The Longest Day of the Year

LJH-Minden_Ensemble

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. 

“Take a listen to one of the most interesting musical entities on the planet and off-the-wall” – Gary Cristall.

 

Album Review

http://www.bcmusicianmag.com/what-is-your-name-cd-review-by-dave-o-rama/

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

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

ready to record

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.

minden-waterphones -NW-2013

mellifluous sound of waterphones

recording glass bottles

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.Image