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13 Masks
solo piano
Cover of 13 masks
13 Masks
available on CDBaby, iTunes, and Amazon
Jump to Liner notes

13 MASKS is an interweaving of jazz, avant-garde classical and "Progressive Ragtime" solo piano. Blending each style through the "chaos of the subconscious," Mueller has created compelling musical stories. This collection is a whimsical (and sometimes discordant) departure from his earlier romantic and healing work, Morning Whispers.

Mueller attaches one of 13 Medieval masks to each song, images that are fanciful, haunting, nightmarish, surreal. (See below.) He has created music to match, emphasizing sly humor and surprise, intelligence and innovation, muscularity and angular lines. The results are breakthrough compositions combined with clean, intimate playing.

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Several tracks standout as exceptionally entertaining. "A Monk Caught In The Thelonious Sphere" starts as a tribute to the great jazz-blues pianist (Thelonious Monk's middle name was Sphere), yet travels through moments that could be the soundtrack of a surreal Tom & Gerry cartoon episode. Similarly, "Two Peas In A Chili Pod" begins as a smooth Latin piece, but by the end erupts with unrelenting energy, taking on the entire keyboard. "Stillness of Wings" is a beautiful New Age piece, an oasis of peace amidst this musical tempest. (See below for track notes by the composer.) Playfulness is the main attribute of many of these pieces.

Progressive Ragtime; Crime Jazz; post-Swing meets 20th Century pandemonium and harmonic bewilderment. Influences range from Dave Brubeck to Frank Zappa, Bill Evans to Cecil Taylor.

The longest track, "Chaos of the Subconscious," is the most avant-garde piece in the collection. It is a three movement sonata that, perhaps more than any other track, embodies the sense of nightmare and unfettered subconscious creation. But the soul of a jazz player bubbles up throughout, interrupting, reasserting, especially in the latter variations. Stunning. But it may also be the most off-putting track in the collection, depending on your persepctive.

The New Age beauty of Mueller's earlier works shines through in two exquisite tunes: "Stillness Of Wings" and "Last Mask Falls Away." We are reminded how innocent music can feel.

Mueller's musical theatre period is also represented. "Memories Of Elegance" and the tragic "Holding Breath With Ophelia" both evoke characters and story lines. "Shadows of Success" combines the quirkiness of Medeski with the urbanity of Gershwin. The breadth of styles Mueller is able to seamlessly shape into coherent musical statements is a testament to his skill and cross-genre experience.

13 Masks is Tobin Mueller’s follow-up to his 2005 release, Morning Whispers. Full of musical surprises, Mueller interweaves jazz and 20th century classical and blends them through the “chaos of his subconsciousness.” Mueller’s stories, told through the medium of solo piano, are often whimsical and funny, but this is no lightweight piece of entertainment. The music is complex and often challenging, but is not so esoteric to be intimidating. I found it fascinating the first time through, and enjoy it more each time I hear it. This is music for active listening, and most people will not find it relaxing, (it wasn’t intended to be). The cover artwork, also done by Mueller, depicts the thirteen masks of the title. Of those masks, Mueller explains: “More than masks that hide the truth, these are meant to be interior faces of the subconscious that whisper, leer and assert themselves in ways known and unknown.” I love these drawings and their variety of expressions. Tobin Mueller has created a conceptual work of art with “13 Masks.” A powerful and amazing album. Not everyone will appreciate it, but if you enjoy a truly unique album with music to really sink your teeth into, give this a try. Recommended"
- Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano
13 Masks — Liner Notes by the composer
Mask 1
1.
You Make My Heart Skip A Beat
(5:44)
The album starts off with a Progressive Ragtime Fugue. It is paired with the mask I call "Unicorn Girl." Wings frame her face, ribbons swirl into a unicorn-like point atop curls and twigs, and her combination of bird-and-garden youthfulness all play into the whimsical variations the song strings together. She seems a steady innocent amidst the chaos of the world. This is the sense I was trying to portray with the music. Like a unicorn creating Spring amidst a tempest of swirling winter wind. I drop beats throughout, on purpose, which is one of the reasons I chose the title.
Mask 2
2.
The Gumshoe Wears A Rag
(4:56)
Not only do I love Whodunits and Private Eye thrillers, I was actually a private detective for 3-4 years in the early 1980s, before I got an agent and my music/writing career took off. This piece is also a homage to the Film Noire soundtracks composed by the likes of Stan Getz, Count Basie, and others. (See the bottom of the page for the YouTube video.) Melodrama, humor and romance combine in this piece, which could be a sountrack to a silent film. The mask, "Old Blue Eyes," stares calmly, waiting just around the corner, or just under the darkened bridge... The song ends in lonely triumph, of course. Click here to watch the film noire Music Video on YouTube
Mask 3
3.
Shadow of Success
(4:03)
I was listening to Medeski Martin & Wood before I began improvising what would eventually become this song. For some reason, the haulting bass line that underscores grand Gershwin-esque chords made me think of this title. It was either a desire for success that lacked the courage to achieve it; or living in the shadow of former success. "Frightened by Flame," the mask, with its fiery gold colors and cello ears, has all the makings of ambition and bravado, except for the expression, which radiates worry and trepidation. Success is almost achieved (or recaptured) at the 2:50 mark, but then the music slides back into the shadows cast by this fanciful and endearing character.
Mask 4
4.
Memories of Elegance
(5:46)
This track is based a song from my 2004 musical, Runners In A Dream. In the show, Never So Frightened is sung by a young girl caught in the horrors of the Holocaust. The mask represents the awful apperation of the upstairs woman who betrays her. I've named it "Judgement." Trying to divorce myself from my earlier composition, I invented a new story for 13 Masks. Since some of the passages had the elegance of a late Duke Ellington piece, I re-imagined the song sung by an older women who had escaped the Holocaust, was still haunted by its terrors, as well as the loss of the elegant life she once lived. Perhaps the mask illustrates her? This sense of what was lost kicks in, especially, around the 3:12 mark.
Mask 5
5.
Stillness of Wings
(4:25)
The opening and ending to this song was originally written as incidental music for a 1996 musical I never finish, "Merlyn." Some ideas just happen at the wrong time. Their moment of possibility flies away like a butterfly. To illustrate this, the internal cadenza is played from the point of view of one with wings. The mask, "Flight and Laughter," as opposed to being a vacuously giggling imp (as you may think at first glance), understands the stillness of wings, the peace one finds in the air high above the crowd, the joy of escape found in aimless reverie. Or, Merlyn sitting alone, resting tired bones, lost on memory, forgetting he is no longer youthful. Check out the hummingbirds in the Music Video on YouTube.
Mask 6
6.
Chaos of the Subconscious
(7:18)
I had originally wanted to do a 20th Century solo piano version of an organ piece I'd written 12 years earlier, Vortigern's Fortress, a scene from the never-completed Merlyn. But as I rehearsed the original score, I kept hearing interruptions and side-whisperings. Since this was a project in which I was supposed to listen to my subconscious, I gave into it. This is the result. You can follow the link to the organ piece which, after consious consideration, I still like better. Sigh. The mask, "Mortality Questioned," seems to have known it all along. Sometimes one can be too clever. The piece is too long, but there are some great moments, nonetheless. It makes the opening bars of the next track all that much more soothing, at least!
Mask 7
7.
Two Peas in a Chili Pod
(4:27)
The fellow who played guitar on Rain Bather was in a Latin band. He tried to teach me the fundamentals of Latin keyboard rhythms. I could never appreciate the repetition and, sadly, never figured out how to translate the overall technique to a solo piano, without the clava, conga and other percussion helping to establish the rhythms. But I wanted to try my hand at my own version of Latin piano. My favorite part is toward the end, when I throw caution to the wind and try to play it like Thelonious Monk might have, channelling my subconscious mischievousness. The mirrored masks, "Hidden Winks," is a homage to McBoy and myself, two pease in a pod...
Mask 8
8.
A Monk Caught in a Thelonious Sphere
(3:50)
In preperation for this project, I listened to all the Thelopnious Monk I could find. There are some surviving clips of him on YouTube from which I tried try to figure out how he is doing what he does. Of course, one seem like a green jackass if you tell people that sort of thing. Although, as YouTube goes, it's a better usage than many others I've employed. The mask I chose for this track, "Lampwick Grows Old," takes its inspiration from the Pinocchio story, and provides the right amount of humor and humility. It should also be noted, regarding the title, that "Sphere" is Monk's middle name. How cool is that! This may be the most accessible track on the CD.
Mask 9
9.
Chromatisome Swing
(4:08)
This song was intended to be an homage to Oscar Peterson, who died in 2007 when I was recording this album. Oscar Perterson is Jazz giant. He was called the "Maharaja of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, but simply "O.P." by his friends. I never mastered stride piano, at which O.P. was the best, but try to make up for it with other techniques. O.P. is one of those demigods who always has more to teach. The "Golden Goggles" expression, which exudes very high expectations, represents my hope Oscar would've enjoyed this song's use of several Jazz influences. Sometimes our subconscious desire to impress can lead us to push ourselves in constructive ways.
Mask 10
10.
Holding Breath with Ophelia
(7:06)
This track is based on the original prelude and opening scene from what would become Runners In A Dream, my musical (written with Randyl Appel) set in the Holocaust. The opening was completely rewritten before anyone saw the show, but several of these themes found their way into other songs. This is the longest track in the CD, it describes an epic tragedy. Ophelia is torn apart, goes mad, from a series of disastorous fallouts from misread moments, crushing passions, ill-advised actions, being overrun by the chaos of her subconsious. The mask, "Surviving Under Water," is a likely observer of Ophelia's final moments. He may seem like a cynically creature, making fun of her weaknesses, but that may only be, as they say, a mask. We sometimes mock what we fear the most.
Mask 11
11.
Let Me Play With Those Horns, Amalthea
(4:40)
This is the instrumental version of a song I included in my 2008 release, A Bit of Light, on which I sing and play keys, McBoy plays guitar, and Bill Barner plays clarinet. It was recorded prior to this solo piano version, even though 13 Masks came out a year earlier. I wrote this in my living room in Manhattan, but chose a new setting for this solo piano version:

Amalthea ("tender goddess") is the foster-mother of Zeus, a goat-nymph who suckled the infant-god in a cave. Amalthea's skin, after she was killed and skinned by the grown Zeus, became the magically protective Aegis, worn like a sash. (A vivid metaphor for the historical transfer of religious power from the goddess to the god.) My song, however, takes place before all that, when Amalthea could still leap like a happy mother goat along the cliffs of Mount Olympus.

Mask 12
12.
I Sail On (into deeper waters)
(5:58)
I first recorded this song on my album Morning Whipsers. But as I kept playing it, I began altering certain passages and wanted to try recording it again. Also, a friend of my, Troy Paiva, helped arrange a Progressive Rock version, which gave me even more ideas. I added a wildly dissonant intro. I thought I has suubstantially improved it. However, after the passage of a few more yeras, I think my version on Morning Whipsers remains a better version. I would, at least, remove the intro if I ever reissue 13 Masks. This version also seems a tad too long, and sometimes makes me want to scream. The mask "Incoming Waves" captures my current feelings toward the piece. Or, it could just be a merman watching my sailboat as it cascades through the waves. Regarding the mask, I also hope to have those kind of impressive eyebrows, some day.
Mask 13
13.
The Last Mask Falls Away
(4:11)
I knew the title to this final piece before I began writing it. It's an homage to all those who helped define New Age piano back in the late 1970s, early 1980s. I can still remember hearing Liz Story for the first time, stunned that someone else was playing the kind of music I was developing. This song has a sense of reach, touch, discovery, and movement out of isolation that I felt when hearing others play would, in a few years, be called New Age music. The music was to be a sauve, a way forward, a homage to hymns and quietude, an expression of internal longing. The lion mask, "Finding Courage," may seem, at first blush, to not be so apropos. But, keep looking...

Click here to see more videos.

All masks
Tobin's Solo Piano Collection
Of Two Minds cover
Of Two Minds: The Music of Frédéric Chopin and Tobin Mueller is the final addition to Mueller's "Masterworks Trilogy" in which he explores the intersections of classical and jazz piano. Mueller reinterprets Chopin's most iconic piano solos (Disc 1) and uses the preludes to inspire three original jazz piano sonatas (Disc 2). Seductive, rebellious, heroic and beautiful, Mueller embraces Romanticism at its core, creating music that's distinctly personal and deeply poetic. Jazz, Blues, New Age and Romantic, Mueller weaves all strands of music into a single fabric. Achieved Fanfare Magazine's 2016 Editor's Choice Award.
Flow cover
Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller is a double album featuring Mueller's reinterpretations of Bach's greatest hits (Disc 1) plus two original jazz piano suites by Mueller (Disc 2). Inventive, playful, joyous, beautiful, full of emotion and intelligence. Mueller embraces the sense of timelessness one achieves when in the state of flow, bridging the centuries, letting Bach's 300 year old manuscripts inspire through new expression. Modal Jazz, New Age, Neo-Classical and Baroque all combined in seamless synergy. Achieved Fanfare Magazine's 2015 Editor's Choice Award. Flow is second album of "The Masterworks Trilogy".
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Impressions of Water & Light is an exploration of the cross-inspirations between Impressionist and jazz piano, including adaptations of music by Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Satie, Ibert and Carpenter. Tobin uses the written notes as if they are light and his imagination as if it is water, creating all new interpretations. This post-Impressionist music illustrates the intimacy between jazz and Impressionist music. You will never hear these works the same again. The gorgeous CD booklet is a work of art in itself, pairing an Impressionist painting with each piece. Impressions is second album of "The Masterworks Trilogy".
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Midwinter Born is a collection of jazz piano interpretations of traditional Christmas carols. Mueller captures the quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness and over-riding joy of the season. A delightful and sometimes surprising album destined to become one of your annual holiday favorites. The wonder of Christmas unfolds as Mueller takes you on a yuletide journey through his musical imagination. The 18 track album includes: First Noel, Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells, Lo How A Rose E'er Bloom, Good King Wenceslas, Still, Still, Still and many more.
Morning Whispers cover
Morning Whispers is Tobin's first solo piano collection, a song cycle of tragic beauty. Music of healing and introspection, these New Age and Neo-Classical pieces do more than evoke emotion: they tell stories. The use of key changes, unusual time signatures, and other variational devices makes this work involving, not merely New Age background music. Its gentle intensity, however, does not detract from its healing essence, its sense of inner joy. Influences include Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Aaron Copland, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, David Lanz, Liz Story. Several of these piano pieces have since been used in film and documentaries.
13 Masks cover
13 Masks is Tobin's second solo piano collection. This project evolved from discussions about the role the subconscious plays in creativity. It is also an exploration of the links between avant-garde 20th Century music and jazz. Tobin used his illustrations of 13 Masks to inspire songs combining ragtime, jazz and 20th Century avant-garde classical. He let his subconscious lead the way, creating phrases and variations that pleased something deep inside, often avoiding normal forms and variations. Influences include Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum, Scott Joplin, John Medeski, as well as classical composers Shostakovich, Ligeti, Bartok. These pieces will startle and delight. An eclectic mix of original of songs.
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. Paying homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Faulkner, as well as contemporary authors such as Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville, Mueller spins musical stories that will make you consider each author in a new light. Every track is a musical meditation, guided by inspiring and insightful quotations recited and underscored by Mueller. Taken as a whole, the album becomes a personal memoir of Mueller's life journey. The 18 tracks combine to represent the true breadth of his musical influences and accumulated experiences.
Tobin's Other CD Collections
Tobin's Jazz Collection
Come In Funky cover
Come In Funky Old School Funk and and small combo Jazz featuring legendary bassist Ron Carter. This eclectic blend of Jazz and Funk is the second collaboration between keyboardist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski. Half of these tunes will transport you back in time to when most everything (music, clothes, language) owed its hipness to the Funk wing of 1970s jazz. The other half resonate with intimacy, playfulness and humor. A delight. For more information, see: Come In Funky Project page. Released May 4 2014, in honor of Ron Carter's 77th birthday.

"You guys can play! These are, almost without exception, very complicated numbers in terms of rhythm and the general sync of solos with ensemble playing, a stellar set of recordings that, I believe, adds seriously to the body of jazz that this represents... A remarkable work in every single way I can think of. This is such a bright and happy album that is played with a spirit of invention and joy from the first notes to the last." - Paul Page
The Muller's Wheel cover
The Muller's Wheel is a collaborative project combining the talents of pianist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski, featuring their jazz quartet and larger ensemble. These original tracks represent their personal journey through jazz influences -- from swing to bop to fusion to funk. The styles of Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Herbie Hancock, The Brecker Brothers, Weather Report and more influence this homage to the jazz greats. Even the blues are given Mueller/Mankowski's uniquely bop-funk treatment. In all, the duo's originality permeate each track, each jazz sub-genre.

This is joyous music. It reminds us of the happiness we relive when returning to our musical roots. Mueller/Mankowski remind us how the personalities of certain eras continue to assert their influence and power.

"The Muller’s Wheel" title is based on the biological concept that mutation and DNA recombination creates cycles of growth and loss. It serves as a metaphor for the ebb and flow of the synthesis and creativity Mueller and Mankowski apply to their musical influences. The tracks are arranged in historical sequence, and the listener appreciates the cross-pollination between each of these genres. Listening from beginning to end creates a cyclical pilgrimage. It's rhythms and inventive flights of fancy invite the listener along for many return trips.
Rain Bather cover
Rain Bather is a jazz ensemble 80 minute long play CD. It features superlative solo performances byan all-star band members. Most of the tunes are in the jazz-funk-fusion vein, but many others try to break new ground, defying easy labels.

Tobin Mueller - B3 organ, electric piano, synth; composer
Woody Mankowski - soprano saxophone
Chris Mueller - acoustic piano
Jeff Cox - acoustic bass
Dane Richeson - drums & percussion
Tom Washatka - tenor saxophone
Doug Schnieder - tenor sax
Ken Schaphorst - flugelhorn
Bob Levy - trumpet
Sal Giorgianni - flute
Bill Barner - clarinet, additional sax
McBoy - electric guitars

Tobin's Rock Collection
Progressive Rock
Audiocracy cover
AUDIOCRACY is an international progressive rock collective. Their poetic writing and virtuosic performances make their high energy music life-affirming and uplifting, even considering the apocalyptic nature of their first release. Revolution's Son has been called "a masterpiece in the Epic Prog tradition." Progressive Magazine gave it 4 out 5 stars. Th story follows a revolutionary who comes to The City to be a catalyst for change and a prophet of truth. He falls into an Underground that urges a less innocent approach to change, leading to a post-apocalyptic finish. High energy, impressionistic prog.
Alternative Rock
A Bit of Light cover
A Bit of Light - A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs Tobin's been accumulating for a decade, A Bit of Light includes some of his favorite collaborations with saxophonists, fiddle players and guitarists, mixing jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. World renown violinist Entcho Todorov, Grammy winner saxophonist Danny McCaslin and L.A.'s Woody Mankowski, Enlish fiddler player Martyn Kember-Smith and guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights. The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format.
If I Live Long Enough cover
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998-1999 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 MacJams collaborations, and selected songs from two of Mueller's musicals: Creature and Runners In A Dream. Featuring acoustic guitar by Grammy winner Michael Hedges, vocals by Woody Mankowski and Emily Rohm, and some of Mueller's best songwriting. Six free Bonus Tracks available here.
September 11 Project
September 11 Project cover
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music written following 9/11/2001. Tobin was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero ceremony and revisted these songs. He decided to put them out as an album instead of keep them to myself. Since he was unable to sing at the event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.
Tobin's Standards Collection
Song Of Myself cover
Song Of Myself - Tobin's favorite songs from The American Songbook, reinterpretted. Intimate, heartfelt, devistatingly honest music. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Song of Myself page. Ballads, blues, showtunes, folk rock, jazz - the music of Tobin's roots. These are songs he's song for decades, arrangements that have evolved and matured with him.

"American Tune" by Paul Simon. "Blackbird" by Paul McCartney. Bob Dylan's "Dignity." A Joni Mitchell and an Elton John medly. "Being Alive" from Company (Stephen Sondheim). "Impossible Dream" from Man of la Mancha. "Oh Danny Boy." "Frozen Man" by James Taylor. Many more, plus two original songs by Tobin Mueller.
Hard Place To Find cover
Hard Place To Find - Tobin has released a second volume of his favorite songs from The American Songbook. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Hard Place To Find project page. "Still Crazy" by Paul Simon. Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" and "Bob Dylan's Dream." Richie Haven's "Paradise." "Dulcinea" from Man of la Mancha. "Alfie" by Bacharach. "Somewhere" from West Side Story. Many more, plus one original song by Tobin Mueller. All songs have to do with journeying, questing, searching. Released June 2nd, 2013.

"Tobin Mueller is something of a Renaissance man of the arts, and 'Hard Place To Find' presents another volume in his prolific and impressive output. More of an art-music album than a pop release, I recommend it if you are looking for something different and deeply personal!" - Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano
A Bit of Light cover
A Bit of Light - A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs featuring Mueller's vocals and a long list of his best friends and collaborators, including world renown violinist Entcho Todorov, Grammy winner saxophonist Danny McCaslin, L.A. saxophonist Woody Mankowski, English fiddler player Martyn Kember-Smith and Texan guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights. The music melds jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format.
If I Live Long Enough cover
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998-1999 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 MacJams collaborations, and selected songs from two of Mueller's musicals - Creature and Runners In A Dream. Featuring acoustic guitar by Grammy winner Michael Hedges, vocals by Woody Mankowski and Emily Rohm, and some of Mueller's best songwriting. 6 free Bonus Tracks available here.
September 11 Project cover
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music written following 9/11/2001. Tobin was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero ceremony and revisted these songs. He decided to put them out as an album instead of keep them to myself. Since he was unable to sing at the event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.
Poetry / Spoken Word
As Simple As Soap cover
As Simple As Soap - Del lends his deep voice and unique personality to Tobin's award-winning poetry. Love, fatherhood, history, death and daily meanings are all touch on in this combination of poetry and short story offerings. Each spoken word selection is accompanied by Mueller's visually stimulating background music that adds great emotional depth. The force and color of Del's voice earns this collection a high recommendation; the breathtaking and varied accompaniments make this a truly fascinating addition to Tobin Mueller's collected works.
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. Paying homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Faulkner, as well as contemporary authors such as Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville, Mueller spins musical stories that will make you consider each author in a new light. Every track is a musical meditation, guided by inspiring and insightful quotations recited and underscored by Mueller. Taken as a whole, the album becomes a personal memoir of Mueller's life journey. The 18 tracks combine to represent the true breadth of his musical influences and accumulated experiences.