In this audio example, I am improvising based on the newly found tuning system and buzzer combination. As the recording progresses, small changes and new ideas begin to emerge, which later become the core elements of the piece.
The process continued by transferring this idea to the Finnish Saarijärvi kantele by laying a buzzer and other materials across the strings.
Roots of the Baobab Tree. Studio Recording, 18 December 2018. Recorded and mixed by Mikko H. Haapoja
Rehearsal excerpts: trying the bass cycle with the prepared kantele for the first time. Recordings by Nathan Riki Thomson.
Reeds placed on the double bass strings and a metal buzzer attached to the bridge in the studio, 18 December 2018.
Concert 2: Resonance 2
Helsinki Music Center, 2 June 2017
Musical Case Study: Roots of the Baobab Tree
The starting point for this collaboration was based on my development of and experimentations with the bass bridge buzzer. The first idea for the bass buzzer was inspired by the traditional acoustic distortion techniques found on the Tanzanian Wagogo ilimba and Gambian bolon bata, which were instruments I had studied during my time in the respective countries, as discussed in chapter 6.0, Buzz, in the doctoral thesis. A prototype bridge mounted buzzer was developed in collaboration with instrument maker Juhana Nyrhinen (see photos).
The initial musical impulse for this piece arose from experimenting with the buzzer on the bass and an altered tuning system, with the strings of the double bass tuned to D‑A‑D‑F instead of the standard E‑A‑D‑G tuning. This tuning system was found partly by chance through experimenting with notes that triggered the resonance of the buzzer in different ways. After initially being inspired by the ways in which the buzzer responded to different notes, I found I was struggling to find a core musical idea to work with for this piece. Thinking once more about the Gambian bolon bata, a plucked bass lyre that produces four to five pitches, I wondered what would happen if I somehow altered the tuning of the open strings of the bass and restricted myself to using fewer notes. Tuning the bass in this way had the immediate effect of causing me to play in a different way and find unexpected combinations of notes, because the notes were no longer where I expected them to be. The repeating cycle that ”Roots of the Baobab Tree” is based on is a series of notes and rhythmic ideas that almost instantaneously arose from this process.
The following section is a musical case-study analysis of one of the pieces titled “Roots of the Baobab Tree”, created for the Resonance 2 concert. It is a duet for prepared double bass and prepared kantele. The piece was performed in the concert and later recorded for the album Resonance (Thomson, 2019). This page connects with chapter 8.2 Concert 2: Resonance 2 in the artistic doctoral thesis