Welcome To The Creative Act

A pro-musician making sense of the creative process within the context of his life experience.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Story of 'Where The Water Cuts Through'

'Where The Water Cuts Through' is one of my all time favorite songs. It is named after the Pueblo of San Ildefonso where my Patrilineal line is from. Po-woh-ge-oweenge is the Tewa name of the village which means 'Where The Water Cuts Through'. This is because the Rio Grande cuts through the Pueblo lands so the name is very descriptive and beautiful.

In this song, the guitar represents the water cutting through the Pueblo. The flute represents two birds calling to one another. These birds further represent the two peoples that make up the Pueblo. These birds symbolize the Winter People and the Summer People who constitute the Pueblo. Eventually the two birds, the two people, are united in spirit and purpose through the course of the song.

Although it took a while to refine and rehearse it, this song came to me in the course of one afternoon. The guitar part came first. I was hoping to capture the spirit of the river, the water, cutting it's way through the Pueblo. This is why harp like chordal structures are evident in the composition which I believe mimic the action of the water. It also serves as a foundation for the flute to find its place.

The flute part came next and was actually the easiest part. I was seeking to mimic the sounds of two different birds calling to one another. I was really trying to capture the essence of both Peoples. After a few frustrating attempts, I just let the flute do its work naturally in trying to find its place in the guitar arrangement. At that point, a melody broke free that actually left me a little shaken with its beauty and simplicity.

This concert performance was held in front of over 200 people. I prepared this concert program very carefully so that I had great confidence in my technique which resulted in nerves not being an issue. The song just played itself which allowed me to inject the necessary emotional treatment. Diligent practice cannot be overstated when playing this kind of song! I used an AKG C419 wind instrument microphone through a Fender PassPort 250 PA. At that time, I was using a Sony MZ-1 MiniDisc player/recorder for my backing guitar performance tracks. For effects processing, I used a Boss RV-3 pedal for Delay/Reverb. The 5 hole flute is made by my friend, Larry Spieler, and is in the key of A. It's one of my favorite flutes and is clear and bright and has lots of volume so it doesn't get lost in the guitar mix. It's made of Grenadillo which is a very hard wood and is responsible for the flute's brilliance. Most of my guitar/flute duets are in the key of Am or Em which lie really well on the fretboard.

Guitar/Flute duets are very effective because the instruments complement one another very well. The rapid decay of the plucked notes on the guitar against the long, sustained notes of the flute seems to have a very pleasing effect on the ear. The challenge is in letting the flute find its place in the arrangement. My experience has shown me that forcing the issue results in frustration. Letting the flute fly like a bird is what its all about with this kind of song!