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 fluidity mirroring 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.
CD cover art by Nancy Walker
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.
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
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.
We load into the studio early in the morning. Beginning a recording session we have been preparing for many months. Waterphones all cleaned and ready.
There is the strong desire to simplify; to begin with almost raw, acoustic sound and see where it leads. It’s not orderly or even predictable but by immersing oneself in, for example, sounds of rubbed or bowed metal surfaces, and waterphones, the sounds themselves begin to suggest new ways of proceeding and sometimes the outline of composition. Surprise becomes one of the windows of creativity.
5 waterphones made by richard waters
The sound of struck glass cider jugs tuned with water will form the bass line of this new song. I’ve been using a bouncy ball impaled on the end of a knitting needle as a mallet, allowing me to literally bounce from note to note with the odd double/triple bounce for ornamentation.
Someone asked “why go to all the trouble of collecting glass bottles, cleaning them, tuning them, training oneself to play them, when one could easily record just a single note into a computer and access this sound with a keyboard?” Well, the physical act of playing the jugs, of making the sounds, would be lost. And this would also affect the way I write the line.
But essentially, much of the emotion one hears conveyed by music is derived from physically producing the sound.
paying particular consideration to the musical possibilities of glass bottles. Using vinegar jugs, milk bottles, wine bottles and beer bottles to orchestrate a rather complex song.
as I’m writing this I can hear the mellow sounds of the French Horn. Carla is writing a new line for the song we have been working on.
During the last month we have been living in a world of splendid acoustic sound: vintage waterphones, bowed saws, blown bottles, struck floating bowls, toy piano and voice. Exploring the words and sounds of a new project which we plan to record in a month’s time. More about that soon.