Friday, August 25, 2006

RECORDING: Process & Meaning

I'm in the early stage of writing a book about the creative process. In preparation for organizing my material and bringing the project into better focus I ordered a pile of used books through about creativity. I wanted to see what had already been written and how these other books were organized, so could be sure that my ideas will offer something new and different.

This reading has been good for me, both artistically and personally. After a long time way from the studio, I've started recording again. I don't have much to show for it yet, but I'm on my way.

The process of recording a song is much more than sitting down at the piano with a microphone and pressing the record button. Although I use this simple method, on a minidisc (MD) recorder, to capture ideas and develop songs in progress, much more is needed to produce a radio ready recording. Even more will be required if the finished recording is to reflect my vision of the sound I want for my music.

So first thing in the morning, I've spent 2-3 hours each on Wednesday and Thursday this week moving a few tiny steps closer to a recording I'm ready to release. After 6 hours of work, I've completed STEPS 1-4 below for a new song B and I wrote back in June called "So Little Time (Time at the Table)". I'm hoping I'll get faster at all this with more experience.

I start by working in MIDI using MOTU Performer on a Mac. Here's my process:

STEP 0 - Practice, arrange, and visualize in preparation for performance and recording.
STEP 1 - Make a rhythm track that works with the feel of the song. This is a temporary placeholder used to set tempo and provide a grid.
STEP 2 - (could have been STEP 1) Make a chord sheet for the song so I'm not working from memory, not chancing chord and structure mistakes while the record button in armed. This is also essential for communicating the song to others involved in the process.
STEP 3 - Record a rough piano part.
STEP 4 - Enter markers into the conductor track to show beginnings of intro, verses, chorus, bridge and outro.
STEP 5 - Record and quantize piano. Cut and paste together if necessary.
STEP 6 - Record bass track, pad or organ track, lead instrumental track.
STEP 7 - Hand it off to my recording partner. Record a rough vocal to use as a reference while he's detailing the arrangement. Work collaboratively until the results are on target.
STEP 8 - This depends on the nature of the project. Ultimately, for my next CD, many of the MIDI tracks will be replaced by acoustic instruments. This may involve sessions at various locations with hired musicians, then combining audio tracks back in our studio.
STEP 8 - Record final vocals.
STEP 9 - Mix and master completed song.
(Repeat STEPS 1-9 for each song)
STEP 10 - Master completed CD project.

Beyond this, I design my own artwork and graphics for the packaging, make duplication decisions, arrange for band rehearsals, handle distribution and booking, do publicity. I've put off recording because all of this takes time away from my first love - writing a new song.

The joy, for me, is in the process of writing of a song then bringing it live to an audience. Recording is an artform I am learning to love. I see it as a vehicle that carry songs from the intense, solitary environment where they were written out into the marketplace where they may catch the ear of someone passing by. To go through this, I have to believe there's something of value in what I'm doing, at least on some small scale.

Selling my art and recordings to raise money for hunger relief and social services through LUNCH is a part of creating meaning through my creative work. Just as important, for me, is the ideas of using art and music to create an awareness of our deep connectedness as human being.

Like my Sacred Shards pottery and the Gaia Luna garden, the songs I record are tangible manifestations of my solitary creative experience, things I can share with you.

When I create, I dive deep and bring back meaning from ancient dream places. Beauty in simplicity, values of family and the natural world, stories of ordinary lives lived in extraordinary ways, and mythic tales from the shadow world. I know the value this holds for me. Beyond that, I'm only guess.

So, I record. I make things. And I bring these things to the marketplace, where I'll chat with whoever stops by to look and listen.

©2006 Kay Pere - Effusive Muse Publishing

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