, knowing that people he knows are there, but not knowing who is who. It brings up a feeling of pleasant anonymity.
“We are all are just souls passing through this space,” he says during “Interlude III.” You hear a ringing that strikes a melancholy chord in your heart and continues into “Be There.”
You can imagine how the room feels, as “Interlude III” is near the end of the album. You can imagine people connecting, laughing together, smiling at the same chord progressions and lyrics.
“One of the things I’ve been really playing around with is the idea of trying to feel the room before we started playing, and feeling it after. If it feels different at all, if people are more comfortable talking to one another, empathizing, connecting to one another–if that’s changed in any way, you’ve done your job,” Arp said.
Arp is releasing a new EP titled For Gabriel this August. A few songs from A Communion (live) will make a reappearance. The new EP is different from his previous album in that it is written to be impossible to recreate acoustically. He called it imaginative, cinematic and atmospheric. With the release, he will be touring the East Coast. We are excited to see what else he has in store.
Download A Communion for free here.