Waiting and listening

It’s a funny old thing, recording music.

It’s one of my busy, can’t-practice days, and I’m curled up on an air mattress in my friend’s attic while there is a collective push toward getting ready to record some of his songs. I’m enjoying some real peace here amongst the bustle! There are people running up and down the stairs doing things to cables, lights, and in every room someone is doing something creative. I’ve gotten my notes in order for my contribution to the music – I am terrible with song titles, can never remember which ones are violin and which viola, and I have shabbily written sketches of what I’m playing where that probably could not be interpreted by anyone but me. Ha! Secret code! The reality is that I’m too lazy to write down time stuff, so I just throw down the pitches and when I hear each song I remember the timings.

So, in between actually being needed to play on my violin or viola, I’m using this “quiet” time to tie up the odd loose end here on my computer. Despite the snatches of talking and music I’m hearing, I’m finishing knocking one of my own tunes into shape for Yurodny; this one grew out of an improvised intro I’ve played for one of our tunes a few times, so I’m throwing thematic material into Sibelius, tweaking it a bit, and making snap decisions on the form, which can always be changed later.

Anyway, here, today, we are recording acoustically, which is to say, doing live performances of the songs in the space, and recording them without separation. Often if a band go into a studio, each musician will be behind screens which shield the microphones from picking each others’ sounds up, so that afterwards you can edit stuff easily – and so that if one person fluffs something, someone else’s beautiful performance doesn’t necessarily have to be scrapped. Indeed, nowadays a lot of stuff you hear on a record has been layered separately, one musician at a time listening to a click track perhaps at the beginning, or a guide vocal, and then a rough mix as time goes on and each part gets recorded. This kind of technique allows for very precise editing and most top 40 stuff nowadays is done that way, when they’re using live instruments as opposed to electronic sounds, that is.

This session is very different.  Having done strings on more records than I can count on all my phalanges, almost all of which have been done using separate tracking methods, this thing today is a total breath of fresh air. It does make for a lot of waiting around, though. But there’s something nice about that, too. It can be so weird to show up for a record never having heard the music beforehand or met the people, then you spend a few hours tracking up a lush orchestral sound, and then get a cheque and leave… or leave and never get a cheque until you pester them a bit… or just never get one!

So tomorrow is a day of Yurodny and Bach – all rehearsals – and then back out here for the next two days for more recording and listening. For all my whining about being run off my feet, and as much as I wish I were now in bed resting up for my early start tomorrow, these musics are very nourishing indeed. You just need that little bit of space between events to process and really absorb the benefits and beauty, if you are not to forget any details.

Now, back to waiting with bated breath and pricked ears…

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