After residency in France, I traveled to Switzerland to play a show at Café Kairo and visit my friend Beat-Man. I had an awesome time playing at Beat-Man’s record shop, Voodoo Rhythm Hardware Store which is located in the Old City of Bern, Switzerland.
Down the road from the Hardware Store, I was delighted to discover the Zytglogge, a 15th-century astronomical clock that displays the moon phases and ring of the zodiac. I spent my birthday in Bern so it seemed magical to be in the same space.
Also in the Old City is Bern Minster Cathedral, (German: Berner Münster), a Swiss Reformed cathedral built in the Gothic style. Construction started in 1421. Its tower was was completed in 1893, stands at 330 feet, and is the largest standing structure in the City. The space and sound was breathtaking.
On these recordings I saw myself cycle through fear and hesitation. There are a few times before I start singing where I audibly tell myself I cannot do it.
The cathedral in Bern, Switzerland. I almost didn’t go through with singing. There were a few dozen people within the space and the acoustics were cavernous. I struggled with my camera and moved 3 times before I had the guts to sing. Five notes into singing, a hush came over the crowd. A few minutes in, a group of kids sat in the pews to listen. I thought my camera was recording but it was not. The video for this song are the few photos I have. My favorite is the photo of the kids that sat around me. Their smiles and attention was moving. I am so happy I captured that moment. Towards the end of the video you’ll see a lady wearing purple. She asks me to stop singing at the end. I apologized and left. My sins were forgiven.
Thank you for watching. This is the final video from this series. Listen to the recordings on Bandcamp and wherever you prefer to stream.
Here are two more videos from the series in the Church of Saint-Germain de Charonne.
In Paris, a few blocks from where I was staying is the Church of Saint-Germain de Charonne. I entered an empty place and started singing. A priest or parishioner arrived and was setting up for a mass. I asked if it was okay to sing. He said something in French but I am naive to the language. Through tone and body language it seemed ok and friendly. I am not sure if I had permission but it seemed like I did. I hope that I conveyed gratitude to him. Singing in the church brought me much joy.
There is one more cathedral performance to share. Stay tuned. Listen to the recordings on Bandcamp and wherever you prefer to stream. Thanks for watching.
The Well, based out of Cincinnati, offers programs that combine aspects of mindfulness, arts, social-emotional learning, play, movement, and poetry into practices for regular use within schools, hospitals, and communities. The Well’s Mindful Music Moments program delivers music and mindfulness daily to schools across the country.
Each week, entire schools listen to a single piece of music, repeated for 5 days, with creative, mindful prompts preceding each day. The Field Recording/New Music Project, supported by a grant from the Ohio Arts Council, hired 4 musicians to record sounds in their area and create new music with the sounds during the 2021/22 school year.
I am delighted to work on a piece that shares calm with students. The sounds of Lake Erie and surrounding wildlife were the theme and inspiration to this composition.
Notes about the recording
Erie Serenade samples sounds from the Lake Erie region. For this project, I recorded environmental acoustics at five different locations. Wave sounds were sampled from Magee Marsh and Edgewater Beach. Bird, bug, and frog songs were recorded from Old Woman Creek, Rocky River Reservation, and Columbia Station Reservation.
What amphibians, animals, birds, and insect calls can you identify? I can hear blue jays, chickadees, cicadas, crickets, and woodpeckers.
The percussion is made entirely of environmental field recordings; the melody is voice. All the vocals are my own. The natural percussion was clipped to fit 79 bpm and designed to be supportive of slow, steady breathing. Once the background beat was composed I meditated on what tone would fit the emotions and intentions of the song and started recording vocals. I wanted the piece to be uplifting, repetitive, and hypnotic, yet enough variation for engagement. There are many layers to the song that can serve as cues to breathe deeply. Please follow the pulse that best serves your breathing practice.
This project increased awareness of manmade sounds. Recording the natural environment is challenging because human-created cacophonies dominate the soundscape: running engines, ringing phones, passing planes, power and yard tools are much louder than wildlife. Even traffic lights hum. This project made me curious to hear the sounds of old-growth forests of the past.
I was asked, “What else do you want students to know, hear or think about when they hear this music?”
I hope this song helps students meditate in the present moment.
Listen to the layers. Breathe with the music. Let worries melt away and envision a calming happy space. Feel at peace. Today is an exciting new day. May it bring joy. Thanks for sharing this moment together.