in the beginning . . .

Robert Minden Ensemble, drawing by Nancy Walker

On a gray, west coast day near the end of winter, in the University town of Santa Cruz, California, Robert Minden sat musing over tomorrow’s lecture for his large undergraduate sociology class. Like in a dream, a mysterious melody came drifting through his office window. He went in search. The strangely captivating music led him to Thomas Jefferson Scribner, ex-vaudevillian, lumberjack, wobblie and now a savvy street musician making music on a carpenter’s hand saw. That was the beginning.
Years later, Minden, created an ensemble as an artistic experiment in Vancouver, Canada. Robert Minden, musician daughters Andrea Minden (flute) and Dewi Minden (trumpet), and musician Carla Hallett (French horn) together with visual artist Nancy Walker. The Ensemble quickly became internationally renown for its dramatic mix of narrative and music on found and invented instruments. They worked together continually for the next ten years composing and performing, touring and recording producing three unique albums exploring the sonic possibilities discovered in urban debris and abandoned objects.

“The joy of watching them discover the ‘voices’ of these objects is almost indescribable: it’s like hearing for the first time”

Colin Thomas, Georgia Straight

The inaugural recording of the Ensemble, The Boy Who Wanted To Talk To Whales, was immediately nominated for a 1990 JUNO award. This contemporary folk tale, scored for storyteller, percussion and invented instruments, was released on World Music Day at Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall to critical acclaim. Then followed Long Journey Home (1992), richly textured music for found and ancient sound sources; “a compelling aural adventure” (Canadian Composer magazine) and Whisper In My Ear (1994), a celebration of the acoustic sounds of junk; “intelligence, humour, manic inventiveness and oceanic friendliness.” (Gary Norris, Canadian Press 1994). The recordings are orchestrated with an improbable ensemble of abandoned objects; “absolutely baffling” (American Record Guide).  Work in television included a ten-part series written and performed for SESAME STREET, and the CBC documentary, “The Music Maker” on Adrienne Clarkson Presents. “Music For Recycled Bottles”, their popular music video, was produced and broadcast by PBS.

“intelligence, humour, manic inventiveness and oceanic friendliness”

Gary Norris,Canadian Press
- photo by David Cooper
carla hallett robert minden andrea minden dewi minden – photo by David Cooper

“Take a listen to one of the most interesting and enjoyable musical entities on the planet and off the wall”

Gary Cristall, Vancouver Folk Festival