Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Lotus of Mt. Ararat - Armenian Duduk

Hello. Welcome to my little blog about the songs on our new CD, "Walking Eagle." Today is the second track, "The Lotus of Mt. Ararat."

Here is a link to the song, so you can listen to it while you read:

The duduk is an ancient instrument from Armenia, that is thought to be over 3,000 years old!

 It is a double-reeded instrument. Here is a close-up of the mouthpiece/reed.

I have always loved the duduk, since it has one of the most mournful sounds of any instrument. It is deep, earthy, and sad.

Even though I loved the duduk, It has a reputation for being an immensely difficult instrument, particularly in terms of the reeds. I finally broke down and had one made for me in Armenia about a year before we recorded. It was extremely difficult to play in tune. Finally, I ended up misplacing the reeds I had for it. In a panic, I ordered some reeds from, figuring they would be low-quality...I just couldn't wait for the two months it takes for the mail to arrive from Armenia. But surprisingly, the reeds were great, and with these reeds, I could play the instrument in tune very easily!

I wrote the chord progression for this piece only a day or two before we recorded it. The progression just sort of came to me while I was playing around on the piano. It took less than five minutes to develop, yet I believe it is one of the best progressions I have written.

So I had a great progression in F# minor, but not many instruments that play in F# minor. I could always go to the sax or flute, but was trying to emphasize the world instruments on this recording.

Then it came to me: The duduk is normally played in A, the tonic having all but two fingers down. But if you close all the holes, it plays F#, and the minor scale is fairly basic from that point.

When we recorded the album, Dick, the guitarist, spent two days recording the backing tracks, normally recorded as loops, and a third day recording solos. Between times recording the guitar tracks, I would play the melody tracks on the world instruments. Dugg came in at the end and added percussion.

I gave Dick this new piece to sight-read, and after a few times through, we recorded it. I knew the duduk part in my head, but never did write it down. I recorded it later in the afternoon. Dick then added one of the nicest solos he has ever played! Dugg pulled it altogether with the djembe. 

Of all the songs we have ever recorded, this is one of my favorites!

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