Archive for July, 2009

Art Deco Lobby, Brattleboro VT

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Echoes, Maya Badian

After 13+ hours of driving from Toronto to New England through pelting rain in upstate New York, I am safely ensconced in Brattleboro, the city of my old student days, which is wonderfully nestled in the mountains of southern Vermont.

The historic Latchis Hotel – a hotel and old vaudville theater space circa 1937 – is an Art Deco gem, and serves as a vibrant community hub for a variety of local arts organizations. Located right in the heart of Brattleboro, the sound of early-morning commuter traffic serves as backdrop for this evocative middle movement, Espressivo, from Echoes by Maya Badian.

The middle section is intended to be much more dramatic than it sounds here, as it is written up the octave, but considering that I had slipped into this delightful lobby before 8 a.m. I was concerned that I might disturb guests in the hotel rooms located directly above! After draining a badly needed complimentary hotel coffee, I thought this piece would be a perfect musical meditation for my first morning in the States, as well as ideally suited to play with the ample acoustics of this unique Art Deco space.

Also, if you listen right through to the finish, you will discover that in addition to the vibrant sounds of Brattleboro’s rush-hour, there is a railway line just visible – and audible – through the Art Deco entrance-way that runs along the nearby Connecticut River valley!

Yellow Submarine 2

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Yellow Submarine

Well, I’m about to hit the road for Tanglewood and environs so it’s been a little hectic of late, but I wanted to leave you with at least this second installment of my recording session from within that fantastic Yellow Submarine!

So this is the view from within the cramped cockpit, and here’s the classic tune: what else would possibly be more appropriate to play in a submersible of this particular, uh, Hue??

Aside from the obvious YouTube links to essential Beatles Material, there have acually been odd submarine-related news items recently…did you know that Radiohead recorded their most recent CD on a massive yacht, including doing some takes in a submarine that was housed mid-ships?

And then there is the ongoing saga of Canadian sovereignty in the North…where to begin…I can’t seem to pull up the National Post article just now, but apparently while the Russians have been planting their flag on the Arctic seabed, and the U.S. along with numerous Scandinavian counties vie for that mythical ‘barbershop’ North Pole (hey, Santa’s North Pole must be red and white for a reason!?), our northern frontier is apparently being patrolled by Canadian Navy-issue yellow submarines!! I kid you not.

I wouldn’t joke about a thing like this; however unfortunately, if indeed this is true, it seems just perfect somehow.

In a Yellow Submarine

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Yesterday, Beatles

In contrast to the sound of kids playing in the previous post, we now dive deep into another acoustic space! If you have ever driven south on Hurontario Street out in Mississauga you likely will have noticed this distinctive yellow submarine parked in front of Mississauga Diving Services just north of the Lakeshore. How could I resist enquiring as to whether it would be cool with staff to record in this unique acoustic space?

A typically early for a student out at the Mississauga campus of the RCM, I inputted the number of the dive shop as I drove past and called them on a whim. The employee pictured here said that he would need to check with his boss and would get back to me. “Right”, I thought, “This is going nowhere.”

But lo and behold, the phone vibrated minutes later with an open invitation to record in the submarine assuming I could get there within the next hour or two, since they were actually about to change the lock on the hatch…if I had of phoned even one day later I would have been shyte out of luck by the sounds of it. It just goes to show you, you never know when you will be given a green light for something totally wacky!

If there ever was a time when I wished I played more by ear this was it! So the pressure was on to locate a Lennon/McCartney anthology with, well, one specific tune: Yellow Submarine. Thankfully there are a several guitar shops on the Lakeshore strip across the street from Revolution Audio, and within 15 minutes I had procured my very own Beatles anthology!

After I had introduced myself in person and squeezed through the small hatch into the enclosed cockpit, I realized that my problems didn’t end there: the batteries on my recorder were low, hence the abrupt ending to my singular performance of Yesterday, the Beatles’ bittersweet melody! I love how the swoosh of passing traffic adds harmonic ambiance to the sound of my flute-playing.

Note: Some of you might recognize my fire-red Brodie by now, leaning up against the hull of this submersible!

Ustad Isa in Philosopher’s Walk

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Paul Horn, Ustad Isa

An incredible soundscape presented itself yesterday in Philosopher’s Walk as I headed across the footbridge to the University of Toronto’s music library to snag a copy of Paul Horn’s Inside compendium, a selection from which is currently being considered for inclusion in the new RCM Flute Syllabus and compilation series.

There is something eternal about the sound of children playing. The wind was an issue as I recorded, so, tucking my handy Edirol in behind the sheltered lee of my satchel, I decided to overlay the sound of my flute with the delightful cacophony of children from the ROMkids Summer Club at play on a lunch break.

Having recorded several renditions of Paul Horn’s Agra and realizing that I had the whole collection on hand, what better opportunity to try out another piece from the Paul Horn’s seminal Taj Mahal collection?

Ustad Isa is reputed to be the architect of the famed Taj Mahal, and the piece as it sounds here strikes the perfect balance of improvisational free play and profound, reverent reflection, made that much more poignant with the background soundscape. ..instead of a glorious 28-second reverb, children at play is the acoustic framework and setting here.

This is my first read-through of the quasi-improvisational composition, transcribed from Paul Horn’s original improvisations inside that incredible and historic architectural, domed space. Although recorded somewhat on the ‘hot’ side – as you may detect toward the end of the recording – the sound of the children stays true and clear throughout!

At the risk of copyright violation, I have scanned in a copy of the music for you to follow along, or perhaps enjoy playing if you are a flute player! Ideally a very echo-y location is sought out for the piece to be fully realized as it was recorded originally by Paul Horn in the Taj Mahal.


My thanks to Paul Horn for his original inspiration, as well as his ongoing support and enthusiasm for my Urban Flute Project, and to Edward B. Marks Music based out of New York as they consider granting permission for the use of Agra so that this incredible music can be introduced to a younger generation of flute players.

Thanks also to Brian and the staff at the U of T music library for having this music available – as it is currently out of print – and for pulling it off the shelf for me!

And of course I would like to express my gratitude to the children who are eternally at play around the world!

Swimming in Acoustics

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Telemann Fantasia

Last weekend I brodied out to Park Lawn and Lakeshore to offer a friend some swimming instruction at his condo pool. We would have met at one of city outdoor pools if it weren’t for the current city-wide strike. Everyone’s calling it a garbage strike, but the reality is that youth and family programmes have also been suspended indefinitely, causing widespread inconvenience and disruption…it seems criminal, for example, that in July city pools sit drained and forlornly empty, teenager lifeguards thrown out of work. Don’t get me started!

I decided to tote along my flute and recording gear in case I wanted to check out more pool acoustics, and I’m so glad that I did. The contrapuntal style of Telemann’s 12 Fantasias – a staple of the flute repertoire – are wonderfully suited for the lively acoustic that a pool space has to offer.

My friend, Jerry, is in training for an Iron Man competition out in Penticton, B.C. later in August, and I enjoyed translating my flute-teaching skills into a swim session where I helped him refine his stroke technique and discuss strategies for his upcoming open water swim. His three hour tour* of a glacial-fed lake will be just the first segment of his swim/bike/run that will feature cycling over two mountain passes and conclude with the equivalent of a full marathon. All for a good cause, and better him than me I’d say!

Having had the pool to ourselves we were just wrapping up and I was ready to sound the acoustics when a father along with his young son arrived on the scene…with this fantastic motorized boat. Like the last time I recorded in a swimming pool, I loved how the sounds of the water splashing in the background mingled with the sound of my flute-playing.

Speaking of British Columbia, in today’s National Post there was an incredible story about a young boy from Calgary who rode his toy truck into the Peace River and floated away! And Jerry, great work, and I know you can do it – looking forward to our next session!

*How can I resist a reference to the iconic Gilligan’s Island…anyone out there remember black and white TV?