Saturday, July 01, 2006

Summer Report

Today, hazy blue skies, after, of course, some rain. It's summer for sure now, and both projects --HORIZON IS A SONG and BETWEEN WATERS-- are finished; sequenced, edited, mastered ( the latter as well as possible,anyway, within available resources) and ready to be heard. I've even begun work on the cover art. I do feel a certain emptiness upon finishing these projects. But it's a welcome emptiness, one that brings with it a sense of space, of new possibilities.
Finishing BETWEEN WATERS entailed some new composition, along with some editing of sections, mostly to fine-tune the proportions of each within the whole. I also made radical EQ changes to a few pieces/movements, especially "Lone Rock Point" and "Searching For Ferris Rock ", seeking to cast just a bit more light and clarity on the decidedly dark and murky original mixes.
Listening back to the finished work, It dawned on me that I had composed my own strange version of a symphony: A single work in sections--movements-- for orchestra (in this case an orchestra created mostly from sound-smeared steel guitar improvs) , the whole structure built by the exploration and recasting of a fairly limited amount of generative thematic material.
BETWEEN WATERS is a sonic object now, and I am confident that it contains and transfers the energies-- of water and rock; of geomorphic and human history and my own perceptions of those things-- that originally inspired it.

As far the song collection HORIZON IS A SONG, well, I had figured it was finished more than a month ago.
But one morning in late May ,I woke up with a melody and lyrics playing in my head, straight into the world from a dream I'd been having:
"Black-eyed Susan's on the highway..."
I got up, made coffee, wrote the song over the course of the day, fine-tuning it in my head during a long, sun-baked run beside Berlin Pond and up into the trails on Irish Hill.
It was only after two weeks of living with the song-- making subtle structural changes, etc.-- that I at last recorded it. In the morning I got a good version in two takes (voice and two acoustic guitars, lap steel solo section, harmony vocal.)
I then spent some time on a weird, spasmodic kick-and-snare drum part for the bridge. (I'd been reading Merton again--I was thinking of this part as my "Zen wake-up call.") All went well, though it took maybe ten tries to catch the drum thing just right.
Then the recording program crashed. Too much heat and humidity. Try as I might, I could not bring the tracks back up. I was angry. But I was also inspired and determined. I started all over again, recording, track by track, another good version of the song. The new version had a very different feel, but I mixed it down, kept it.
After a break, shut down, and reboot, lo and behold, the original version of the song returned! I listened. Definitely the one I wanted. Working into the evening, I added some church yard sale harmonium, made a few mixes. Feeling energized, I remixed the second version, too, this time going crazy with slap-back echo and compression. (I named this the Salty Delta Mix, since it sounded swampy and weird to me, the opposite of the warm and intimate 'master' take and mixes.)
A few weeks later, after I'd picked my favorite mix of the original, I added some tremoloed baritone guitar for texture. By then the song had found its place in the running order of HORIZON IS A SONG.
So that's it for now. I'm going to take a little vacation, maybe get out on the waters. Rest. Relax. Re-charge. Chip away at some small ideas and projects; keep my eyes on that big one way, way, off on the horizon--one I suspect I'll be writing about here later.