in 1998 our tour down the westcoast brought us to Santa Cruz and the renown statue of Thomas Jefferson Scribner.
This soothing mechanical sound is produced using the treadle from an old Singer sewing machine now paired with an Indian Head spinning wheel. Spinning for an extended time wrapped in this rhythmic acoustic drone seems to slow down time. The wool is from a sheep named Emily who lives in Warkworth, Ontario.
how to make that beautiful sound on a bottle
The Minden Duo uses glass bottles for many of their compositions, all sizes and shapes of bottles can be used each producing a unique timbre. Carla plays most of the bass jugs because of her training as a horn player:
“I find the best one gallon cider jugs in Canada are supplied by “Triple Jim’s”. The cider is a bit on the sweet side, but the bottle itself has the best taper in the neck, and the opening at the top is not too wide. This makes for a better, more focused tone. I find some cider jugs have an excessively wide mouth and neck making them very difficult to create a clean sound and requiring huge amounts of air, only to produce an overly diffused tone. Exceptional lung power is already a basic requirement to play even the most optimum one gallon jug if you want to have even the slightest amount of sustain. And I don’t mean that one needs to emulate the sustain of a piano. We want a bottle to sound like a bottle. But do take care not to make life overly difficult by playing an inferior jug.”
rhythm of “The Canadian”
Mail Box Song
The mail box started singing when we mailed a letter today.
When Carla was young her visits to her grandmother introduced her to sounds she wasn’t familiar with; like her grandmother’s telephone. Fancy and ornate it seemed like a treasure. This old phone now sits in our studio and sometimes the sound of its dial, the mechanical wind-up and reedy release might inspire a musical idea. We included this sound in “Waltz” the last track in What Is Your Name
The Longest Day of the Year
It’s the longest day of the year today 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 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.
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?
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.