What would it sound like if a flugal horn got a chance to play with a waterphone?
Composers Freddie Stone (flugelhorn) and Robert Minden (waterphone) recorded flugelhorn and waterphone duets in 1986. “Ee-Gypt-Me,” “Waterpoem,” and “Waterphone Call” from the the album, “In Season,” have just been re-released digitally and streams on all major platforms.
Few composers write for the waterphone. The sound is often heard in film and scored as colour. Here it shares centre stage with its’ liquid other-worldly sound played both melodically and rhythmically, shaped with unusual phrasing. While the timbre of these two instruments is different in texture and colour, Stone’s uncanny ability to play the flugal horn with pure fluiditymirroring the waterphone creates a rare musical conversation, as if the flugal horn is imitating the waterphone then venturing off on its’ own journey, before returning home.
While the sound of the flugal horn is firmly rooted on land, it gets the chance to wonder what it might be like deep in the sea, where the waterphone lives. And this is what it sounds like.
This soothing mechanical sound is produced using the treadle from an old Singer sewing machine now paired with an Indian Head spinning wheel. Spinning for an extended time wrapped in this rhythmic acoustic drone seems to slow down time. The wool is from a sheep named Emily who lives in Warkworth, Ontario.
The Minden Duo uses glass bottles for many of their compositions, all sizes and shapes of bottles can be used each producing a unique timbre. Carla plays most of the bass jugs because of her training as a horn player:
“I find the best one gallon cider jugs in Canada are supplied by “Triple Jim’s”. The cider is a bit on the sweet side, but the bottle itself has the best taper in the neck, and the opening at the top is not too wide. This makes for a better, more focused tone. I find some cider jugs have an excessively wide mouth and neck making them very difficult to create a clean sound and requiring huge amounts of air, only to produce an overly diffused tone. Exceptional lung power is already a basic requirement to play even the most optimum one gallon jug if you want to have even the slightest amount of sustain. And I don’t mean that one needs to emulate the sustain of a piano. We want a bottle to sound like a bottle. But do take care not to make life overly difficult by playing an inferior jug.”
My grandmother’s telephone didn’t look like the one we had at home. Fancy and ornate it seemed like a treasure. This old phone now sits in my studio and sometimes I listen to the sound of its dial, the mechanical wind-up and reedy release.
It’s the longest day of the year! which was the working title for a piece we composed many years ago on the longest day of the year.
The song opens with a plaintive melody by Robert Minden heard on blown glass bottles and the twangy acoustic of repetitive plucked old guitar strings (a musical invention – “string box ” by Dewi Minden as a gift to her father when she was twelve) then the easy voice of Carla Hallett singing an elegiac ode to the natural world. The sounds of tuned glass milk bottles and cider jugs played by Andrea and Dewi Minden provide the quirky textured ground of this dark environmental song. The piece was lovingly recorded at Vancouver’s historic Mushroom studios with engineer Simon Garber and released as “Alone Together” in 1992 on the album “Long Journey Home” by the Robert Minden Ensemble.
“Take a listen to one of the most interesting musical entities on the planet and off-the-wall” – Gary Cristall.