TUMBLR

A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "recording"

Apr 05, 2014
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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
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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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Jul 02, 2013
Permalink
An interview with Rick Rubin

On not-knowing:


  I never decide if an idea is good or bad until I try it. So much of what gets in the way of things being good is thinking that we know. And the more that we can remove any baggage we’re carrying with us, and just be in the moment, use our ears, and pay attention to what’s happening, and just listen to the inner voice that directs us, the better. But it’s not the voice in your head. It’s a different voice. It’s not intellect. It’s not a brain function. It’s a body function, like running from a tiger.


On producing:


  So how would you describe your role as a producer, in general?
  Just as fan. Making music that I want to hear. You’re so close to something when you write it that it’s hard to have any perspective on how it hits someone else. My job is to be a professional version of the outside world—a listener who is not attached to any of it, who doesn’t know the story of how it was written, who doesn’t know how it works, who doesn’t know why this is important to you.


On stripping things down:


  There’s a tremendous power in using the least amount of information to get a point across.


Wonderful interview.

An interview with Rick Rubin

On not-knowing:

I never decide if an idea is good or bad until I try it. So much of what gets in the way of things being good is thinking that we know. And the more that we can remove any baggage we’re carrying with us, and just be in the moment, use our ears, and pay attention to what’s happening, and just listen to the inner voice that directs us, the better. But it’s not the voice in your head. It’s a different voice. It’s not intellect. It’s not a brain function. It’s a body function, like running from a tiger.

On producing:

So how would you describe your role as a producer, in general?

Just as fan. Making music that I want to hear. You’re so close to something when you write it that it’s hard to have any perspective on how it hits someone else. My job is to be a professional version of the outside world—a listener who is not attached to any of it, who doesn’t know the story of how it was written, who doesn’t know how it works, who doesn’t know why this is important to you.

On stripping things down:

There’s a tremendous power in using the least amount of information to get a point across.

Wonderful interview.

Apr 23, 2013
Permalink
Sound City

I loved the first 2/3 of this, and kind of glazed over during the last 1/3. (It’s the curse of feature documentaries — most have about 60 minutes of great material, but are fluffed out to feature length.)

The first 2/3 is about Sound City Studios , a dumpy studio in LA, where Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Nirvana recorded some of their greatest albums. The studio is most notable for the sound of the live room (especially the drums) and the Neve 8028 analog board.

The last 1/3 is about how Grohl bought the Neve console and moved it to his own 606 studios.

The documentary is mostly about the human element of music — the messy serendipity of getting a bunch of people in a room and making noise and then recording that noise. (And how that element has slowly faded as young musicians make more and more music by themselves in their bedrooms on laptops.)

I was most interested in the producers who helped get a lot of this stuff to tape — they had interesting thoughts on how you take the raw material of a band and craft it into hit records. At one point, Rick Rubin says, “Everything I try to do is from a fan’s perspective,” and as much credit that’s given to analog tape and the Neve console, you also get the feeling of the producer as translator, or medium, between band and listener.  Keith Olsen notes, “What you have to do is get the listener to claim what you’ve done as yours.”

Artists are not always the best judges of what’s working, or, at the very least, what’s commercial. (There’s a great story about how Rick Springfield didn’t think much of “Jesse’s Girl,” but Keith Olsen heard the demo and liked it immediately — the first check from Warner Bros. was  $1,000,000.)

Anyways, if you’re a music geek, you’ll like it.

Sound City

I loved the first 2/3 of this, and kind of glazed over during the last 1/3. (It’s the curse of feature documentaries — most have about 60 minutes of great material, but are fluffed out to feature length.)

The first 2/3 is about Sound City Studios , a dumpy studio in LA, where Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Nirvana recorded some of their greatest albums. The studio is most notable for the sound of the live room (especially the drums) and the Neve 8028 analog board.

The last 1/3 is about how Grohl bought the Neve console and moved it to his own 606 studios.

The documentary is mostly about the human element of music — the messy serendipity of getting a bunch of people in a room and making noise and then recording that noise. (And how that element has slowly faded as young musicians make more and more music by themselves in their bedrooms on laptops.)

I was most interested in the producers who helped get a lot of this stuff to tape — they had interesting thoughts on how you take the raw material of a band and craft it into hit records. At one point, Rick Rubin says, “Everything I try to do is from a fan’s perspective,” and as much credit that’s given to analog tape and the Neve console, you also get the feeling of the producer as translator, or medium, between band and listener. Keith Olsen notes, “What you have to do is get the listener to claim what you’ve done as yours.”

Artists are not always the best judges of what’s working, or, at the very least, what’s commercial. (There’s a great story about how Rick Springfield didn’t think much of “Jesse’s Girl,” but Keith Olsen heard the demo and liked it immediately — the first check from Warner Bros. was $1,000,000.)

Anyways, if you’re a music geek, you’ll like it.

Feb 20, 2013
Permalink
The only way for The Smiths to keep moving forward was to record what they wrote almost as soon as the songs were done, then move to the next thing.
Noel Murray on how The Smiths chain-smoked

Feb 06, 2013
Permalink

Gimme Shelter

hypem:

bestrooftalkever:

Black History Month Story time:

Merry Clayton - “Gimme Shelter”

Before 1969, Merry Clayton was just a Brooklyn-based singer trying to scrounge up any back-up gig she could find. When The Rolling Stones were recording “Let It Bleed,” they started looking for backup singers for their new song “Gimme Shelter,” and their manager suggested Clayton.

Six months pregnant, Merry came to the studio to record her now-infamous backup track. The Stones themselves were very obviously impressed with her talent. Around 3 minutes into the Stones version, you can even her Jagger let out a “Whoo!” when Merry cracks open the note over the word “Murder.”

Though the recording session put to tape one of the most memorable backup performances in the history of Rock N’ Roll, the memory would not be a good one for Merry Clayton. Just after the session, she suffered a miscarriage in her home. Many blame the intensity of her performance.

When the Stones heard this, they were heartbroken. They approached her and offered partial ownership of the track. They also wanted her to record her own version.

This is it. Be careful, it will melt steel.

Merry said, of the whole ordeal, “That was a dark, dark period for me, but God gave me the strength to overcome it.”

Amazing story.

Dec 17, 2012
Permalink
Will Oldham on Bonnie “Prince” Billy

A 350-page interview with Will Oldham about his work. How you feel about the book, of course, is dependent on how you feel about Will Oldham. I found a lot of his ideas about making art to be pretty in tune with my own.

A few things…

Starting out as a fan, ending up a colleague

Oldham says, “Before I made things, I was an audience member, and a lot of what I’m doing when creating things is wanting to evolve as a member of the audience.”


  I’m not of the group of people who make music or other kinds of art who feel like they have inherently within them something that needs to come out or is worth coming out… For me it’s by pursuing, absorbing, or just complacently being bombarded by things from all over or that have value to me…


You start out as a fan, and then you start making work as an ultimate act of fandom:


  I feel like that’s one of the main jobs of making the records: creating, but also identifying and maintaining, these abstract communities that nourished me growing up. By making a record and putting it out there, you can find someone who’s in your community, who lives in Manitoba or wherever, because they hear the record. And eventually you can work with some of these people, you know?


He says of his experience recording with R. Kelly: “I felt like doing the R. Kelly thing was an unbelievable bridge to have crossed, a dream-come-true thing, also in terms of getting from being a listener to being a colleague of sorts with someone whom I never imagined that there would ever be any possibility.” (I imagine he feels the same way about recording with Johnny Cash.)

The relationship of the artist to the audience

I love this description of the recording process: “Part of the idea in making a record is to freeze lots of moments of learning and discovery so that it really is like every time you press “play” you are opening up this experiment again.”

“People think of making a record as the end of something. In every way, it seems much more about the future.” Or, to paraphrase Paul Valery, a song is never finished, only recorded:


  I think that a song, for the most part, is completed by the listening experience. It enters into people’s brains and mutates and then might get completed again—in their dreams, in mix tapes that they make, or in new listening experiences that they have. So it isn’t ever finished because there’s never going to be a definitive listening experience.


As someone who highly values his own experiences as a listener, Oldham knows that that he and his listeners are in a kind of partnership, and in fact, they might wield more power over his work than he does: “The ears that are listening make more difference than the way the music sounds.”


  I feel the value of my work is determined very precisely by the audience. What does entertainment mean, anyway, and what’s the difference between that and art? I would say the main difference is that art isn’t necessarily funded by the consumer, but entertainment always is. In that way, entertainment is a million times more important to me than art, and being an entertainer is more important to me than being an artist.
  
  …My absolute, purest particular taste would not be something that could be appreciated on a grand scale. It just wouldn’t. If I really made a record just to serve myself I would end up alone in a dark, wet room, you know? That’s not really where I want to be. That’s why it’s more important to me to make a record that serves itself and its audience well. A good record should involve my needs, the listeners’ needs, and the needs of the other people who worked on the record. If I manage that, I feel I’ve accomplished something.


At the same time, Oldham is not particularly fond of having a live audience, and he’s a reluctant performer. “My dream: to get paid and not have an audience,” he says. “The only reason I want to be onstage is because that usually means that I will be making money that I can use to make records and live life and work with people.” At many points in the book, he seems exasperated that anyone likes going to shows:


  How can I reconcile my experience of listening to music with the process of making music? Why play shows when I just want to listen to the records, you know, and have people listen to the records? Why would they want to see a show? You can’t drive a car when you’re seeing a show, you can’t make love to your partner while you’re seeing a show, or cook breakfast or go to sleep; you have to stand in a club. Why would you do that? That’s not listening.


Playing live and making records, “They play completely different roles. The records are just trying to get the songs across, and then live we’re just trying to spend time together.” This approach to the live experience is what (presumably, I’ve never actually gotten to see him) makes him an exciting, if not always 100%-on-the-mark, performer, and he talks in one section about his restlessness with performing, and dreaming up new ways to make the live experience more exciting, for instance, a day-long string of one-hour, one-of-a-kind hour-long performances, with 10-25 people in the room.

Embracing the process—the whole process—of releasing records

“One of the sometimes stated and sometimes understood goals of the system of making records and movies is making the process, or some aspects of the process, invisible.” But Oldham is fond of figuring out how to make the distribution and the marketing and the advertising — the stuff that gets the record out, releases it, into the world — a natural outgrowth of process of making the record. “[Y]ou can let the weird rules that you create within the world of a record bleed out into the process of making and selling it as well.”


  As the audience, especially as kids, we assume that [the production and distribution side of things] doesn’t even exist. And if it does exist, that it is always a force that is in conflict with the product, with the end thing…. Never imagining that it’s a positive or cooperative or collaborative or good symbiotic relationship; you just assume that they’re different things, and realizing that they aren’t necessarily or don’t have to be different is fun.


Sometimes this means not following the rules of normal promotion — he is, for example, loathe to give interviews, because he feels they actually muddy people’s impressions of the work, and sometimes might even hurt record sales: “interview after interview, most people doing the interview don’t really prepare, don’t care, and what this is doing is providing a lot of lukewarm, empty, quasi-interesting content in relation to this record.” (Pity his poor publicist.)

Read the book→

Will Oldham on Bonnie “Prince” Billy

A 350-page interview with Will Oldham about his work. How you feel about the book, of course, is dependent on how you feel about Will Oldham. I found a lot of his ideas about making art to be pretty in tune with my own.

A few things…

Starting out as a fan, ending up a colleague

Oldham says, “Before I made things, I was an audience member, and a lot of what I’m doing when creating things is wanting to evolve as a member of the audience.”

I’m not of the group of people who make music or other kinds of art who feel like they have inherently within them something that needs to come out or is worth coming out… For me it’s by pursuing, absorbing, or just complacently being bombarded by things from all over or that have value to me…

You start out as a fan, and then you start making work as an ultimate act of fandom:

I feel like that’s one of the main jobs of making the records: creating, but also identifying and maintaining, these abstract communities that nourished me growing up. By making a record and putting it out there, you can find someone who’s in your community, who lives in Manitoba or wherever, because they hear the record. And eventually you can work with some of these people, you know?

He says of his experience recording with R. Kelly: “I felt like doing the R. Kelly thing was an unbelievable bridge to have crossed, a dream-come-true thing, also in terms of getting from being a listener to being a colleague of sorts with someone whom I never imagined that there would ever be any possibility.” (I imagine he feels the same way about recording with Johnny Cash.)

The relationship of the artist to the audience

I love this description of the recording process: “Part of the idea in making a record is to freeze lots of moments of learning and discovery so that it really is like every time you press “play” you are opening up this experiment again.”

“People think of making a record as the end of something. In every way, it seems much more about the future.” Or, to paraphrase Paul Valery, a song is never finished, only recorded:

I think that a song, for the most part, is completed by the listening experience. It enters into people’s brains and mutates and then might get completed again—in their dreams, in mix tapes that they make, or in new listening experiences that they have. So it isn’t ever finished because there’s never going to be a definitive listening experience.

As someone who highly values his own experiences as a listener, Oldham knows that that he and his listeners are in a kind of partnership, and in fact, they might wield more power over his work than he does: “The ears that are listening make more difference than the way the music sounds.”

I feel the value of my work is determined very precisely by the audience. What does entertainment mean, anyway, and what’s the difference between that and art? I would say the main difference is that art isn’t necessarily funded by the consumer, but entertainment always is. In that way, entertainment is a million times more important to me than art, and being an entertainer is more important to me than being an artist.

…My absolute, purest particular taste would not be something that could be appreciated on a grand scale. It just wouldn’t. If I really made a record just to serve myself I would end up alone in a dark, wet room, you know? That’s not really where I want to be. That’s why it’s more important to me to make a record that serves itself and its audience well. A good record should involve my needs, the listeners’ needs, and the needs of the other people who worked on the record. If I manage that, I feel I’ve accomplished something.

At the same time, Oldham is not particularly fond of having a live audience, and he’s a reluctant performer. “My dream: to get paid and not have an audience,” he says. “The only reason I want to be onstage is because that usually means that I will be making money that I can use to make records and live life and work with people.” At many points in the book, he seems exasperated that anyone likes going to shows:

How can I reconcile my experience of listening to music with the process of making music? Why play shows when I just want to listen to the records, you know, and have people listen to the records? Why would they want to see a show? You can’t drive a car when you’re seeing a show, you can’t make love to your partner while you’re seeing a show, or cook breakfast or go to sleep; you have to stand in a club. Why would you do that? That’s not listening.

Playing live and making records, “They play completely different roles. The records are just trying to get the songs across, and then live we’re just trying to spend time together.” This approach to the live experience is what (presumably, I’ve never actually gotten to see him) makes him an exciting, if not always 100%-on-the-mark, performer, and he talks in one section about his restlessness with performing, and dreaming up new ways to make the live experience more exciting, for instance, a day-long string of one-hour, one-of-a-kind hour-long performances, with 10-25 people in the room.

Embracing the process—the whole process—of releasing records

“One of the sometimes stated and sometimes understood goals of the system of making records and movies is making the process, or some aspects of the process, invisible.” But Oldham is fond of figuring out how to make the distribution and the marketing and the advertising — the stuff that gets the record out, releases it, into the world — a natural outgrowth of process of making the record. “[Y]ou can let the weird rules that you create within the world of a record bleed out into the process of making and selling it as well.”

As the audience, especially as kids, we assume that [the production and distribution side of things] doesn’t even exist. And if it does exist, that it is always a force that is in conflict with the product, with the end thing…. Never imagining that it’s a positive or cooperative or collaborative or good symbiotic relationship; you just assume that they’re different things, and realizing that they aren’t necessarily or don’t have to be different is fun.

Sometimes this means not following the rules of normal promotion — he is, for example, loathe to give interviews, because he feels they actually muddy people’s impressions of the work, and sometimes might even hurt record sales: “interview after interview, most people doing the interview don’t really prepare, don’t care, and what this is doing is providing a lot of lukewarm, empty, quasi-interesting content in relation to this record.” (Pity his poor publicist.)

Read the book→

Nov 08, 2012
Permalink

“Reggae, in my mind, developed out of an illusion.”

I’m fascinated by this bit from the documentary Marley:

At one point, Jamaican recording artist and reggae songwriter Bob Andy explains his theory on the precise origin of the reggae beat, the gentle chucka guitar riff lending Marley’s music its particular, seductive intoxication. Andy says the chucka (he calls it a shum sound) was an accident, an aural hiccup resulting from the recording tape delay. So the rhythmic trademark of reggae, he says, “developed out of an illusion.”

Even if it’s not true, I love the idea that hearing slap-back delay led guitar players to emulate that sound…

(via)

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