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David Torn: Skyward Unbound

How a life-saving surgery inspired a hobby -- and a breathtaking new solo album

David Torn
David Torn

The guitarist, composer and producer David Torn’s sky-gazing habit began in 1992, after a benign brain tumor had nearly ended his life. As a result of the surgery that saved him, he lost his hearing in one ear and subsequently became sensitive to minute shifts in barometric pressure. “I thought, if you’ve got to know what the atmospheric pressure’s going to be, you might as well actually pay attention,” says Torn.

He took hundreds of photos of the sky as he documented his recovery process, and describes his new, wholly improvised solo-guitar album, only sky (ECM), as a parallel to that process, but with a different spirit. “It seemed to suit the underlying theme of the way in which this music is made, but the idea of sky-gazing, where every thought is just a cloud, does not really encourage that full-on physical commitment that music requires. Sometimes [the music on this album] is really earthy.”

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