genesis of the vios project

To really trace the roots of where The ViOS Project began, one would have to begin at my early childhood when I was still learning how to play the violin. The ViOS Project's first roots emerged when I began playing in competitions, around the age of twelve or thirteen. My dad challenged me with this thought: could I glorify God through my music? Though I wasn’t always playing “Christian” or “spiritual” music, I made it my goal to play to something greater than myself, to reveal something heavenly and Godly in my music. In doing so, I discovered something rather amazing...

God is able to speak through music.

Of course, God is able to speak through anything, such as prayer, the reading His Word, through singing, through external circumstances in our lives. But God, in his amazing grace, is also able to use people's gifts to touch others in amazing ways. After coming to this realization, I decided that I needed to focus my message, that if people could be spiritually impacted through the music in a real way then I had to give that impact both value and meaning. What could be more meaningful than the eternal living God of the universe and the incredible life there is for all who put their faith in Him? To live forever with my God and Creator is the grandest thing I can think of. So this is my message every time I play music, whether or not my audience is aware of it. And that is the genesis of The ViOS Project.

While the message of what The ViOS Project really stands for has been developing over many years, its musical origins are also the culmination of many musical expositions through years of education, adventures, and musical ventures. Improvisation and musical diversity have been slowly invading my musicality since about the age of thirteen or fourteen. I got bored in my church’s worship band playing the same music (and chord progressions) over and over again so I started exploring other ways I could embellish the music. In 2000 my family took a trip to Canada’s east coast, to the provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. There I got my first experience playing non-classical music, the fresh and lively sounds of Celtic music. In college I tried my hand at jazz, flamenco, hip-hop, and electronic genres, among others. My influences were artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Imogen Heap, Mannheim Steamroller, and the band Pink Martini. All these experiences played a huge role in shaping my musical career today. Every song that we perform is sort of an experiment and tribute to each of these genres. Come Thou Fount of course is set to a style reminiscent of Celtic folk music; Arise is arranged in a jazzy blues style; How Great Thou Art is a fusion of gospel and R&B juxtaposed with the classic Christian lullaby, Jesus Loves Me.

Another strong element found in much of my music is the presence of electronics and technology. I’ve always been a tech nerd. I bought my first laptop when I was fifteen and built a laptop from a bare bone model as a freshman in college. As a senior in high school I began to collect various pieces of audio equipment, slowly building up a decent home studio rig. It is, in fact, that same equipment with which I recorded our entire album. In my college sophomore year, a friend played a YouTube video for me of Imogen Heap doing a live ‘looping’ version of her song “Just For Now” using only clapping, her voice, and a few other vocal effects. I was totally blown away. Looping is an electronic performance technique that involves playing into a looping pedal or special software, which captures the music just played and then begins to play it back, ‘looping’ the clip over and over. The performer can then add other clips on top of the original, essentially creating, single-handedly, a large sound scape. After hearing Imogen Heap do her looping performance I resolved to learn that same technique on the violin. My first electro-acoustic experiment was Amazing Grace, (arranged 2008) the same version recorded on the album. Since then I’ve explored many venues and opportunities for looping and electro-acoustic music: in original solo works, in my church’s artistic worship service, Aspire, and of course, in several of The ViOS Project’s arrangements. Pieces that utilize looping techniques are Come Thou Fount, Deep Love, and Blessed Assurance among others, while other songs utilize other electronic sounds and mediums such as Holy and O Love.

So ... why hymns? If you've listened to our album HOLY or seen us in concert, then you know that almost every song that ViOS performs is a classic Christian hymn arranged in a unique and original way. I first started arranging hymns because, towards the end of my college career, I began to experience for myself just how deep and rich so many hymns really are. It seems to me that there is often a pervading sentiment among people today that ‘hymns are boring.’ I certainly felt that way myself growing up. But anyone who spends time studying the old hymns and reading their lyrics will realize just how much depth and spiritual truth they contain. That became one of my initial inspirations for deciding to work on a project focused almost exclusively on hymns. The project started as an effort to take these awesome hymns that contain so much value and make them accessible to our culture today. I began arranging my first hymns after graduating from Cleveland Institue of Music, during the summer of 2010, the first hymn being an arrangement of “Holy, Holy, Holy!” What started as a simple arrangement of a couple hymns, soon turned into an entire concert and group of musicians dedicated to sharing the wonders of God and the miracle of eternal life through the art of sound.

As The ViOS Project begins to travel, I hope to spread the gospel in many different cities through performances in both religious and secular venues. I pray that God would be able to use the group to save people to Himself and also to build up churches in many localities, even across multiple denominations. I feel like there are spiritual riches here that God is just waiting to pour out. It is my prayer that we will constantly be His humble servants, open to His leading and calling, allowing Him to work in us and through us.

“My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
- psalm 108:1-5

julian taylor. february 18, 2015