The Bass Mbira (AKA thumb piano) played by Michael Moses added just the right dimension to this piece. Played in counterpoint to my regular Mbira, the two provide a unique rhythmic and melodic structure for the Water Drums and bamboo flutes. The African and Indian bells also help to move the piece along rhythmically. The sound of the Kanjira fit perfectly with the Water Drums, adding a new dimension. I had great fun performing all of the above parts. I felt like I was really weaving a tapestry with an abstract story line.
I digitally recorded several rainstorms during the summer of 2002 in South Florida. Some were in Ft Lauderdale and some in Sanibel Island. I am a big fan of the water splashing pieces by the pygmies on the 'Baka and Beyond' CDs, so I thought a little splash groove would be nice for this project. My friend Ken Benjamin and I had a little jam session in my Jacuzzi one night and I took a couple of those pieces and used them for the rhythmic basis (that's us chuckling at the end of the piece). Adding the parts on the Clay Pot was also a lot of fun for me as I had wanted to use these grooves for quite some time. They are both rhythmic concepts (from South Indian Music) dealing with dividing 15 beats evenly and then picking up the extra 16th beat to complete four bars of 4/4. In Indian music they might be more likely to play the single "extra" beat first and then the next 15 beats would follow. The first half ('Rain Trance I') uses 5 groups of 3 beats plus the 16th or 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 1. The second half uses 3 groups of 5 plus the 16th or 5 + 5 + 5 +1. The fives are further divided into 2 (one and 1/4 plus 3/4ths) + 1 1/2 + 1 1/2. I actually divided the 2 into a little funky syncopated figure and then divided the 3 in half. A live frog, and some bamboo and metal wind chimes round out the soundscape.
I originally performed this piece in a 'Sacred Music' Yoga class that I played for at Yoga Connection. My wife Barbara teaches this class and people with a developed practice can come and follow the series of poses with minimal instruction, so for a while I was playing live music for them. They had a small water fountain in the studio and at the end of the class during deep relaxation I would use my digital looper to record a live sample of the water fountain and then periodically ring a large Indian Brass Bell. By slowly putting the bell over the microphone I could create a "feedback overtone" of a tenth (a major third plus an octave). I've tried other bells and none of them have the same overtone (I'm planning a piece for the next CD with a group of bells and these "feedback overtones"). The students and especially Barbara loved this piece so much that I had to record it. After working to get the sound right - this is the first time I have ever recorded feed back - we fine tuned the piece and now it regularly sends people to a special place. So simple but gratifying.
Read about the musicians and instrumentation of 'Rain Trance'.