December 01, 2005

nature can be bright and shiny

Download: Nature...can be fabulous

This song is dedicated to my very good friend Susie. Though I don't tell her this directly as often as I should, her dedication and drive to positively impact environmental issues is inspirational to me. She knows what is important to her and through both the Earth Island Institute and the Conservation Law Foundation, she is daily making huge personal sacrifices to help make the world a better place. Basically, she kicks ass and I am honored to be her friend. I hope she likes this song! If we are lucky, she'll make a comment...

Now, the Q&A:

Did you almost record this song without any 'real' drums?
Yes. But then I realized this was silly. And now it is MUCH better.

Did that kid really say that you can sometimes be kind of good, but can sometimes s***?

No. But it's funny. I think.

What on earth are handbells?
They are tuned bronze bells mounted on leather handles and containing an internal 'clapper'. They have a slightly modified Liberty Bell shape, and range in size from an inch in diameter to six or seven for the lower notes. Check out the famous Schulmerich Handbells. I just learned that nice handbells have the ability to easily substitute clappers from soft felt to hard metal to get the appropriate sound. I also learned that they are super expensive!
Handbells always remind me of when I was a kid and I went to church with my family on Sundays. Every once in a while, they would have a more extensive music program to go with the service; these were the services I never minded attending.
The way I remember it, the chorus doubled as a handbell orchestra when performing certian pieces. There was something really amazing about a dozen singers standing at the front of this massive reverberating church hall ringing their handbells. Each singer would have one bell in each hand, so it took the full twelve people to have two octaves of bells. I would love to watch them play; there was this highly specialized technique they used, with an exagerrated arm motion and a little wrist kick at the end which seemed to somehow encourage the bells to reverberate even longer. The timing was never exact so most unisons came across as flams which gave the music a delightful imprecision. And because the full ensemble of bells was played by so many individuals, there was a distribution of the point sources of sound across the width of the chorus itself. I like the idea of each person only having control over two notes. Each player's part isn't all that interesting on it's own, but together they can be magic!
The bells are bright and shiny too.

Why did you use handbells in this song?

Because I recently was reminded of how beautiful they are.

Does this song contain the voice of a well-known public radio host?


Who might that be?
find out

Posted by halsey at December 1, 2005 03:54 PM

Wow. I am incredibly flattered and honored by your kind words and dedication of this song to me. In fact, I've been rendered speechless for nearly 3 weeks...

I love this song. It's at once interesting, compelling, beautiful and fun (all words that I would use to describe nature itself).

The bells are indeed fabulous. The incorporation of one weighty nature-documentary-narrator style voice is just perfect. The slow tempo and wistful strings at the outset suggest a melancholy and almost meditative appreciation for natural resources (forests, running water, etc.) that all merit protection -- for present and future generations. The diversity of voices, all articulating different perspectives on nature and poignant interactions with the natural world, suggest the widespread and diverse human connection to the natural environment. The quickening tempo at once evokes both some of the positive energy that drives me and my colleagues to work so hard to protect the natural environment, as well as the escalating pace of environmental decline (and concomitant frenetic response on the part of those who wish to stem or reverse this decline). I have no idea if any of these interpretations were in any way intended... but this, to me, is part of the beauty of music as a form of expression.

THANK YOU, Halsey, for continuing to make music that is both beautiful and important (in so many ways). Your extraordinary passion and drive for tirelessly exploring new boundaries are so incredibly inspiring to me. And your appreciation for the beauty and human benefits of nature (including some benefits that are extremely intangible, and perhaps best expressed through visual and aural arts rather than through words alone) is so critical as part of a broader human connection with the environment, a connection that is an essential foundation for widespread commitment to sustaining our wildernesses and other natural environments for the benefit of all.

In short: You rock!

With very deep appreciation,

Posted by: Susie at December 21, 2005 06:53 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?