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.

Two Geese

Photo taken in Banff.

Photo taken in Banff.

This music is beautiful. Tony Lewis has done a superb job mixing this piece and breathing life into the tangled spaghetti I had made creating and recording the recorder parts. He also created and played the perfect and intricate percussion parts that are as much a part of this composition as my original work on recorders.

Sit down quietly with some great speakers and enjoy. I have been.

I have no words able to express how grateful I am to have this time to be working on creative projects again and with such amazing people like Tony, who has given so much time, energy and knowledge to this small piece.

Music by Racheal Cogan and Tony Lewis. Mixing by Tony Lewis, David Hackett, and Dane Charles; MMCCS Studio 1, Macquarie University. Instruments: Tony Lewis - tombak, bass drum, tambourine, handclaps, cymbal and finger cymbal. Racheal Cogan - Paetzold Contra Bass recorder, Bass recorder (Kung), Tenor recorder Takeyama), treble recorder (Michael Grinter), Ganassi in C (Michael Grinter).


Two Geese began in my tiny, but quiet living space with a stunning mountain vista. The snow was beginning to melt and I had no idea that my quiet-ish haven was about to be suddenly transformed by an impressive gaggle of geese returning to their summer quarters. They settled directly outside my window (for months): feasting on the fresh shoots of grass in the newly exposed earth, fluffy goslings in tow and generally making a louder noise than I ever thought possible. Recording was a frustrating exercise - but somehow I found quieter moments and they became the foundation for this short piece. It was named for a couple flying on an unexpectedly quiet day that I managed to do most of the recording in. It was lovely to see them, but I was also afraid that they just might have been the harbinger of the entire skein of geese returning to their home, and that my recording time was about to be cut once again by their raucous honking.