Monday, February 05, 2007

A Composition Journal, Part 4

January 21

Made a few changes to "The Freedom of Captured Light" this morning. Returning to the
third-- and the first finished-- version, made some EQ changes to tame the hiss and rumble, making sure to keep the overall tonal coloration.
Next, I added complexity by doubling--then tripling-- the whole piece in separate tracks, panning and time-shifting (not by much) each track to create a sense of spaciousness and transparency.
And now this piece has come newly alive.



Morning reading : Cold Mountain Poet. A force of nature; humanity almost, but not quite, subsumed in rock, mountains, rivers, pines. (winds and waters.)
These poems, in David Hinton's deep and powerful translations (MOUNTAIN HOME: THE WILDERNESS POETRY OF ANCIENT CHINA) are having an effect on my musical composition. Or am I just riding a wave of synchronicity in my inner winter life right now?

Coffee, work on editing yesterday's two reviews for DUSTED. A quiet house for a while, so I took advantage and vacuumed floors.

Settled into some late-morning work on CAPTURED LIGHT: recorded glass bowls , struck with sticks. The sound made me think of bare rock beneath my feet. I treated the recordings with rolled-off old-time radio EQ, made a few various cuts and copies , then placed them within the mix of the most recent , composite, version of the entire piece. The bowls have a close-up sound that reminds me of a footpath, and perhaps that up-close-ness adds some welcome human scale/perspective as it wanders, unfolds within the big-sky, wide- horizon of sound that is predominant in the composition.

Hot bath, a beer. Reading in Holbrook's 1939 biography of Ethan Allen. An entertaining and engaging read, written in a sly and energetic "Yankee" voice.
Later, watching the sky change, the light move, I listen again to "The Ineffable Freedom of Captured Light ." I hear now that perhaps there should be some steel guitar early in the piece--a glimpse of blue as distant allure-- sliding in with major 7th blossoming, entering, reverb-ed for sense of distance, on the left--far left..

Now the sky has gone from blue to striations of violet--then a last blush of rose captured in high windows of high towers at Vermont College. The evergreens are almost black: spruces straight and tall; white pines caught stilled in what looks like mid-motion-- splay, sway, wave...
Dusk falling. I slipped off for a short winter's day nap.

Rising. Up and at 'em. Started a white bean stew.
Some work tonight on "captured light..", adding steel entrances as early hints of blue.
Also some EQ, scooping out bass mud accrued by multi-tracking.

Up at 6:30. Sub-zero again. Listening to latest version of "light", I think it's as good as I can make it. That is, it is what it is.
This piece really does go well with watching sunrise or sunset play out against the winter sky. The composition is 20 minutes and 50 seconds long. Maybe I should offer the listener instructions to begin playing the piece 20:50 before sunrise or sunset, and to look out a window while he or she listens.

You can listen here:

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Composition Journal, Part 3

January 14 - afternoon

All this microscopic listening makes me edgy, grumpy. So, out for an hour's run in the snow.
My reward: Gray-green river, high and fast-moving under gray, snowing sky. The calm, monastery-like beauty of pine woods at Redstone park: snow-covered wooden benches, the stream and falls full, as they've been all winter.

Clear-headed, grounded, aerated, I listen yet again. I hear a few places that need work. I add more white (metallophone shimmer, pitch-shifted, reverbed), a bit of distant blue (steel guitar again; cut, looped, reverbed). I hear also a need for some translucent haze in the white (bells).

But for now, I need another break. I tend to get obsessive, working, pushing on until I'm satisfied--and/or exhausted. I'm going to try to do this piece a little differently.

January 15

Morning; a few more brushstrokes added. Listened on walkperson while I shoveled wet snow. Listened again while I walked to work. Almost done.

January 17

Crystal clear and cold-- sub-zero -- this morning. Some work on "Captured Light." An attempt at fine-tuning, but not quite getting it. Our heating system being fixed today, so it's COLD in the house. Bright sun, dazzling white snow-- shadows of tree branches on shiny surface crust.
I abandon music for the day, go out for a run. Back at home, I make a slow- simmering tomato sauce with peppers and hot Italian sausage-- an attempt to warm the house. Successful.

PM- Another attempt at EQ tweaking: cutting highs, boosting lower mids. Much better results: the piece has a thickness and warmth it didn't have before.

January 20

Listened to and compared, while editing some writing projects, both versions--original and re-EQd-- today. The first sounded better: more spacious and and airy; more shimmer.
I think the second version was satisfying at first from a sense of safety: it made the piece sound more like my previous work-- dark, murky, almost black and white.
But today I can trust the NEW direction behind the making of this piece. It seems the first mix is the one to go with.
(That said, there is still a need for some hiss reduction, maybe a slight taming of lows...)