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.”
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.
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
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 difficult for touring. For bottle sounds, the depth and low range of the perfect gallon 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 technique is used in the song “Why Don’t We” from the album “Whisper in My Ear”.
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?
The music suggests images, scenes, narratives. It feels like we are scoring a film, – the music evocative and cinematic, the film becoming visible by the listener.
In a more literal sense, the mixing of our sounds creates a soundscape – 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.
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.