“I let Venice, Italy seduce me. She gave up her magic in unexpected ways. Strolling through the Venetian Calle, as the summer light was starting to fade, we heard a mystical sound floating through the air that drew us closer. In a small square we saw Zu, a handsome thin-bearded Italian sitting with a Handpan in his lap, filling the air with beautiful music as the bustle of tourists shuffled by. Ronan and I got lost in the music. I knew we needed to write and record music together.” ~ Kathleen Blackwell
Producer Note from Ronan Chris Murphy:
Kathleen and I had started work on our 3rd project together in Los Angeles. Since we were both going to be in Europe on separate business, we decided to meet up in Venice, Italy for a week or so of writing. We also thought we might be able to add some of our musician friends in Europe to some of the songs we had in the works. Then we heard Zu…
When Kathleen and I heard Zu playing handpan as we walked through Campo Santa Fosca in Venice, it struck a chord with both of us and we desperately wanted him to be a part of the new album. The problem is that his handpan was tuned to A=432, which is a bit lower than most western pop-rock music, and would have essentially made him out of tune on any songs we added him to. It did not not feel realistic to have him play on any of the songs already in the works. I could have digitally manipulated the pitch, but we wanted the sound we heard that evening. We had to come up with a way to create something from scratch. That evening I headed back to our apartment and got to work. The plan was to create some beats and grooves at a set tempo and then record Zu improvising while he listened to the grooves in headphones. I would then take bits and pieces of his improvisations and build the basis for songs that we could build on later. We made sure everything else we added to the songs would be tuned to A=432
Taking a “capture the music in its natural habitat” approach, I wanted to record Zu as we had found him. We set up by a canal in the Cannaregio district and began to record. The passing boats and the curious children stopping by become part of the music in figurative and even literal ways.
Our experiments with Zu created results that were more beautiful than we could have imagined and this approach would become the foundation of several Project Electro pieces of music. The music had a way forward. The two pieces that came from this session with Zu, “Radiate” and “Mother’s Hope” would be the first of our international collaboration works. A week later, in Istanbul Turkey when we heard the great Saz player, Murat Ertel (BaBa ZuLa) improvise over the songs we had constructed, Kathleen and I knew we were on to something special. What had been conceived as Kathleen and I traveling for inspiration for “Kathleen’s music” had transformed. We knew then that we were starting to create something bigger than ourselves. This was no longer just Kathleen’s music, it was a global collaboration with Kathleen at the helm.
The track that would become “Mother’s Hope” was rounded out by the beautiful percussion work of Ümit Adakale in Istanbul and René Pérez López recorded at Teatro Macedonio Alcalá in Oaxaca City, Mexico, as well as the dark moody bass lines of Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel).
The song went through many incarnations of layers and lengths, but in the end Kathleen and I felt that the short and simple form of the song said everything it needed to say. The melody and the vibe of the music kept telling me this song was about maternal love. I felt this strongly, but knew that there is no way a man with no children could express it in words. I told Kathleen what I was thinking and she came back with beautiful, concise lyrics. Poignant, poetic and straight to the point.
We wrestled over several sessions to find the right delivery and phrasing for the vocals. How does one express a range of love, fear, and hope inside of a two minute song? One day in the studio Kathleen was sitting on the floor and said to me “I have it.” I moved a mic close to her and she delivered exactly what we had been searching for. During a later session in Strandarkirkja Church in Selvogur, Iceland we took another pass at the vocals for what is now “Mother’s Hope.” The main vocal in the final mix is from the church in Iceland.
LOCATIONS: Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Iceland, USA
Credited on Recording:
Kathleen Blackwell (lead vocals)
Ronan Chris Murphy (producer, recording, mixing & mastering engineer)
Andrea Gorgi Zuin ZuMusic Project (handpan – Venice)
Murat Ertel (cura – Istanbul)
Tony Levin (bass guitar)
René Pérez López (bass drum – Oaxaca)
Ümit Adakale (percussion – Istanbul)
Diego Lopez (recording engineer)
Ronan Chris Murphy
special thanks to
Jakob Þór Guðmundsson
Dóra Sigrún Hjálmarsdóttir