Monday, February 13, 2006

Scatterings and Gatherings

Early in February the idea arrives, like so many others have, while I'm running. The soft spring-like light on the snowy Worcester Mountains and the grounded feeling that running brings me work together to help me see that the scatter of recorded songs and musical sketches I have sitting on my hard drive now are ready to come together. (The songs are demos I've made to bring to my band, Rusty Romance. Two of them, in fact, are on our album in band versions. But there are qualities to the original versions that make them worthwhile; a sense of immediacy and intimacy. )
To my mind, this project will fulfill my longtime obsession with exploring my roots in American country music, and my fascination with the sounds and feelings of late night AM Radio as a soundtrack to outer geography and inner journey.
Back from my run, I wash up and dress, then move immediately to my bedroom studio. Quickly, I set up a Fender tube amp and place a condenser microphone --close to the speaker, but far enough away to pick up some room sound. With my trusty Melobar lap steel guitar in a bright C major tuning, and lots of reverb dialed in on the amp, I press the record button and begin an improv. I slide through chords and cadences and slices of melody, just letting the music bloom. After a while I crank up the gain and let things rip: I explore the same cadences, but this time with a darker, more powerful energy. I finish with howling distortion, feedback, and crashes of the steel bar against the strings.
A few hours later-- after house-cleaning, cooking, and puttering: regular domestic life- I listen to what I've recorded. At the computer, I begin to cut and re-arrange: removing dull or repetitive sections; making the distorted ending the beginning, making the sweeter, more yearning beginning into the end. After a while the piece seems to say what I intended it to.
Next, I burn a CD with the scattered songs and pieces-- including the new one, which is entitled, for now "Hazy Blue View", in various running orders. I listen as I make dinner, feed the cat, etc., until the right order of songs becomes clear to me.
What was scattered has begun now to gather.