By Moina Arcee, May 27, 2013 Edited July 12 2018
The first Tim Story song I heard was “Woman at the Well” from his Glass Green album. The song was on a Windham Hill Sampler CD. “Woman at the Well” is a compact song with a short melody that repeats for three minutes and thirteen seconds. As the song unfolds, layers of sound are quietly introduced. There is no grand crescendo. When all layers of sound have been added the song ends gracefully, without fanfare. “Woman at the Well” is hypnotic and subtly poignant.
Granted, this sort of music isn’t for everyone. Words cannot capture the sound, but can point towards it. There is a Zen like quality to Tim’s ambient chamber music that immediately hooked me. Do you know how certain songs are markers in your life, so whenever you hear that song it brings you back to a specific period in your life? When I first heard Tim Story I was living in my first home, a small two bedroom rambler with beautiful natural woodwork and bare white walls. Looking back I see a special innocence and hope in my life.
I purchased all the Tim Story CDs I could find. There weren’t many at the time: Glass Green, then Beguiled, then The Perfect Flaw. I still listen to Beguiled and The Perfect Flaw. In both albums Tim moves past the keyboard and synthesizer sounds of his first three albums to add oboe and cello and other sound textures that he bends and blends together with beautiful subtlety. My favorite song on The Perfect Flaw is the gorgeous Lydia, a rich melodic song that sounds like it could go on forever, effortlessly.
Beguiled features a beautiful song cycle (tracks 4-8), with the centerpiece at song 7: “In the Days of Small Sorrows”. I remember playing “Days” over and over again during Lent. Now I was in a bigger house with a wife and growing family. I was so moved by the song I wrote Tim a short letter thanking him for his music and in particular “In The Days of Small Sorrows.” To my surprise, I received a reply from him containing a gracious response. I was a fanatical Catholic at the time, and when I wrote him again later that year I wished him a blessed Christmas, signing off in the names of the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary. I was happy when he replied again, but disappointed he wished me a determinedly secular “Happy Holidays” – a phrase that in those days I despised.
Tim’s next effort was Abridged, a greatest hits package. Then came Shadowplay, an album showcasing Tim’s melodic and composing abilities. My personal favorites here are “Flame and Circle,” and “Erstwhile,” but the whole album is radically evocative in a smooth, simple sort of way. In 2010 Tim released an album of his songs that hadn’t made it onto his albums, and some other unreleased songs. Collected quickly became a collector’s item among Tim Story’s grateful fans.
When I bought my first MP3 player I packed it with Tim’s songs. Now I can hear Tim Story when I am driving. I’ve never had a vehicle with a CD player, so I’ve had to listen to Tim at home. Now I can listen to him almost anywhere. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, except that for me it is. Hearing Tim in different locations reminds me he is still relevant; he is still a part – perhaps the main part – of the soundtrack to my life.
Recently I came across some Tim Story songs I hadn’t heard before. They were from an early album titled Three Feet from the Moon. The songs are simple, almost stark, yet purposeful in their soundings of my heart and spirit. Particularly beautiful – in my totally unbiased opinion – are “Maggie,” “The Emissary,” and “As Life Was Now.”
Just when I think I’ve heard everything Tim has to say musically, I get a surprise: always a happy, emotional surprise. Thank you, Tim, for your music. I still listen to you after all these years, with appreciation and gratitude.