We met Noah of The Arcane Insignia in New York City in February 2017. The band was playing in a pathway of the New York underground, but something stood out; Noah played his Cello blindfold while a sign in the background said: “When you listen in the light, you look around and you see things, but in the dark you can hear it all” – Brian Wilson.
We were able to ask the bank some questions and this is part 1 of the interview.
Hi Noah, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. How are you today and would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
Hi AK, it was a pleasure meeting you. A little bit about myself: I was born in Honolulu, HI but came to Queens, NY at the age of 6 1/2. My dad is Haiwaiian-Chinese and my mom is Russian-Jewish. From my father’s side, I have two older half-sisters. I currently work as a Community Health Coordinator at the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Centre, and I am a part-time grad student in an MSW program at Hunter. I joined the Arcane Insignia as a cellist in 2014.
Together, you and an additional violinist perform as the The Arcane Insignia. Can each of you remember the first memory in your life that is connected to music?
Apparently I was first exposed to music prenatally, when my parents used to play recordings of the Bach Cello Suites often. As a foetus, I don’t recall any of it though. I guess my parents liked the sound of cello music, and they basically coerced me into learning the instrument at age 8. I’m sure I benefited a lot from learning to play music, but it was also a tool for discipline rather than a passion at the time.
Noah, when we first met, you were playing your cello blindfolded in front of a sign showing a quote by Brian Wilson: “When you listen in the light, you look around and you can see things, but in the dark you can hear it all.” Do you think there is a difference in performing blindfolded to actually being able to see things?
Having no visual stimuli definitely makes it easier to focus on sound. Sometimes when we practice the music indoors, I instinctively close my eyes now if I feel like I’m getting lost. But sometimes I do just get lost in my own internal world and lose focus anyway!
Sometimes, people can find you busking in New York City. Does busking feel different to performing other concerts?
When we play staged performances at bars or house events, it feels more exhilarating, but it also comes with more pressure. The entire space is occupied by a singular crowd of individuals who are maintaining complete focus on you. There’s less pressure when playing in a subway station, because you have temporary waves of audiences who you have no obligation to entertain. The goal is to captivate people, but not the expectation. Fortunately, the majority of our audience members at shows are personal acquaintances who really connect with the music.
The mission of our website is bringing people together with the power of music and letting them share a story to a song that helped them through a tough time. Is there a specific song that helped you and would you mind sharing the story?
I’ve had some so-called “dark times”, but I don’t think I could name one particular song that helped me through those experiences. I started exhibiting signs of chronic depression and suicidal ideation at age 11, but with enough social and mental health support I stabilised from ages 17-21. I do have a history of self-mutilation and self-harm. You could basically say that I was somewhat “emo”, based on my outlook and experience of the world. “Drown” by Three Days Grace and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day are examples of songs that I connected to at that time.
In your opinion, what makes music unique? What is the difference to other artistic expressions?
Like all forms of creative expression, music offers a unique way of experiencing the world. Organised sound is almost like the wind; we can’t directly “see” it, but we can feel and interpret its impact on us.
People tend to say that music saved their life. Do you think music itself has the power to influence or even save someone or does it need more?
As living beings, we occupy a multidimensional environment that has physical, cognitive emotional and spiritual components. One’s physical surroundings, community ties, family ties, relationships to socio-political institutions, medical conditions, etc. all have an impact on one’s overall state of wellness. I feel that music alone may not be enough to save someone if everything else in their life still can’t fall into place, but for some people music may be the missing glue that can hold everything else in their life together.
Is there anything you’d like to say to people who are struggling at the moment?
Your existence is enough, regardless of its outcome.
All we have left to say is a big Thank You to Noah! We would love for you to check out The Arcane Insignia on Facebook, Twitter and please listen to them on Soundcloud! Their debut Album “A Flawed Design” is about to be released in Spring 2017.