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Posts tagged "recording"

Sep 18, 2014
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the original recording chart from Phil Elverum’s recording session at Dub Narcotic


  “Learning the secrets, it turns out, does nothing to remove the mystery.”

the original recording chart from Phil Elverum’s recording session at Dub Narcotic

“Learning the secrets, it turns out, does nothing to remove the mystery.”

Sep 10, 2014
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Lee Scratch Perry recording in Black Ark Studios

thenearsightedmonkey:

Dear Students,

Lee Scratch Perry putting layers of music together in the Black Ark Studio.  What’s guiding him?

From Wikipedia:

Perry once buried microphones at the base of a palm tree and thumped it rhythmically to produce a mystifying bass drum effect and his drum booth at the Black Ark was for a time surrounded with chicken wire to further his distinctive sound. Many of his songs are layered with a variety of subtle effects created from broken glass, ghastly sighs and screeches, crying babies, falling rain and cow noises. While it was thought to believe that Perry recorded the “mooing” noises from actual cows, it was actually the baritone voice of Watty Burnett through a tin foil laced cardboard tube that produced the cow-like noises. These and other notable recording techniques helped define the Black Ark sound, as well as Lee Perry’s creative legacy.

Perry was known for his eccentric and superstitious behavior during production sessions. He would often “bless” his recording equipment with mystical invocations, blow ganja smoke onto his tapes while recording, bury unprotected tapes in the soil outside of his studio, and surround himself with burning candles and incense, whose wax and dust remnants were allowed to infest his electronic recording equipment. He would also spray tapes with a variety of fluids, including urine, blood and whisky, ostensibly to enhance their spiritual properties. Later commentators have drawn a direct relationship between the decay of Perry’s facility and the unique sounds he was able to create from his studio equipment.

Perry has described his relationship to the studio thus:

“I see the studio must be like a living thing, a life itself. The machine must be live and intelligent. Then I put my mind into the machine and the machine perform reality. Invisible thought waves - you put them into the machine by sending them through the controls and the knobs or you jack it into the jack panel. The jack panel is the brain itself, so you got to patch up the brain and make the brain a living man, that the brain can take what you sending into it and live.

Filed under: recording

Aug 22, 2014
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If you’re not listening to the wonderful Song Exploder podcast already, here’s Spoon drummer/producer Jim Eno taking us through the recording of the song “Inside Out.”

Aug 03, 2014
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Spoon in the studio

Above: Spoon in their Austin studio, recording Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, photo by Jason Janik

The NYTimes today has a profile of Spoon and their next one, They Want My Soul. Since they’re not very good at “jamming,” here’s a description of a game Britt Daniel brought to the band, which, coincidentally, is not that unlike the card game I’ve played with my own band (I find jamming really boring):

Each member had to choose a song he loved, listen to it privately and then figure out how to describe it to the rest of the band in such a way that they could try to replicate its feeling together…. The goal of the game was to lead the band into putting together the ingredients of great songs without aping them directly. “O.K., the bass line is quarters in the verses and eighth notes in the chorus,” Daniel offered as an example. “The melody stays on the same note as the root chord.” Sometimes someone guessed a title — the bassist Rob Pope recognized Daniel’s choice of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” — and if so, the idea was discarded, because “as soon as somebody knows what the song is, you can no longer get past that.” An hour into considering how to describe his secret song, the keyboard player and guitarist Eric Harvey absently tapped out a pattern on a drum, and Eno immediately said, “Oh, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’?” (In Spoon, pretty much everyone plays multiple instruments.)

At one point, Jim Eno explains why they finance their own records (echoing Bill Cunningham):

If people give you money before a record is finished…then they have their hooks in you. They have their say.

And why a lot of times, subtraction is the best mixing strategy:

A lot of times, an interesting thing to do is to take out the first thing you recorded and see where it goes from there.

They Want My Soul is out Tuesday.

Filed under: Spoon

Jun 24, 2014
Permalink
Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove

I actually picked this up after I read his Soul Train coffee table book. Good read. Like with the Soul Train book, you’re going to want to keep Rdio or Spotify handy, so you can make a playlist of all the tracks you’ve never heard.

Here’s Dwight Garner (damn, he’s a great reviewer):


  Whenever I read a book by a musician, groupie, rock critic, producer, record mogul or roadie, on the end pages I keep a running tally of the songs I’m aching to download when the reading is done. Most times, the longer the list, the better the book… The end pages on my copy [of Mo’ Meta Blues] are crammed with song titles; they resemble the back of a popular girl’s senior yearbook…. I suspect I’m going to be listening to more Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, the Isley Brothers, Rufus, Public Enemy and D’Angelo than I have for a long time.


The title of the book is a nod to the Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues, and this scene in particular, which The Roots used for the opening of Things Fall Apart, a debate between Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes on staying true to your artistic vision and giving the audience what they want:




  "If we had to depend upon black people to eat, we would starve to death," says Bleek. "I mean, you’ve been out there, you’re on the bandstand, you look out into the audience, what do you see? You see Japanese, you see, you see West Germans, you see, you know, Slabobic, anything except our people—it makes no sense. It incenses me that our own people don’t realize our own heritage, our own culture, this is our music, man." Shadow disagrees. "That’s bullshit…the people don’t come because you grandiose motherfuckers don’t play shit that they like. If you played the shit that they like, then people would come, simple as that." Deciding who is right is part of what makes for a compelling intro.


As Questlove explains:


  That problem—how to stay true to our idea of our music and also be appropriately inviting to audiences, how to court audiences without compromising the music we were making—was something that had plagued us since the beginning.”


He talks about finding a “Stupid Human Trick,” or a gimmick, to hook folks:


  a band needs something to elevate it above other the fray. The secret weapon was often something we called a Stupid Human Trick, borrowing the idea from David Letterman… what was the wildcard for the rest of the people, the ones who were afflicted with cultural ADD? The Stupid Human Trick was something that would draw them in, an indisputably entertaining novelty.


And at one point Questlove talks about putting out a new record and says, “I wasn’t worried about our audience. They would follow us or they wouldn’t—I was used to losing about half our audience each time and picking up new fans.” That sort of knocked me out, the idea you’d lose 1/2 your fans with each album. “It’s a cliché, maybe, but one that turns out to be true: when you start making stuff for other people, that’s when you lose yourself.”

And finally, comes to some kind of synthesis:


  Acrobats love to talk about working without a net like it’s the bravest thing in the world. But the thing about working without a net is that if you fall, you die. It’s better to work with a net, and to know that you can attempt the tricky maneuver without permanent consequences. It’s an answer to the dialogue between Bleek and Shadow in Mo’ Better Blues, or maybe just a third voice in the conversation.


I cut and pasted some more favorite sections below.

On memory:


  Sometimes I only remember things through records. They’re a trigger for me, they’re Pavlov’s bell. Without thinking about the music, I can’t remember the experience. But if I think long enough about a specific album, something else always bubbles up…. I had two kinds of experiences that I mapped to memories: records that were played in the house or on the radio, and Soul Train. Every memory of mine is paired with one of those two things.


On reviews:


  I write the reviews for my own records. Almost no one knows this, but when I am making a Roots record, I write the review I think the album will receive and lay out the page just like it’s a Rolling Stone page from when I was ten or eleven. I draw the cover image in miniature and chicken-scratch in a fake byline. It’s the only way I really know how to imagine what I think the record is. And as it turns out, most of the time the record ends up pretty close to what I say it is in the review.


On sampling and Roland Barthes:


  I had a friend who tried to explain Roland Barthes to me; not all of it, of course, but that one little principle about how a text is not a unified thing, but a fragmentary or divisible thing, and that the reader is the one who divides it up, arbitrarily. Reading is the act that creates the pieces. I wasn’t totally sure I understood it—I’m still not sure—but it sounded like what was happening with the SK-1. You, as the listener, pick a piece of sound, a snippet of speech, or a drumbeat, and you separate that from everything around it. That’s now a brick that you have in your hand, and you use it to build a new wall.


On what happened to hip-hop:


  Something changed when commerce arrived. Good and bad stopped mattering; only effective and ineffective mattered. Whether a record worked on an audience became the standard, rather than whether or not it was any good…  [There was] a new era of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous charisma. In “Bad Boy for Life,” P. Diddy rapped, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes / I write checks,” and that became more than just a clever aside, it was his style of hip-hop. Virtuosity disappeared and this other kind of skill—a ringmaster skill, something closer to what you’d find in a corporate manager—emerged.


On having a day job:


  The Fallon show is a day job in the best sense. We’re in by noon and gone by seven, and in between we make a show. It’s highly structured, and as a result, the opportunities we have for creativity are really distilled: not reduced at all, but disciplined, forced into existing forms and packages.


And some good lines:

I write things because I want to get to the point where I have written things. (Ben Greenman)  
What a shitty way to go through life, hiding your love for music so that people don’t think the wrong things about you.  
Switching off perfection switched on the human quality.  
I feel like my cultural value comes from my role as a bridge. My job is to connect brilliant have-nots to the land of haves.  
How do you plan a rebirth? I’m not sure you do. You just stand in the darkness until you can’t endure it any longer, and then you move forward until you’re standing in the light.
It’s a funny word, persistence. It means not giving up, but it also means just passing on through time.
When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life.™ (Is this really trademarked?)
I was an indoor kid with a tendency to fall inward. 
Recommended.

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove

I actually picked this up after I read his Soul Train coffee table book. Good read. Like with the Soul Train book, you’re going to want to keep Rdio or Spotify handy, so you can make a playlist of all the tracks you’ve never heard.

Here’s Dwight Garner (damn, he’s a great reviewer):

Whenever I read a book by a musician, groupie, rock critic, producer, record mogul or roadie, on the end pages I keep a running tally of the songs I’m aching to download when the reading is done. Most times, the longer the list, the better the book… The end pages on my copy [of Mo’ Meta Blues] are crammed with song titles; they resemble the back of a popular girl’s senior yearbook…. I suspect I’m going to be listening to more Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, the Isley Brothers, Rufus, Public Enemy and D’Angelo than I have for a long time.

The title of the book is a nod to the Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues, and this scene in particular, which The Roots used for the opening of Things Fall Apart, a debate between Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes on staying true to your artistic vision and giving the audience what they want:

"If we had to depend upon black people to eat, we would starve to death," says Bleek. "I mean, you’ve been out there, you’re on the bandstand, you look out into the audience, what do you see? You see Japanese, you see, you see West Germans, you see, you know, Slabobic, anything except our people—it makes no sense. It incenses me that our own people don’t realize our own heritage, our own culture, this is our music, man." Shadow disagrees. "That’s bullshit…the people don’t come because you grandiose motherfuckers don’t play shit that they like. If you played the shit that they like, then people would come, simple as that." Deciding who is right is part of what makes for a compelling intro.

As Questlove explains:

That problem—how to stay true to our idea of our music and also be appropriately inviting to audiences, how to court audiences without compromising the music we were making—was something that had plagued us since the beginning.”

He talks about finding a “Stupid Human Trick,” or a gimmick, to hook folks:

a band needs something to elevate it above other the fray. The secret weapon was often something we called a Stupid Human Trick, borrowing the idea from David Letterman… what was the wildcard for the rest of the people, the ones who were afflicted with cultural ADD? The Stupid Human Trick was something that would draw them in, an indisputably entertaining novelty.

And at one point Questlove talks about putting out a new record and says, “I wasn’t worried about our audience. They would follow us or they wouldn’t—I was used to losing about half our audience each time and picking up new fans.” That sort of knocked me out, the idea you’d lose 1/2 your fans with each album. “It’s a cliché, maybe, but one that turns out to be true: when you start making stuff for other people, that’s when you lose yourself.”

And finally, comes to some kind of synthesis:

Acrobats love to talk about working without a net like it’s the bravest thing in the world. But the thing about working without a net is that if you fall, you die. It’s better to work with a net, and to know that you can attempt the tricky maneuver without permanent consequences. It’s an answer to the dialogue between Bleek and Shadow in Mo’ Better Blues, or maybe just a third voice in the conversation.

I cut and pasted some more favorite sections below.

On memory:

Sometimes I only remember things through records. They’re a trigger for me, they’re Pavlov’s bell. Without thinking about the music, I can’t remember the experience. But if I think long enough about a specific album, something else always bubbles up…. I had two kinds of experiences that I mapped to memories: records that were played in the house or on the radio, and Soul Train. Every memory of mine is paired with one of those two things.

On reviews:

I write the reviews for my own records. Almost no one knows this, but when I am making a Roots record, I write the review I think the album will receive and lay out the page just like it’s a Rolling Stone page from when I was ten or eleven. I draw the cover image in miniature and chicken-scratch in a fake byline. It’s the only way I really know how to imagine what I think the record is. And as it turns out, most of the time the record ends up pretty close to what I say it is in the review.

On sampling and Roland Barthes:

I had a friend who tried to explain Roland Barthes to me; not all of it, of course, but that one little principle about how a text is not a unified thing, but a fragmentary or divisible thing, and that the reader is the one who divides it up, arbitrarily. Reading is the act that creates the pieces. I wasn’t totally sure I understood it—I’m still not sure—but it sounded like what was happening with the SK-1. You, as the listener, pick a piece of sound, a snippet of speech, or a drumbeat, and you separate that from everything around it. That’s now a brick that you have in your hand, and you use it to build a new wall.

On what happened to hip-hop:

Something changed when commerce arrived. Good and bad stopped mattering; only effective and ineffective mattered. Whether a record worked on an audience became the standard, rather than whether or not it was any good… [There was] a new era of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous charisma. In “Bad Boy for Life,” P. Diddy rapped, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes / I write checks,” and that became more than just a clever aside, it was his style of hip-hop. Virtuosity disappeared and this other kind of skill—a ringmaster skill, something closer to what you’d find in a corporate manager—emerged.

On having a day job:

The Fallon show is a day job in the best sense. We’re in by noon and gone by seven, and in between we make a show. It’s highly structured, and as a result, the opportunities we have for creativity are really distilled: not reduced at all, but disciplined, forced into existing forms and packages.

And some good lines:

  • I write things because I want to get to the point where I have written things. (Ben Greenman)
  • What a shitty way to go through life, hiding your love for music so that people don’t think the wrong things about you.
  • Switching off perfection switched on the human quality.
  • I feel like my cultural value comes from my role as a bridge. My job is to connect brilliant have-nots to the land of haves.
  • How do you plan a rebirth? I’m not sure you do. You just stand in the darkness until you can’t endure it any longer, and then you move forward until you’re standing in the light.
  • It’s a funny word, persistence. It means not giving up, but it also means just passing on through time.
  • When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life.™ (Is this really trademarked?)
  • I was an indoor kid with a tendency to fall inward.

Recommended.

Apr 25, 2014
Permalink

Dolly Parton slowed down and sped up.

A few days ago @raygunray posted a video of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” 45 slowed down to 33RPM. (Which makes one wonder if that’s where Jack White got the idea for the White Stripes’ cover.)

Funny thing is, when Dolly Parton and her band did “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind/” they would do the same thing, only sped up and live:

I tell you what: we have another version of that same song we’d like to try a little bit for you. Let’s pretend we have that record recorded on a 45 speed record, and we flip it up on 78 speed. Are you ready boys?

Filed under: Dolly Parton

Apr 05, 2014
Permalink

The Ultimate Fan Extras Collection

mlarson:

lacienegasmiled:

Demo of Beat It composed using only Michael Jackson’s voice

As Jackson couldn’t fluently play any instruments, he would sing and beatbox out how he wanted his songs to sound by himself on tape, layering the vocals, harmonies and rhythm before having instrumentalists come in to complete the songs.

One of his engineers Robmix on how Jackson worked: “One morning MJ came in with a new song he had written overnight. We called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord to him. “here’s the first chord first note, second note, third note. Here’s the second chord first note, second note, third note”, etc., etc. We then witnessed him giving the most heartfelt and profound vocal performance, live in the control room through an SM57. He would sing us an entire string arrangement, every part. Steve Porcaro once told me he witnessed MJ doing that with the string section in the room. Had it all in his head, harmony and everything. Not just little eight bar loop ideas. he would actually sing the entire arrangement into a micro-cassette recorder complete with stops and fills.”

Reasons why I laugh when people say he wasn’t a real musician.

Dang. Dude was good.

Incredible.

(Source: harrattanparhar)

Feb 03, 2014
Permalink
Geoff Emerick, My Life Recording The Beatles

Emerick was there at the very first Beatles recording sessions, and he wound up engineering, among other albums, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road. This book isn’t terribly well written, the portraits of the Beatles seem unfairly judgmental (Ringo is a dullard, John is a maniac and a jerk, George can barely play guitar—Paul is the only one who comes off remotely likable), and the pacing and structure are very uneven, but for a look at the Beatles recording process and insight into their sound, it’s a very interesting read.

Some notes:

At a few points, creative decisions were often driven by legal constraints. When coming up with the sound effects for “Yellow Submarine”:


  Phil McDonald was duly dispatched to fetch some records of Sousa marches, and after auditioning several of them, George Martin and Paul finally identified one that was suitable—it was in the same key as “Yellow Submarine” and seemed to fit well enough. The problem here was one of copyright; in British law, if you used more than a few seconds of a recording on a commercial release, you had to get permission from the song’s publisher and then pay a negotiable royalty. George wasn’t about to do either, so he told me to record the section on a clean piece of two-track tape and then chop it into pieces, toss the pieces into the air, and splice them back together. The end result should have been random, but, somehow, when I pieced it back together, it came back nearly the same way…


The limitations of the primitive, 4-track recording equipment at EMI led to much of the recording innovation:


  George Martin has said in many interviews that Pepper wouldn’t have been as good had it been recorded in twenty-four-track, and I completely agree. It was because of those very limitations that we were put on the spot, forced to make creative decisions every step of the way. Necessity was the mother of invention, and that was part of the magic of the album. You had to put the right echo on, the right EQ, the right signal processing; the playing had to be right, the vocal had to be right. It made things easier in a way, because otherwise there are too many variables and too many decisions to be put off until the mixing stage.


The Beatles were into sound collage and cut-ups:


  John and Paul were both heavily into avant-garde music, especially compositions that were based upon randomness. At home, they often kept their televisions on with the sound turned off while simultaneously playing records. The next morning, they would regale us with tales of how the music often dovetailed, as if by magic, with the on-screen visuals. At one point, Paul even brought in a film projector so he could demonstrate the principle.


On leaving in mistakes:


  If someone made a tiny mistake or sang something a little funny in a Beatles session, it would generally be left in if it was felt it added to the character of the record. Sometimes we’d even accentuate the mistakes during mixing, just to underline the fact that the music was being made by fallible human beings. Today, there’s plenty of technology, but precious little soul.


And whether there could be another Beatles:


  There aren’t breeding grounds like Hamburg anymore, places where bands can develop in anonymity and hone their craft. Every musician is isolated in his or her bedroom now; there’s little collaboration, little opportunity for ideas to be nurtured and developed.


Again: it’s a really uneven book, but Beatles nuts and recording geeks (like me) might like it.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

PS. I’m posting the cover of the Portuguese version, because it’s 100% cooler than the English version.

Geoff Emerick, My Life Recording The Beatles

Emerick was there at the very first Beatles recording sessions, and he wound up engineering, among other albums, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road. This book isn’t terribly well written, the portraits of the Beatles seem unfairly judgmental (Ringo is a dullard, John is a maniac and a jerk, George can barely play guitar—Paul is the only one who comes off remotely likable), and the pacing and structure are very uneven, but for a look at the Beatles recording process and insight into their sound, it’s a very interesting read.

Some notes:

At a few points, creative decisions were often driven by legal constraints. When coming up with the sound effects for “Yellow Submarine”:

Phil McDonald was duly dispatched to fetch some records of Sousa marches, and after auditioning several of them, George Martin and Paul finally identified one that was suitable—it was in the same key as “Yellow Submarine” and seemed to fit well enough. The problem here was one of copyright; in British law, if you used more than a few seconds of a recording on a commercial release, you had to get permission from the song’s publisher and then pay a negotiable royalty. George wasn’t about to do either, so he told me to record the section on a clean piece of two-track tape and then chop it into pieces, toss the pieces into the air, and splice them back together. The end result should have been random, but, somehow, when I pieced it back together, it came back nearly the same way…

The limitations of the primitive, 4-track recording equipment at EMI led to much of the recording innovation:

George Martin has said in many interviews that Pepper wouldn’t have been as good had it been recorded in twenty-four-track, and I completely agree. It was because of those very limitations that we were put on the spot, forced to make creative decisions every step of the way. Necessity was the mother of invention, and that was part of the magic of the album. You had to put the right echo on, the right EQ, the right signal processing; the playing had to be right, the vocal had to be right. It made things easier in a way, because otherwise there are too many variables and too many decisions to be put off until the mixing stage.

The Beatles were into sound collage and cut-ups:

John and Paul were both heavily into avant-garde music, especially compositions that were based upon randomness. At home, they often kept their televisions on with the sound turned off while simultaneously playing records. The next morning, they would regale us with tales of how the music often dovetailed, as if by magic, with the on-screen visuals. At one point, Paul even brought in a film projector so he could demonstrate the principle.

On leaving in mistakes:

If someone made a tiny mistake or sang something a little funny in a Beatles session, it would generally be left in if it was felt it added to the character of the record. Sometimes we’d even accentuate the mistakes during mixing, just to underline the fact that the music was being made by fallible human beings. Today, there’s plenty of technology, but precious little soul.

And whether there could be another Beatles:

There aren’t breeding grounds like Hamburg anymore, places where bands can develop in anonymity and hone their craft. Every musician is isolated in his or her bedroom now; there’s little collaboration, little opportunity for ideas to be nurtured and developed.

Again: it’s a really uneven book, but Beatles nuts and recording geeks (like me) might like it.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

PS. I’m posting the cover of the Portuguese version, because it’s 100% cooler than the English version.

Nov 29, 2013
Permalink
Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) recording the album Lonerism

Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) recording the album Lonerism

Sep 28, 2013
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