When The Sleeper Wakes

When The Sleeper Wakes

Music. lyrics, recording, mixing: Racheal Cogan.

Recorders, vocals, percussion: frame drum, bass drum, tom, whirly, cylinder shaker, sounds of shredding paper.

Lyrics

When the sleeper wakes with desire,
to reach both for the earth and the sky
(lullaby).

It breathes right through my body,
and yours, and yours, and yours,
It rips me awake.
It cannot be contained
(lullaby).

(When the sleeper wakes.)

My heart, it beats, slowly,
(lullaby)
leaving blood and pieces of life behind
(lullaby).

I walk by in a shimmering broken kind of grace
(lullaby).

I started this piece with the idea of a kind of dark, very adult lullaby juxtaposing the ideas of being awake in this world and being asleep to ourselves. I was mulling on the idea that it is our life force of desire and libido that awakens us, rips us awake really because these things don’t ever seem to arrive in my life at least, in a convenient manner.

In Buddhist teachings desire is considered to be that which creates suffering. Here I am exploring the idea that desire and libido/life force are often pushed together and spoken about as if inseparable. I like the concept that it is sometimes a certain fluidity in linking and separating the two that can be key to our awakening in a very contradictory and unexpected manner that can lead to letting go of a whole heap of crap and becoming present and connected. I love contradictions in general, so for me, this is a fun idea. By chance, as a reflection of opposition, some of the vocal lines sounded really cool reversed, so that got included. I also include that sense in the body of a tingling all the way through in those moments when I am feeling present and connected physically to myself. To me personally, this often feels like a source that is channeled through the breath and when one person feels it, they can in a sense, breathe it through to another - ‘yours and yours and yours’. Though this is definitely my bias as a wind player.


To complicate my thought process a little more I was also mulling on ideas of boundaries and creating safe spaces - containers to explore challenging concepts and actions. I had just been reading Janet W. Hardy’s autobiography : Impervious. This is a story of a remarkable woman who walks right into a whole tonne of societal taboos, steps all over them, and explodes that ‘safe’ container messily and right in our faces. So there is this push and pull between safety and exploring the edges of things that are difficult to us, and that might even be unnecessary - or sometimes very necessary, but exploring to find out and become awake to our conditioning: ‘it cannot be contained’… and I started pondering the idea that, for me, rather than wishing a person Happy Christmas or Happy Valentine’s day, that it was more meaningful to say to my loved ones : ’May the container always explode in your face’. But that is my dark humour seeping through into the way I dislike Christmas and Valentine’s day and yeah, so i’m the Grinch. Suck it up.


So for me, making this music was a meditation on opposition, being asleep, being awake, desire and letting go of that, and also how we are all both so broken and so graceful at once that sometimes we shimmer brightly as we all walk past each other in our life stories. The ‘walking by’ idea is a very personal refection of my experiences of living in so many cities and countries and always being the one to leave - ‘leaving blood and pieces of life behind’. So, these are the thoughts I was mulling on while making a small very basic piece of music, my dark lullaby. Sweet dreams and may the container always explode in your face!

Mallets, Bows and Recorders

I'm currently in a pretty big musical learning phase and most of the music I'm working on asks some pretty simple questions. Like: "What would it sound like if....?" and  "Whoa. That's a cool sound. Can I use it?" or  "I like this plug in - can I do this with it? - what happens if I automate that here? Yikes it's not a recorder anymore, but I can use that sound... right here."

I try to keep the creative process basic so that my neocortex has plenty of goodwill to deal with complex details and problems as they arise - and they always do, so I don't overthink the simple things. Here's the story (in point form) of how I kept this piece as close to the reptile brain as possible :

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  • "That's a nice looking marimba - I can probably play that."
  • "Next to the big marimba is a marimbaphone. I will play that too." So I pick up a bow and get some great shimmery notes. (Marimbaphones are tuned percussion that have slots in the metal tongs specifically designed for bowing.)
  • "That's a reco-reco. I can bow that too." The reco-reco is a percussion instrument; the one I used has coiled springs like overgrown bass strings on a piano. You can see it pictured on the right.
  •  
  • This is what it sounds like when you bow it and use a contact mic:
  • "Can I try bowing a couple of notes in tune on a double bass?"
  • "Now I want the sound of that hang drum over there, this kantele, and some of those kitsch looking cardboard wind chimes."

And as I went along I was constantly adding recorders and putting together the puzzle of binding everything together into a few minutes of music.

I kept my thinking simple to take away any unnecessary inhibitions or fears and let it be fun. There are always opportunities to be afraid or anxious, so I just bring them to the party and show them a good time. I really can't play the double bass, but it feels great to embrace such a big resonant soundboard and really feel those notes. Fear agreed that it was pretty cool too and was happy to be hanging out at this particular party: so there's a couple of notes buried in there that do add to the overall sound.

Having lessons or joining a group to learn a new instrument is something I'm always doing when I can: Right now I'm on the look out for a local percussion group I can join so I can develop that side. And, I'd be the first in line to join a Portsmouth Sinfonia (Gavin Bryars founded them, Brian Eno played clarinet with them, and Michael Nyman got to play cello and euphonium) or The Really Terrible Orchestra. I'd be there at all rehearsals and make my way through every. single. instrument. The Really Terrible Orchestra actually tour, unbelievable! Being asked to be a guest performer on any instrument I can't play would be one of those rainbow lifetime cool moments and I'd probably be righteously blocked by most of my facebook friends for over-sharing the glory along with too many truly horrible sound bytes. Letting go of ideas of what it means to be a good musician, or in the case of these orchestras, being asked to move on when you start getting too good on a particular instrument is liberating.

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A big thank you to Brian D'Oliveira for bringing me into your world and sharing so much. You have reminded me to play lots of instruments (as well as recorders) and the future hurdy-gurdy/bag-pipe player and taiko drummer in me bows deeply to you.

Water

Water

In July 2017 I began working with La Hacienda Creative. It's a beautiful studio with a great team of people, lots of awesome gear and an incredible collection of instruments. As I learned my way around their work process I began creating different pieces of music to help me learn my own way around a totally new and complex set-up that often changed daily.

This was one of the early pieces I started work on. I was learning a different DAW (Cubase) and finding that every time I came in to work by myself there was a puzzle to solve - something had changed, moved, or just wasn't there any more and I had to find my own way to work around it. But I like trouble shooting, and I wasn't in a hurry, so it was kind of relaxing. and of course immensely satisfying each time a piece of the puzzle clicked into place.

Teardrop

 This is a cover of Massive Attack's Teardrop from 1998. It was released in their third album, Mezzanine.

Recorders, Sounds, Vocals, Mixing and production: Racheal Cogan

Recorders made and designed by Geri Bollinger: Contrabass, CBass. Bass, Tenor.

 

The artwork is by my dear friend Carolyn Walton in Banff. Banff is a small town within a National Park nestled in Alberta's Rocky Mountains along the Trans-Canada Highway.  Magpies and crows are some of the few birds that stay throughout the winter of its subarctic climate and, whilst the bears slumber, their presence is an important part of this magical place along with the elk, wolves, enigmatic cougars, and the rare lynx. This lovely miniature work was created thinking of these birds and the many stories associated with them told by the First Nations peoples.

 

The Music

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I wanted to utilise the raw sounds of my instruments and objects around me. So I worked on percussion ideas with slapping sounds on my larger instruments. One day I was mulling over some extra sounds the percussion needed whilst absent mind-idly tapping on the cardboard packet of some disposable razors. As I was thinking I started listening and thought that this was exactly the sound I was after. I also use a harpsichord sound in a couple of places to link back to the soundscape of the original piece.

One day, whilst prepping for dinner, I took a small break and fell into a light dreaming whilst my partner finished up cooking. As I slowly woke I could hear Massive Attack's Teardrop bubbling on the surface of my consciousness and in those suspended moments of waking I attentively fixed my focus to the sounds. It was a magical moment for some beautiful music. I decided to make a cover version; 1998 is more contemporary than my 'cover' of a composition by Hildegard von Bingen almost 1,000 years ago.