Joël Grare, percussionist and tireless seeker after offbeat sounds and instruments, here presents his third album for Alpha: ‘Footprints beneath the snow: first sounds of innocence, cowbells and jingle-bells, sounds swallowed up by the mountain’… Through his compositions and inspirational influences (Debussy, Bartók) he follows a dizzying emotional Alpine path, along with his amazing instruments: drums, balafon, melodica, sanza, cowbells of all sizes, Japanese drums, trompiki, rainstick, thunder sheet – and his famous ‘clavicloche’: One early afternoon in January 1986 I visited the Devouassoud workshop in Chamonix, manufacturer of the jingle bells and tongued cowbells that adorn the animals’ necks, filling the mountainside with their chimes…
I added these new treasures to my percussion set, not realizing that these newbies arranged among my cymbals would eventually become an instrument in their own right… Totally unlike church bells, whose pitches are pre-calculated when casting them, the pitch of cowbells is only approximate. The low-pitched bells are called “dull”, and the high-pitched ones “bright” – you need only a few cowbell notes to identify a particular herd. When trying to assemble a full tuned set, you might test several hundred cowbells and pick out just a few…  To collect a chromatic set of three-and-a-half octaves took me a good twenty years!’ (Joël Grare)