An Interview with Conni St.Pierre
About the making of the Legends Trilogy
How did the music for this collection come about?
I started composing the music for the first cd in the trilogy when we were caring for elderly relatives
who had Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. They came to live with us, and it was a new experience for
me. I needed a safe, tranquil space to recharge. I feel like I created it for myself with this music. Since
its release, people have told me they listen to it while they're involved in creative activities like writing,
painting, reading, sculpting. But also that they listen to it to deal with the grief over the death of a
loved one, in the rooms of hospice patients, in physical therapy, healing massage, yoga, meditation.
I love that. This is why the music was created. You can pay attention, if you like, and it's nice to listen.
But if your attention is focused on something else, the music will not intrude. It stays in the background
until you decide to pay attention to it.
How did the concept of the three legends arise?
I've always been interested in ancient myth and legend. I studied comparative religions, Latin,
etymology, even hieroglyphics and ancient history. I love the characters, setting, and the 'storytelling'
of it. These cds were a way of re-telling these stories - which are often very nebulous or re-told in
dozens of forms and languages - in the language of music. The three legends are of the lost cities of
Is in Brittany and Lyonesse in Cornwall that were inundated by tidal waves; a wild forest, that is more
of a poetic fairy tale than a legend, really; and the Pleiades constellation and Halcyon days of the
Solstice. That's a myth, not a legend. But who knows? The lines blur in antiquity as you travel back
And the cover art?
I did the art and graphics. I like to do collage and digital collage. I designed these years apart from my
photos of nature and wildlife, as the 3 cds were finished. They're real photos, but presented in a
surrealistic form. Visually mythologized, in a way. They each have an animal on the cover, a white
admiral butterfly over waves, a deer leaping from the misty woods, and a futuristic dragonfly flying
into the northern lights.
What ties the 3 cds together conceptually?
Besides being based on legends, it's a cycle of legends like a story cycle: water, earth, sky. But the
concept wasn't fully complete until the last cd was finished. What I mean by that is when I started
working on the music for the first cd I couldn't see what the end result would be. I could only see
where I was at the time. It grew in the process. As each song was completed, the concept grew.
When I finished the first cd, the idea for the second one was already developing. I had some songs,
and the "wild" legend. I knew I was working on a series.
I felt the first cd alone was too short, even though it's about 45 minutes. People told me that, too.
They said they had to hit repeat on their cd players and play it over and over. But the lovely part is
that you can play it repeatedly and you don't get sick of it. It doesn't demand your attention. I wanted
more of this music, too.
Anyway, by the beginning of the third cd the music was more developed, because, face it, it had been
about 5 years since I started this. It was more spatial, for one thing, which was the next logical element
in the cycle. Ocean, land, stars.
What was your intent when you created this music?
To create a series that you could put in your disc changer, hit random and repeat, and let it play while
you do something else. Maybe paint, or write that novel you've been planning, or just have it on in the
background while you work, or read. People tell me they play it all the time in their office, or store. It's
not annoying. The phrase I invented was "Achieve Innocuousity." Don't look it up. It's not in the
dictionary. Call it poetic license.
What instruments did you play?
The basis for most of the songs was a Kurzweil Pro 76 and midi system. I originally used Cakewalk
software, and then Pro Tools with a Mac. That was sometimes for a bed track to play alto flute or
I learned to play the Japanese shakuhachi after becoming obsessed with a recording by Kohachiro
Miyata, a shakuhachi master. It's an ancient Zen meditation flute from the time of the samurai (speaking
of ancient legends....). It's made from the root end of bamboo, either black or yellow usually, and is an
end-blown flute, with 5 finger holes. It's literally one of the most expressive instruments ever conceived.
I'm still exploring and learning the range of it after 8 years. I'm in love with it. It forces me to breathe in a
certain way - which is very centering.
I played shakuhachis made by Perry Yung, a master player and maker from New York. I have a bass
shakuhachi he made which is about the size of a small tree! It takes awhile to warm that one up. I also
played a very sweet little yellow bamboo flute he made that has a very 'reedy' sound.
My primary instrument is alto flute. But I find myself using a lot of the techniques I've learned from
shakuhachi when I play it. It's easier for me because I've played it for so long - since I was about 12,
actually. I improvise solos over the keyboard tracks, or often have composed melodies and harmonies
to go with the keyboard melodies. Sometimes the keyboard is just ambience and the flute tells the story
On a couple of songs I used a black jade Chinese dizi. A stone flute is really a trip, when you're used
to the response of wood! I also play Native American Flute, although I found it to be a somewhat
limiting instrument until I played Al Solbjor's flutes. He made wooden piccolos for Haynes Flute for
many years, and now makes incredible Native American and drone flutes.
What is a drone flute?
I played one on two tracks of the last cd. It's a 'double barrel' flute - one side plays the melody, and
the other can drone a note or octave while the melody plays over it. It's got the feel of a bagpipe or
organ when you hear it, but the distinctive sound of a Native American flute. I had never seen one
before I met Al. It's not a Native American traditional flute by any means.
Most people wouldn't realize some of these songs were recorded live, or even outdoors!
One of the songs was recorded in front of a live audience in the studio; The Outlook studio is set up
so you can record practically anywhere -- or even invite an audience. Several of the songs were
tracked at a remote cabin 'off-grid' on the side of a mountain in the woods of Maine. On some tracks
we had birds singing along. It was fantastic, but the wood thrush definitely had better licks than me!
Some tracks we recorded outside in the forest. It's real magic to be playing with the birds in their own
environment. Technology is wonderful.
Once the cd was done we took it up into the woods, back to where it was recorded, a year later. We
played the track "Daughter of the Winds" back for the wood thrushes who sang on it. They were
singing along with it in harmony! We may record that. I told them they were famous.