You know, I actually remember the day Madonna turned 40. It totally weirded me out.
How are you? If it wasn’t snowing where you are or were, what was it doing? I kind of hope it was raining, but only if I was there. I mean, just in case you hate the rain, I’d only be selfish if I was present instead of wishing it were raining where I wasn’t. I love the rain.
Tonight, at exactly 3 am, I present you with the second official improvisation of the 365.
Here’s how it was done:
The rules were:
- Whatever I played is what I played. I could not redo a track more than once. What you hear in this recording, every track, is its first take.
- I could not cut up any part of the track except for the beginning and end. Basically: no editing to the body of the track at all and volumes counted, too.
- I could not use volume as an editing tool, only in the sense that it balanced out the voices, not to cut out an “undesirable“.
Layout by track and performance:
1. Uke and Voice (humming)
2. Drone Cello #1 (middle voicing) – muted
3. Drone Cello #2 (middle voicing harmony) – muted
4. Drone Cello #3 (bass) – muted
6. Composed Music Box (Got this as a gift some years ago. Its AWESOME. It works by punching holes into a paper strip and then running it through the box. What I played was a composition I did a long time ago that I’ve tried using several times, but it never felt right. This addition of it was Kismet, really. I tried to use it only when the other bells weren’t moving. As you can imagine, the melody of the composition is totally different than the improvisation here, so when it sounds tonal and consonant it’s truly a weird and coincidental event in sound. I had to listen and carefully decide when to move and when to wait. It’s interesting practice for the ear, I think.)
7. Voice (Invented words and sounds): This was a little experimental. As I listened back to the track, trying to hear what else I could add, but also knowing I only had one chance to record it, I thought I might try singing in unison with the melody of the music box. I often think there is too much harmony in the world. (See Fleet Foxes. Holy crap.) I mean, I’m in a band that does a ton of harmony- don’t get me wrong. I love harmony (it’s in this song for heaven’s sake!). However, I just think we so often forget about octaves and unisons. What great intervals! (A good 365 example is A Thousand Thousands with Sam McCormally. When we were writing that song I requested specifically that there be octave/unison vocal parts, and I really think it adds a ton of depth and color to that piece.) In this case, I would hear the music box’s melody, then repeat it just after hearing it, using sounds/syllables to form helpful percussive markings so it would stick out from the humming. I then trimmed the beginning and the end and moved the whole track slightly to the left so it could “sing simultaneously” with the music box. A poor man’s edit, I’d say. This is a texture, so I put it really low in the mix.
8. Hands (There was something missing [and there might be still] so I tried rubbing my hands together really close to the mic to sound like a kind of subtle shaker. Good thing this is a short piece…)
I found that the “only once” rule made me nervous, and I didn’t take musical risks based solely on the fact that you would hear it and the crazy “mistakes” I might have made. This is my insecurity coming through. I probably lost out on some really interesting musical opportunities by thinking this way. Learning…
Something I wanted to say was that the texture of this whole piece was created mainly by me not even starting recording until 2 am. Everything I did had to be quiet and minimal. So, if you think about it, all of the voices used in this were all ones that had to be or could be very, very close to the mic and very still.
I’m not sure how I feel about this one as a whole, but whenever I do one like this I learn from it.
I hope you stay well. Jonathan and I are heading to Washington D.C. Saturday morning to visit some dear friends for the weekend. Hopefully this means collaborations for the 365 to which I would look forward very much.
May you stay safe, wherever you are sleeping tonight, as I am awake and will be sleeping soon, too.
Awake Like You (Improvisation No. 2)
I have been contacted by another 365 songwriter today! His name is Jonathan Mann. www.rockcookiebottom.com He is on day 405. (That number took me off guard for a split second- “What? I have to go over 400? Days in a year have changed? What?” He does videos of all of his songs: please leaf through his site, as is has quite a few surprises you might enjoy – and he seems very nice.