rhythm of “The Canadian”

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on board The Canadian approaching the Rockies

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 illuminates the space between theatre and music. It stands as the dramatic focal point of the album.  “The Courtroom”

 

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?

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Conch Shells – sounds

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

Music as Film

The album we’re working on alludes to film music –  the music suggests images, scenes, narratives. It feels like we are scoring a film, the music evocative and cinematic, the movie becoming visible by the listener.

In a more literal sense, the mixing of the sounds creates a landscape – on the left, on the right, in the centre, coming in from the back of the listeners head. Will a sound move?  How will it move? Which sound will stay anchored in one place? And how will each sound be coloured, and in what space are they happening/seen?  These sonic decisions are also visual decisions; the music suggesting the movie imagined in the mind.

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.

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mellifluous sound of waterphones