Sixty-nine blown glass bottles create an ensemble of breathy physical sound. With astonishing intonation, the bottle choir creates an almost creaturely presence. Then floating seemingly effortlessly above, soars a musical saw, (actually there are two – a high tenor and a low baritone) singing a mellifluous duet, evoking an other-worldly feel. And just when you think how cool it is to hear music made with curious things, a lonely call from a classic French horn sounds, out of the blue. The music ends with a surprising glissando from a waterphone, perhaps alluding to the impossible escape of flying horses from a gently slowing carousel.
sublime in headphones.
many thanks to:
Don Harder, recording, CBC Studio One, Vancouver
mixed and mastered by Jeff Wolpert, Desert Fish Studios, Toronto
Drawing by Nancy Walker
Other instruments make an appearance in this curious mix.
Floating over the bottle choir, 2 musical saws, (tenor and baritone) play a bittersweet duet. Then a vocal melody, sung through a vacuum cleaner hose spinning round and round. And surprise, a lonely call from the classic French horn is heard, first in the distance, and then closer, as the bottle choir continues its’ circular waltz until the liquid sounds of a waterphone draw the listener to another place.
The foundation of the music rests on “Triple Jim’s” 1 gallon jugs, the lowest notes in the choir. The cider is a bit on the sweet side, but the bottle itself boasts the best taper at the neck, and the opening at the top is not too wide, allowing a more focused tone. The old fashioned vinegar jugs are considerably smaller, but they still have a fat body, which helps to bridge the gap in tone quality between the low breathy “Triple Jim’s” and the sonorous beer bottles. Singing the main melody are the pretty blue Welsh water bottles, while the miniature sherry and maple syrup bottles join in with a sweet countermelody. We can’t forget our one tall wine bottle essential in extending down the range of the beer bottles while matching their tone colour. The bottles are tuned on zero, untempered. After all, we don’t want the bottles to sound like a piano. This unconventional tuning creates its’ own allure. And the sound of in-breaths floating sporadically throughout the choir adds energy to the mix.
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.