Geri Bollinger

The Apple Tree

 Composition, Recorders, Piano, Mixing: Racheal CoganRecorders by Geri Bollinger - alto (F or G), tenor, bass, cbass, and contrabass.

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I wrote this piece for an instrument that Geri Bollinger made for me from the gorgeous, elderly apple tree in his photo above.

This tree brought a lot of happiness. It is hard to not be drawn into the red hammock to lie there daydreaming, listening to the birds, and imagining the ants crawling over your feet or the book you might be reading. The tree stood in a vacant lot behind Geri's house until the day that the owners of the land decided to build a house on it and the apple tree was cut down to make room. Now the wood from the tree has given voice to three G alto recorders (and a wooden spoon that I use for cooking).

All of my instruments come from different places, and the wood that made them has often travelled several times around the world before the instrument is in my hands; from heavy cold grenadilla and ebony, boxwood that yellows darkly over the years (and that on one recorder has warped into a beautiful crookedness), to lovely light maple, pear and apple. Often the first question a person asks me about my instruments is: "What wood is that?" Usually I know, but sometimes my head muddles into a frown and I have no idea. This beautiful G apple alto is the first time that I have heard a story of the tree that made it: photos and histories as it was still growing, how much joy it brought to the maker, how he was sad to lose it, how he later found the wood abandoned, aged it carefully, and then the story of the making.

 

In this composition I weave together a melody rising up from the apple alto that had been creeping slowly into my days, buoyed by a mosaic of repetitive motifs and large swathes where people aren't just playing together but overlapping different ideas and coming together often just in pairs with their own threads. The piano part is holding these otherwise disparate lines together and bringing rhythmic impetus and color; sometimes hinting at morning fog, or  rhythmically shivering as if reaching its limbs outwards. The contrabass plays a very simple role in the music - lots of held low notes because I just love how rich they are, and the use of an occasional octave pedal to bring in hints of some super low frequencies; because I am a bass-junkie. The cBass plays this role some of the time sharing with the contrabass, but it also brings its own stories - especially in the opening  where it joins the piano.


Because it also takes a village to make a piece of music, I couldn't have composed, recorded and scored The Apple Tree without all of the timely suggestions and advice from Geri, Susanna, and Andrew. Thank you so much for listening; and for your patience, time, and generosity. I couldn't have dreamed up a better support team, and the music is better because of you.

The Apple Tree is written for piano and five recorders:- alto (F or G), tenor, bass, cbass, and contrabass. For those who want to try playing it, the score will be published by Edition Tre Fontane in 2018. All of the recorders used in this recording were made by Geri.

 
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Le Septième Nuage

 by Racheal Cogan and Pasha Karami

Pasha Karami: udu and tombak.

Racheal Cogan: mixing and recorders (tenor, CBass, and Contrabass recorders by Geri Bollinger, ganassi recorder in G by Michael Grinter, pvc Futujara by Nadishana).

I started imagining the melody to this piece at the very end of our epic move from Calgary to Montréal. I had finally made it to Montréal and I just had a couple of instruments with me until we moved into our next 'home'. This project really began on the day I met percussionist Pasha Karami at a concert he performed at. It was great music, and afterwards I learned two things: Pasha was leaving for the Netherlands the next day after living in Montréal a few years, and he wanted to work on some projects with me.

I started making this melody and hearing tombak and udu as a part of it. As I continued working my way around the melodic ideas, we moved into our new place, and finally I could record what I had and I emailed the music file to Pasha in the Netherlands. When Pasha wrote back to me he was in Iran, but would be in Montréal for a few days - soon. So we decided to record his part at my apartment.  I had started a fairly intense full time French immersion course not long after arriving, and my time for music has been really constricted! I was lucky I was able to take some time out from the French  to spend a day with Pasha talking music, listening to music and recording the percussion parts.

Pasha played me some great recordings he had made with the Win-Bang Trio and three Lithuanian singers. I'd already been listening to his music on soundcloud and particularly liked this piece with Hang Drum, Tombak, and Udu:

Pasha also introduced me to the music of his teacher, Navid Afghah. Take a listen to this beauty:

The recorder part of Le Septième Nuage focuses on the scale and sounds of the tenor instrument when the bell (the very end of the instrument) is covered up by placing it on the leg, or a small piece of plastic/vinyl on a chair or the ground. This creates a very cool low note and a beautiful scale with awesome overtones and a covered, cloudy sound, rather than the bright sound we often expect from recorders. I also use some overblown recorder sounds (multiphonics) that sound like bells chiming when they are enhanced with a bit of reverb and  pulled back from the mix (Listen at 3:00 - 3:25). The big bass recorders are subtle in this piece and mainly come in for layering and to underline moments.

Mixing this piece was interesting. I'd be thinking I had a great balance between the recorders and percussion, and then I'd turn the general volume up and the volume of the recorders seemed to increase more than the percussion, it worked the other way when I turned the volume down. Also, the further away you move from the speakers the percussion gets softer, but the recorders carry really well. In my headphones everything surrounded me perfectly, but then I miss the lower frequencies from a sub woofer! It's always a big multidimensional puzzle, where the pieces aren't meant to fit together perfectly, and there are sections missing but you have know idea what they are, and then there are those seemingly random bits that really don't belong to the puzzle, but just add that something magical.

I really love Pasha's work on the percussion parts for this piece and I'm looking forward to continuing our collaboration together.

Thanks so much to Geri for your always insightful comments on the mixing and making me work harder; and for making recorders so amazing :)

Photo taken halfway between Calgary and Montréal.

Swirling Leaves is published!

 
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I am very happy to say that Edition Tre Fontane have just published the score to my music Swirling Leaves. It is for two tenor recorders, bass recorder, and contrabass recorder.

If you play the recorder with other people and have the great joy of having these lower instruments to play AND feel ready for a fun rhythmic challenge: this is the piece for you!

It is available on the Edition Tre Fontane website here.

My original blogpost about the music and Geri Bollinger's inspiring tenor recorders is here.

Push play to listen to my recording of it with Geri:

Swirling Leaves

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Swirling Leaves (Racheal Cogan 2015)

Geri Bollinger: Contrabass Recorder

Racheal Cogan: Tenor Recorders  and  Bass Recorder

Mixing: Racheal Cogan

All recorders made by Geri Bollinger

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The instrument all pulled apart - including optional mouthpiece.
The instrument all pulled apart - including optional mouthpiece.

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I wrote this piece to celebrate a tenor recorder that Geri Bollinger had very generously given to me. It is a beautiful instrument (you can see it in the pictures) with a unique headpiece. The headpiece is in two parts. When the parts are together, it can be played like a fairly traditional style recorder. When the top alone is used, with small adjustments of the mouth and face, you can have control of pitch, dynamics, and the timbre of the instrument. The timbral spectrum is awesome - all the way from a super breathy sound to the more pure tones of a typical recorder. When you listen to this piece you will be able to hear the breathy tones exploited in what I call the more Carnivale like sections in the music. For me, this quartet has the feel of walking through rustling autumn leaves in a broken down Carnival site whilst the wind noisily shakes out the trees.

Awesome Contrabass Recorder
Awesome Contrabass Recorder

Many thanks go to Geri for playing the Contrabass in this recording and for his invaluable advice and suggestions.

Swirling Leaves is written for two Tenor Recorders, Bass Recorder and Contrabass Recorder.

Geri's website is here:

www.geri-bollinger.ch