Today I have been getting my geek on.
The next song is to be constructed, collage and patchwork fashion, purely from vocals.
Dan is an analogue kind of man.
Acoustic would win over digital every time when it comes to the sound of something. Same with me. We had a discussion about it right at the beginning: where at all possible, it would be real instruments and real musicians…being paid real money for their work.
But we work with the technology of the digital age. Some discussions we have weigh the pros and cons… Sometimes, like today we start doing something gloriously low tech, only to discover we have wasted our time, because actually, we need the help of the digital to make the task feasible. For the totally vocal then… We needed to work to a backing track of something rhythmic and percussive. Much time was spent recording and looping, only to discover that nothing we layered over the top of it fitted, everything was very very slightly out of time. So, irritatingly, after having had the discussion about NOT using a click track, we used a click track…. Actually we used a drum loop, which once used, will be removed, but it has given us the framework upon which to build the rest more easily. Lesson learned!
So having given in to the technology… Actually, if you’ve seen the photos, it isn’t actually very analogue… It’s a bit of an Apple-fest on my studio desk… But in spirit, we are singing round the campfire, with a guitar with a rainbow strap.
One part of the process I hadn’t really given much consideration to, was the sequencing of the songs. We have just sent six completed songs to Debra Eck at the 3rd on 3rd Gallery in Jamestown, to be shown with six of the bras as part of a joint show with Jodi Hopper that Deb is curating.
I wanted to send a complete piece so that Debra could just press go and it would play, no faffing about… So of course more decisions had to be made.
We could of course have just plonked the songs randomly into a playlist and be done with it…. But actually, with a little (or a lot) more care and thought, this becomes a single piece of work.
I found myself ensnared in detail… How did one song end and another begin?
Some things were obvious… “Invisibility” had to be the opener as it has become a sort of theme tune to the show, and ” Numb” the closer as it has a bit of dirty laughter at the end, which would prove difficult to lead into another song. “Composure” ends with the sounds of birdcage walk and the bus station next to my studio, “Crewe” starts with a train, so those merge together. The first notes of “Numb” follow on well from “Crewe”, so they go together… I find myself engrossed by this painstaking process… Where to cut, where to cross-fade, where to have silence, and how much?
(Actually, silence is stark and horrible, spaces between songs are better when filled with the not-quite-white-noise provided by the street outside)
But it’s no different to the visual at all. The decisions are the same! It is, to me, a visual thing. These songs are pictures, paintings, snapshots, video, stories…. They are people too.
Where the joins are and how they are made is no different… Cut according to cloth. Be mindful of the accidental and incidental. The flaw in the cloth that I choose to embellish is no different at all to the accidentally captured yell of a bus driver, or the beep of the pelican crossing.
Some of the incidental details are a joy, really. Dan and I do understand that the majority of people won’t hear them, or notice them. We also realise that some people might just think they are “dirty” recordings. To me, these bits are as much the art as the writing of the songs. In these details are the context… The texture… The life…. The reality.
So, when/if you hear this, the squeal of bus brakes is there intentionally. As is the birdsong, as is me going “hmmm” and Dan’s whispered “fffuck!”