Krokodiltårar (Crocodile Tears) is a tune composed by Mats Edén, featured on the Groupa CD Månskratt.
This is one of the first tunes we arranged with the group. We learned the tune from fiddler Mats Edén in one of our ensemble lessons in Stockholm, during the first semester of NoFo. The bass-riff which is being played by the bass clarinet and the accordeon is featured on the original recording with Groupa too. Somehow I got the idea to contrast it with something a bit messy and annoying in the treble register so I invented the pentatonic loops that are featured in the ‘epilogue’. Originally it was only intended to be some sort of interlude, but in the end it became more or less a part of its own.
To create the ostinato I used pentatonic material, which is an easy way to make sure that there will be no clashes, whichever notes get played at the same time. I also used the idea of overlaying different rhythms to create an effect of multitude and a bit of chaos. Both these methods I actually learned from Mats while I was studying at the Music Academy in Malmö.
As soon as we started playing it to an audience, and made a recording available on the Internet, people started making references to Steve Reich (and esp. his Music for 18 Musicians) which is a bit funny since none of us in the band had listened to any of his music. For me, the inspiration came from the English group Spiro and their tune The White Heart, which I had heard on a compilation of contemporary English folk music. However this constant comments about Steve Reich made me check out his music, and I did find it quite inspiring.
Here are two versions of the solo, one recorded spring 2012, while we were studying in Odense, and one recorded in february 2013, after the semester in Helsinki. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a version of the later solo without the effects, but in a way that doesn’t matter: the effects only enhance the overall idea of the solo.
I would say that the difference between the two solos is quite big. The Odense version is very concerned about playing notes that fit,trying to play in tune and not really taking any risks. The CD version is a lot more powerful, risk taking and concentrated. There are a lot of the same ideas and patterns present in both the versions, but they are performed in quite different ways.
For me, this is a clear result of the development that happened during the semester in Helsinki and more concretely, an effect of the playing.
Bonus: the Stories
This is probably one of the tunes we have played the most live and there has developed two quite different stories about it. One is the ‘real’ story of how and why the tune was composed: Mats Edén used to have a fiddle called Krokodilen (the Crocodile) (since it had so many ‘teeth’ i.e. tuning pegs. Mats was a pioneer in Sweden using fiddles with sympathetic strings) and it got run over by a train. Luckily Mats also plays the melodeon so he could compose this tune as a lament for the lost fiddle.
The other story began developing when we were doing a set of concerts for children and needed some funny stories to tell them. The original joke goes:
– Why should you not be in the jungle between 2 and 3 in the afternoon?
– Because then the elephants are practicing parachuting.
– So, do you know why the crocodiles are so flat?
– Because they were in the jungle between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.
The kids thought it quite funny (even if they always protested against the idea of parachuting elephants) and somehow we began to tell the story in our other concerts as well, and gradually it has evolved into a real fable where Benjamin tells about how the crocodiles used to be in the shape of a pig (there are even fossils found in Denmark) but then unfortunately they began hanging out in the Danish jungle in the afternoons…