Cool Kat - Music flows from her soul, composing since childhood
Sep 29, 2015 08:36AM
Kat Epple, flutist/composer concert. Photo by Lee Horton
Kat Epple’s state of being is synonymous with her sound — transcendental, ethereal and abundant with the dulcet tones of indigenous flutes.
An Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated composer and flautist who has played globally and written music for television, advertising and film, Epple’s performances in Southwest Florida include Art after Hours at the Artis-Naples Baker Museum and the Barbara Sumwalt Museum in Useppa Island, which auctioned “An Evening with Kat Epple” as part of its 2015 gala fundraiser. “Private house concerts are anything but typical flute recitals,” Kat Epple says with a laugh, adding, “I transport concert-goers to lands far away on a magic carpet ride around the world.”
Music and imagery are a shared thread for the musician long ago surpassing the ordinary. Epple’s impact has been global, whether performing in Russia and China or composing a score for an animated film for the Hong Kong Science Museum. And this past year the classic "Valley of the Birds" by Emerald Web, the musical duo she formed in the 1970s with husband Bob Stohl, accompanied the Valentino men's fall/winter runway shows. “It’s led to such an exciting life. And all the lessons it’s taught me,” Epple says, noting that she was once incapacitated by stage fright, that her flute acts as “prayer beads” to help overcome such obstacles.
Epple from age 7 was drawn to the flute. She knew instantly the connection was “magical.” Self-taught, Epple composed before age ten. When she composes today, the music visually brings to mind the birds that inhabit the environment where she lives, she says.
Kat Epple and Bob Stohl met in 1972. The pair formed Emerald Web and shared “a vision of beautiful simplicity,” according to Robert Carlberg, music reviewer for Electronic Musician Magazine. “Bob played the flute and the lyricon — [a hybrid synthesizer woodwind instrument] — and he composed synthesizer orchestrations. We both played keyboards and synthesizers, which was new at the time,” says Epple. The couple’s sound was melodic sequencing and electronics, what’s frequently called contemplative or meditative Space Music. The pair’s work includes soundtracks for astrologer and cosmologist Carol Sagan, National Geographic and Nova, among countless films, documentaries and television programs.
The couple collaborated with other musicians with synthesizers and acoustic instruments, including flute, guitar and piano. Epple and Stohl were synthesizer pioneers performing with acoustic instruments. “Other bands such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer were only playing with electric guitars at the time,” she notes. After Bob Stohl’s death in 1990, Epple performed solo or with others in the U.S. and abroad.
Epple in her travels has collected some two hundred flutes of differing history and sounds. “It started with a Native American flute and evolved from there,” says Epple, whose interest in Calusa-inspired music has been ongoing for the past twenty years. “I would meet flute players in different cultures and we would have the instrument in common. I absorbed as much of their music tradition as possible.” Epple incorporates these flutes into her own sound, but in an “unconventional and non-traditional manner,” she says.
Epple and Stohl produced eleven albums, including the Grammy-nominated “Catspaw” in 1986, which Epple has re-mastered with bonus tracks. “Technology has changed so much from engineering in the ‘70s,” says Epple, who stays on top of her profession as a recording engineer in her North Fort Myers home studio. In her career, Epple has earned a Peabody Award for public service, eight Emmy Awards for television work, an Edward R. Murrow Award for public radio work, three Addy Awards in advertising, and three Angel of the Arts Awards for involvement in the arts.
Returning to Fort Myers, Epple through her music worked with the renowned Captiva artist Bob Rauschenberg. She had been living in Connecticut, New York and Berkley. The iconic painter/graphic artist became a collaborator. She recalls: “There was a party at an art collector’s house in the area — a sushi and wine tasting. Bob was drumming with chop sticks; I grabbed a wine bottle and started to blow it to make notes,” she says with a chuckle. Late night music sessions at Bob’s house in Captiva followed, as did an enduring friendship. The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers is counted among Epple’s performance venues. She also performed at Rauschenberg openings.
Today, Epple’s repertoire spans solo flute to full band, smooth jazz, New Age, to light classical. Each film score she composes brings about a new perspective. And her music continues to support causes to which she’s dedicated, such as the Worldwide Peace Marker Project, of which Epple is the ambassador for the United States. “As a musician, my main power is my music, after all.”
Written by Susan Friedman, an award-winning lifestyle journalist living in Delray Beach, Florida.
Kat Epple’s CD “Elemental Circuitry" with Nathan Dyke is “cosmic world music featuring world flutes, Australian Didgeridoo, Djembe drum, African harp, Bawu, and other native instruments.”