physical, tangible sounds with substance

We are now working on the last composition of the song cycle.  It will be a quiet mix of piano, understated vocals, spoken word and musical saw…perhaps with the addition of a repeated struck metal bowl tuned with water. The found sounds that orchestrate much of this recording are being selected for their particular timbre and presence. They are unlike any other sound with their certain rough edges. When we record found sounds the goal is not the electronic manipulation of the sound. We record them to sound like what they are: physical, tangible sounds with substance.

metal bowl-mindenduo

the space between theatre and music

just finished a complex mix of found sounds, voice, & piano. It was carefully constructed and built up in layers of repeated sounds of clay flower pots, struck tuned glass bottles, struck PVC pipe, carpenter’s saw, blown tuned wine and miniature liquor bottles and percussive piano with spoken word, then interrupted with lyrical piano and vocals. From one perspective it might be the soundscape of a modern dance work; from another it is the space between theatre and music. It will become the dramatic focal point of the new album.

a peek at some of the recording

2 performances in Toronto coming up end of May:

compositions for  waterphones, musical saws, tuned glass bottles and the dark vocals of Carla Hallett will celebrate the quiet side of the acoustic spectrum. Natural, quirky sound, rich in subtle hues and rough textures… strangely familiar and resonant.

Musideum  Saturday May 31 8:00PM                                                                                                        401 Richmond Street West, Suite 133  Toronto

Music Mondays Monday June 2 12:15 noon                                                                                      Church Of The Holy Trinity, 10 Trinity Square. Toronto

waterphone_mindenduo

in-breath

The search for low sounds in the universe of found instruments is always a challenge. It usually means finding something big, like long lengths of PVC pipes, which can be inconvenient to transport. However, the depth of sound and low range of the right apple cider jug is worth the trouble of collecting, cleaning, and carefully transporting.

The range of a glass cider jug extends below a wine bottle or an old vinegar jug. It takes an enormous amount of air to produce a good clear sound. And to get enough air, one needs to take deep noisy breaths. But this is actually a bonus, because the sound of the in-breath just before the articulated note, can form part of the music. The in-breaths are quite audible, especially when the mics are close and hot. So using this sound will be an interesting way of allowing a natural percussive line to be heard while producing the pitched sounds from tuned blown jugs. The real breath sounds produce a sense of necessity and energy in the music.  This is the technique I used in the piece “Why Don’t We” from the album “Whisper in My Ear”.                                                       

preparing the jugs

preparing the jugs

failure is part of it

Writing music and words without a tried and true recipe can be unnerving. There is a tendency to think about what your “brand” is or should be or could be; how you fit in.  All the voices in your head keep at you: “What if no one will listen?” ” What if the music doesn’t fit any genres?” Pressure to follow convention and adjust your ideas so the music will find the “right” audience can strangle the process with self doubt. And of course this might lead to failure. And that’s the biggest fear of all.

But failure might be more common, more natural than we have assumed. Learn to accept it as part of the process and it might become a fresh place to imagine. Love the sounds and they will open up your ears to a new place. Impossible to know this ahead of time. Impossible to know this with any assurance. Start playing with the sounds that you love. Keep playing with them because you love them, not because you want to be successful. Let them resonate within you. Who knows where it might lead?

minden_hallett.conchduet.web

Conch Shells

clay flowerpots

Another recording session: different room, different sounds. This time at The Farm Studios (once Vancouver’s Little Mountain Studio). The room was smaller and less resonant than our first session and for some of our sounds, especially clay flowerpots, this allowed for a more distinct recording, the sounds of the pots more precise than if they were in a more reverberant setting. The placing of PZM mics on the table between the pots proved to be the best way to capture the special sound of struck clay. Completed another two songs. Gathering momentum.

clay pots & stainless steel w:PZM mics

recording a musical saw

Our unique instrumentation makes for a compelling array of varying timbres. Always seeking to expand the predictable sonic palette found in contemporary music, our recordings concentrate on  the colour and texture of acoustic sound. Much of the Duo’s focus is on timbre. The musical saw is an excellent example and is explored in all of our recordings. It has an unexpected voice and when placed with other sounds can offer acoustic surprise.

Listening to the sound of the musical saw in live performance is uncanny, the sound feels like it comes from everywhere/nowhere. Unlike a trumpet or a piano or a vocalist which have a direct point of origin the musical saw is strange because it seems to originate in the air itself.  In live performance the rubbing sound of the bow is diminished because the listener is not that close and one is not required to pay attention to it.  If one places a mic in front and close to the saw it amplifies the sound caused by the bow rubbing the blade and the delicate, mysterious sound of the saw is compromised and becomes confined.

The difficulty in recording the bowed saw is to recreate its ethereal experience. Experimenting over the years with many different mic positions and different ways of recording the saw, what seems crucial is the sound of the room itself. It is important to record in as resonant a room as possible using two microphones. Mic the sound in the room, as well as the closer sound coming from behind the player and the blade of the saw. Mixing both tracks together comes close to reproducing this extraordinary resonance.

Carla Hallett & Robert Minden - Trent University concert

Carla Hallett & Robert Minden – Trent University concert

 sruti box and musical saw