When David Swanson plays music, he imagines himself sitting at the feet of Jesus, offering the songs as gifts of praise. "The Lord helps me do it," said Swanson, owner of Swanson's Organs, Pianos and Gifts at 425 North Main St., Hendersonville, (NC 28792).
"All through the Bible there are verses that talk about praising the Lord with music. I am computer-illiterate and a piano quitter, but I've always enjoyed music. I enjoy creating sounds. God has given me a gift to be able to do that."
Swanson creates those sounds with Technics keyboards, a highly sophisticated electronic instrument that allows him to have a complete orchestra at his fingertips. He sells keyboards in his shop and through years of experimentation with different combinations of sounds and rhythms, he is able to program the instruments in ways few other keyboard dealers can.
"It's like a recipe," said Swanson. "You have to start with good ingredients. The Technics instruments have the best sound in the world. Then you add your own butter and salt."
His "butter and salt" are layers upon layers of strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion. The result is a richness and fullness of sound that makes it hard to believe that all that music is coming from an instrument with only 61 notes.
Now, that ability to create sounds has been used to produce two compact discs of music close to Swanson's heart. The first, THE LOVE OF GOD, is a collection of over 70 minutes of praise and worship music. (This CD is currently being remastered.) The second, THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS, is a project suggested by his youngest son, Kevin. Both are available at Swanson's shop.
"When I sell an instrument, I include a floppy disk of songs I've arranged to show the customer how the keyboard can sound," said Swanson. "A number of customers told me I should record something."
He began work on the first CD in August (2000), working with a Technics KN6000 keyboard at home. He chose the songs, worked out the arrangements and recorded all the tracks on a floppy disk.
"I did all my work between midnight and 3 a.m.," said Swanson. "That's my creative time. Of course, I used the headphones."
When he had all the songs just the way he wanted them, Swanson took the entire keyboard to a recoding studio where it was plugged into the equipment there and a master CD was made.
While that project was in the works, Swanson's son Kevin requested that he do a recording of Christmas music "while you're still able to play." Swanson took the suggestion seriously and chose 15 of his favorite Christmas songs.
As Swanson worked on the Christmas album, he thought about his experience at the recoding studio and wondered if it would be possible to create the CD himself. He purchased a compact disc recorder and when he had all the songs recorded, complete with accompaniment and rhythm, he plugged a CD recorder into his keyboard, adjusted the levels and began to record.
When the time came to go to production, he simply sent his CD to the recording studio where a "gold master" was recorded.
"At first I did the minimum number of CDs I could, 500," said Swanson. "The response was so overwhelming, I called back and got 500 more. Before the CD was available, I played the prototype in the store and people began asking where they could get it. I started taking names. Then people started calling back wanting more for their friends."
When the Technics sales representative heard the Christmas CD, he sent a copy to Technics' headquarters. The company was so impressed by the quality of the recording and the sounds produced by Swanson, they ordered 300 copies and subsequently sent one to each of their dealers.
The liner notes express Swanson's sentiments:
"These songs are dedicated to the memory of my Mom and Dad for teaching me three great truths:
"One, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,' (John 3:16.)
"Two, 'God's Laws are perfect. They protect us, make us wise, and give us joy and light. For they warn us away from harm and give success to those who obey them.' (Psalms 19: 7-9, 11.)
"Three, 'Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'"
"Imagine Technics sending out something like this," said Swanson.
The musician-salesman is finding the response a little overwhelming.
"Like I said, I'm a piano quitter," said Swanson. He took piano lessons for about five years, quitting as a teenager.
"I don't read music very well. I mostly play by ear, but I play from the heart.
"I always loved music. Then in the 1970s they came out with the easy-play organs and I got an organ dealership. The first one came in and it sat there for three days before I got the nerve to play it. But I decided if I was going to sell them, I had to play them."
Taken from the Sunday, December 17, 2000 edition of the Times-News, Hendersonville, NC, article "From 61 Notes".
Update: David Swanson has now finished his 7th CD. He has currently sold over 15,000 CDs out of his store.