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Episode 36 with Steven Chesne

The Music and the Magic Beyond the Mash Up

October 10th, 2018

Award winning composer, Steven Chesne, just released his latest album, Sapient which is being called a “landmark recording” by music reviewers. Listen as we talk creating fusion from sacred traditions, musical counterpoint (aka “mash ups”) and monks walking through the streets of Santa Monica.  


For more than a year, Steven Chesne unearthed the ancient words of peace from Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Mohammed, the Sikhs, the Hindu, the Jews, the Cheyenne, the Kikuyu, and the Baha’i. Chesne consciously focused on discovering the similarities of themes and shared beliefs, instead of the differences. This special episode includes moving musical selections from the culminating album, Sapient.  

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This episode was sponsored by Artists United - a non-profit organization empowering individual artists to create excellent art and to unite all artists to create social change. Artists who work alone create art. Artists who work together create change.

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Steven Chense: Over the past 30 years, award-winning and chart-topping composer Steven Chesne’s prolific career has spanned symphonic, historical and world music, as well as music for film and television. Today his perspective on the world and his music are more global in scope and scale, more urgent in meaning and motivation and more dedicated in passion and purpose.

That dedication is one of the reasons Chesne revisited his life-long fascination with ancient teachings and the importance of human connection and oneness in 2017. For more than a year, he unearthed the ancient words of peace from Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Mohammed, the Sikhs, the Hindu, the Jews, the Cheyenne, the Kikuyu, and the Baha’i. Chesne consciously focused on discovering the similarities of themes and shared beliefs, instead of the differences.

“Chesne has to be one of the finest composers of his day to
create a moment of genius like Sapient."

– One World Music

The universally shared teaching among the 10 traditions that truly resonated with Chesne was the idea that for the world to heal there must be peace and oneness of humankind. This became the creative motivation and musical inspiration behind his most poignant new album, “Sapient: A Cantata of Peace.” Each track on the album is a musical interpretation of a tradition’s ancient lesson on peace and incorporates the artistic and cultural influences of the time. The album culminates with “Nyansapo: The Wisdom Knot,” in which Chesne weaves each of the recorded interpretations into the other, creating a sense of oneness in its new composition. The masterful achievement in counterpoint, which helped create the authenticity, seamlessness and emotion of “Nyansapo,” had musicians, engineers, producers and composers all asking Chesne how he did it. He responded with “Untying the Wisdom Knot: How counterpoint and peace can help heal the world,” a behind-the-scenes look at the planning process, his musical and technical tools and tricks, how he ensured authentic, emotional artist performances, audio comparisons, and a glimpse at his spiritual journey: “I wanted to make an album that would help heal the world.”  

“As a kid, I absolutely believed that everyone heard fully arranged and orchestrated musical anthems that randomly popped into our heads.”


– Steven Chesne


It was clear at a very young age that Chesne had an affinity toward music. His connection with music was visceral and everything about it fascinated him. He’d write songs all day and then evaluate his compositions after school (declaring most “pretty good”). Around eight or nine years old, Chesne started hearing fully arranged, fully orchestrated music anthems in his head and just assumed everyone else did, too. He was absolutely obsessed with music and devoured everything he could about writing music, playing music, composing, arranging music.  He wanted to discover every tool and instrument available while mastering technical skills that would help him create magic. His thirst for knowledge wasn’t just for music, as spirituality, ancient traditions from around the globe, and the notion of peace and oneness of humankind would be something he revisited – and would be inspired by—time and again throughout his career. After high school, Chesne pursued a degree in Music Composition from the University of Southern California where he studied classical guitar and Renaissance lute with Pepe Romero and Jim Smith and learned film composition from David Raksin and Earl Hagen.


After graduating from USC, Chesne composed music for Off-Broadway shows and spent most his free time hanging around the television studios picking up odd jobs composing and arranging. His talent and tenacity paid off when he landed his first gig composing scores for primetime television, which then led to feature films.

"I love working with Steve ... challenging himself to evoke the show's unsaid incredible talent for writing good music."

--Emmy-winning Director Ken Olin

(“This is Us,” “Thirtysomething,” “Alias”)

To date, Chesne has composed the scores for more than 300 episodes of prime-time television shows, including “Batman: the Animated Series,” “Family Man,” “Family Matters,” “Getting By,” “Girls Across the Lake,” “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” “The Hogan Family,” “Kirk,” “Life Happens,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Step by Step,” “Two of a Kind,” and “Valerie.”  The orchestral score for “Batman: the Animated Series” was nominated for an award by the International Film Music Critics Association.


He also has scored 17 theatrical art-house films including “Zen Noir,” “Debating Robert Lee,” “The Trip,” and “No Turning Back.” The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) hosted an event that honored Chesne’s creative contribution to the soundtrack of art-house cinema.


"The finale of Chesne's Symphony #3 achieves a visceral fury. The rugged and biting string work especially bristles."

-Timothy Mangan, Los Angele Times


Chesne’s orchestral concert works include four symphonies, two concertos, two orchestral suites, and two tone-poems, as well as works for string quartet, woodwind ensemble, and music for theater and ballet. His works have been performed by The Ventura Symphony, The L.A. Modern String Orchestra, The Los Angeles Ars Symphonia Orchestra, The La Mirada Symphony, Mehli Mehta’s American Youth Symphony, as well as by members of The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The L.A. Chamber Orchestra, The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and The Pacific Symphony. 


His critically acclaimed, chart-topping Luminous World Orchestra recordings appeared on the “New Age Reporter’s Top Ten Recordings,” and in “Top Ten International New Age/Ambient Radio Charts.” In the U.S., the albums reached the #1 spot of many New Age and Ambient programs, and the Top 20 almost everywhere else. Subsequently, Chesne was nominated for “Best Neo-Classic Recording” and “Best Meditation Album” in the New Age Genre by the ZMR international radio broadcasters.


"The list of awards that Steven Chesne has garnered is staggering…"

-New Age Reporter


Chesne’s impressive work has been honored with numerous awards from organizations, including ASCAP, Billboard, the USC School of Music, ZMR, the USA Songwriting Competition, the International Songwriting Competition, the International Music and Entertainment Awards, and the Global Music Awards. In 1995, Chesne was heralded by “Mix Magazine,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “First Reflection” Magazine for being the first person to record an extended symphonic concert work for 80 players as a multi-track overdub using nascent digital technology.


Chesne lives in Pacific Palisades, CA, with his wife Diane Chesne, a concert pianist, and they have two sons Dimitri and Dorian. For more information, visit

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