Under the stars
& Under the stars, too!
CDBaby link - Under the Stars
Album Liner Notes
Virtually every culture on earth tells legends inspired by the moon, stars and planets. Many surmised, as we now know to be true, that our planet and everything on it, was at one time in the heart of a star. This album of solo Native American flute improvisations was created for everyone who has ever gazed into the night sky, and dreamed …
Recorded live on location inside the 100-inch telescope dome at the historic Mount Wilson Observatory, Pasadena, California on November 2, 2014. Special thanks to the Mount Wilson Observatory and the Art Institute of California – Inland Empire. This project would not have been possible without their generous support.
The album is dedicated to my husband Nik, who encouraged me to play my Native American flute by the campfire while he was viewing the night sky with his telescope. He always said that my music sounded best under the stars ...
Hugs and kisses to MWO’s Tom Meneghini, Ken Evans and Nik Arkimovich for managing the logistics and for their invaluable assistance during the recording session.
Undying gratitude to the on-location recording crew from Art Institute - you guys rock!
Producer: Philip Mantione
Lead Recording & Mix Engineer: Ian Vargo
Assistant Audio Engineers: Alex Cho and Brad Delorenzo
Mastering: Wayne Peet at Newzone Studio, Los Angeles
Album cover photos: Jasper Johal ©mmxv jasperphoto.com
All tracks recorded live on location, with no added studio effects. All music composed by Joanne Lazzaro, except track # 10 Amazing Grace, and track # 11 Zuni Sunrise, which are improvised arrangements of traditional songs.
For this project, I decided that the musical themes for the improvisations would be based on or inspired by the night sky, in particular on the star legends of various Native North American tribes. I’ve included the European/classical Greek constellations for reference, where there is a counterpart. The album’s story begins at twilight, with the appearance of the evening star, and ends at sunrise, with the singing of birds.
1) Evening Star Song (Venus)
This is the first song I created, on my very first Native American flute. On camping trips, I would take out this flute in the early evening, just before sunset, and play for the setting sun. According to the star lore of the Karok of northern California, an evening star song is sung to recall a lover or loved one who has gone away. Flute made by Larry Spieler (Chris Ti Coom) 5- hole Lakota style in cherry, key of A minor. Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/evening-star-song
2) Sky Chief
This multi-season constellation is described by the Zuni and has no counterpart in Greek or European astronomy. The “Chief of the Night” is so large that only parts of the figure can been seen in any given season – he rules the entire sky. Flute made by Brent Haines (Woodsounds) 6- hole concert style in walnut, bass flute in C minor. Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/sky-chief
3) Medicine Wheel (historical relic)
A medicine wheel is a circular arrangement of rocks, shaped like a wheel with spokes - the one located in Big Horn, Wyoming is the most well-known. They were used to mark events such as the solstice and equinox, and to track the seasonal positions of stars. You’ll hear some dissonant effects as the dome reinforces the high Ds played against high Cs. Flute made by Marvin Yazzie 6- hole style in birch, key of high C minor. Hear it on Soundcloud:
4) Moon Dances with New Star (M1- Crab Nebula)
The supernova of 1054 AD, which later became the Crab Nebula, was visible as a daytime object for approximately three weeks. The event is believed to be represented in the petroglyphs of southwestern tribes found in New Mexico and Arizona, which show a moon and star with rays, unusually close together. I chose a dramatic, ceremonial style for this brief courtship between the moon and the new star. Flute made by Ed Hrebec (Spirit of the Woods) custom 6- hole concert tuned drone flute in claro walnut, key of G minor. Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/moon-dances-with-new-star
5) Giant Cactus-Gathering Hook (Big Dipper)
This easily–recognized constellation appears in the lore of the Seri and the Tohono O’odham tribes as the Giant Cactus-Gathering Hook. The flutter-tonging effect represents the cactus. Listen for a brief bump in the melody – a surprise reaction to backing into a cactus! Flute made by Brent Haines (Woodsounds) 6- hole concert style in Thai rosewood, key of F# minor. Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/giant-cactus-gathering-hook
6) Path of the Departed Souls (Milky Way)
Various tribes including the Shasta, Ojibway and Menominee, believe that the Milky Way represents a trail taken by the souls of those who have passed on. I chose a wandering, unsettled melody to describe the mysterious journey. Flute made by Brent Haines (Woodsounds) 6- hole concert style in Thai rosewood, key of F# minor. Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/path-of-the-departed-souls
7) Bear Who Wanted a Mango (Cygnus)
The bear plays an important role in the lore of many tribes, however this tune was inspired by a local Mount Wilson bear. The observatory galley had recently been broken into by a California brown bear who tore out an air conditioner and broke in through a window in order to snatch a ripening mango from the kitchen counter, leaving a wake of casual destruction. Flute made by Brent Haines (Woodsounds) 6- hole concert style in walnut, bass flute in C minor. When I first picked up this flute, I immediately heard a song about a bear.
Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/bear-who-wanted-a-mango
8) Rabbit Tracks (tail of Scorpius)
The appearance of rabbit tracks in the snow heralds the coming of spring. During the evening, I noticed the dome had a pronounced response to the pitch of D, so I made the melody sparse (hopping like a rabbit) in order to allow the dome acoustics to play a greater part. This song has the longest fade out, because the high Ds hung in the air longer than any other note. Flute made by Ed Hrebec (Spirit of the Woods) custom 6- hole concert tuned, in claro walnut, key of high D minor. Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/rabbit-tracks
9) Spirits of the Long-Eyes (Kitt Peak National Observatory)
I chose the unique scale of the Anasazi flute to represent the negotiations between the Tohono O’odham people and the team of astronomers appointed by the National Science Foundation who desired to build an observatory on the mountain called “Ioligam”. The eerie whistling in the background is the result of the natural sound of the flute, combined with the acoustical effects of the observatory dome. Prayer Rock (Anasazi-style) cedar flute made by Michael Graham Allen (Coyote Oldman), key of low A. Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/spirits-of-the-long-eyes
10) Amazing Grace – Trail of Tears
This hymn was sung by the Cherokee as they were forced to march from their ancestral lands to a reservation as a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The harshness of the march and cruel conditions led it to be called the Trail of Tears. I chose the double flute to represent opposing forces. I set the 2nd flute’s drone to the song’s tonic (B major) but moved my right hand down to the drone for the improvisation section, in order to create new harmonies by choosing alternative notes. You’ll also hear sum and difference frequencies, which make it sound like a choir of flutes is playing. Listening in headphones, you may also hear the distant barking of the observatory dog, G.W. Richey. Double flute made by Brent Haines (Woodsounds) 6- hole concert style in cedar, key of F# minor.
Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/amazing-grace-trail-of-tears
11) Zuni Sunrise – Extended Version (traditional Zuni song)
This traditional song, known by many tribes, is one of my favorite tunes. For this recording, I found that the unvarnished cedar performed exceptionally well under cold, damp conditions, resulting in a longer improvisation. Flute made by Michael Graham Allen (Coyote Oldman) 5- hole style in cedar, key of E minor.
Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/zuni-sunrise-extended-version
12) Lark Who Sang His Song to the Sun Every Morning
I chose a bird-like tune to represent both the Navajo constellation (which has no Greek or European counterpart) and the singing of birds at sunrise. This tune however, was inspired by a mockingbird who lived in a tree outside our bedroom window, and would sing enthusiastically to the streetlights each night starting around midnight. Flute made by Ed Hrebec (Spirit of the Woods) 6- hole concert tuned in claro walnut, key of A minor.
Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/lark-who-sang-his-song-to-the
For a custom relaxation playlist, you may wish to omit Moon Dances with New Star, Rabbit Tracks, and possibly Amazing Grace and/or Lark Who Sang His Song to the Sun Every Morning. Replace these tracks with Condor and Snake Not Real, from Under the Stars, Too!.
UNDER THE STARS, TOO!
CDBaby link - Under the Stars, Too!
When planning to record "Under The Stars", I committed to presenting a realistic and truthful live performance, with all of its beauty and flaws. While the most technically perfect tracks wound up on the original one-hour CD, I felt that the out-takes contained several of the best & most unique improvisations, and decided to release the rest of the November 2, 2014 Mount Wilson recording session as a digital EP.
Some of my very favorite tunes are included here, but with flaws, such as out -of-tune notes, wetting-out, or the need to remove a long break where I actually had to stop, shake out my flute and start over. Others are here due to changes in the pacing or storyline of the album. "Condor" was moved here due to time constraints - at nearly 8 minutes, it was the second longest tune I recorded, and I was running out of room on the original CD. From this album, Condor and Snake Not Real would be suitable tracks for a custom relaxation playlist.
I had a flute teacher who, after giving me a copy of his first solo CD to listen to, commented: "Sometimes it's the safest version, not the best version, that winds up on the CD". This is the "unsafe" part of a live performance - enjoy!
1) Eye of the Creator (North Star)
In the legends of the Eastern Pomo, the North Star is the eye of the creator Marumda, who now lives among the stars. The flute is a High Spirits “Condor” bass flute in domestic cedar, key of D minor. This was edited due to complete wetting-out in the middle of the tune - you can hear a sudden change of pitch where the two sections were edited back together. This tune can be heard on the High Spirits Flutes website, on their SoundCloud page, as the featured song for April 2015.
2) Condor (Mars)
The condor plays an important role in many southwestern tribes - in Chumash lore, the planet Mars is associated with reddish head of the condor, and Xolxol, a supernatural being. I chose a style that conveys the sense of a condor in flight, circling in the sky. Flute made by Michael Graham Allen (Coyote Oldman) 5- hole traditional style in red cedar, key of E minor. Originally planned for the main CD, this long track was moved due to timing.
Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/condor
3) Crane and Her Sons (Orion)
This tragic story of a woman fleeing a bad home situation, taking her two children with her, comes from the Yokut people of central California. I chose a drone to capture the two opposing characters – Crane and her husband. Normally, I would play a blues tune using only the lower octave of the drone, however the cold and high humidity caused the drone to constantly pop into the upper octave. Near the very end of the tune, you can hear the barking of the observatory dog (G.W. Richey), which I found suited the story perfectly. Drone flute made by High Spirits Flutes, 6- hole concert style in birch, key of high C minor. Planned for the main CD, this track was moved due to changes in the storyline and track order. Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/crane-and-her-sons
4) Like Beads on a String (Orion’s belt)
The easily-spotted three stars of Orion’s belt are viewed as a string of beads by the Hopi people. Signature series flute made by Odell Borg (High Spirits), 6-hole concert tuned in walnut, key of G minor. This is one of my favorite flutes to play in concerts, however I felt the half-holing needed to play the low A's wasn’t as clean as I would have liked, and I was also having some trouble with wetting out.
5) Snake Not Real (Serpens)
The snake is an important and dangerous spirit in the lore of the Pawnee people. In the creation story, there is a false snake (in the Serpent constellation) who precedes the Real Snake (located in Scorpius). Flute made by Erick Sampson (Erick the Flutemaker), 5- hole Kiowa Love Flute in domestic bamboo, key of F minor. This track was moved here mostly due to storyline reasons, and because it is musically similar to Path of the Departed Souls.
Hear it on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/user779060191/snake-not-real
6) They Who Dwell in Peace (Pleiades)
A warning tale by the Onondaga people tells of a group of children who have run away to play without eating– they become so light-headed from hunger that they float away into the night sky, where they become a group of seven stars. Flute made by Brent Haines (Woodsounds) 6- hole “Pueblo” style (tuned to A-432) in teak, key of B minor. Also a favorite flute, problems with moisture buildup started affecting the pitch dramatically off and on during the tune, plus there were some technical problems with the recording levels, so this track is included just to illustrate the “worst-case” scenario of the evening.
Stars of the First People – Native American Star Myths and Constellations, by Dorcas S. Miller (Pruett Publishing Company)
Realm of the Long Eyes – A Brief History of Kitt Peak Observatory by James E. Kloeppel (Univelt)
Burnham’s Celestial Handbook – An Observer’s Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System, by Robert Burnham, Jr. (Dover Publications)
Copyright 2015-2017 Joanne Lazzaro All rights reserved