Archived entries for recording

* * mental fireworks * *

Last week I shared an excellent TED-Ed talk about the neuroscience of music making. Though it is only five minutes long, this talk illustrates the gymnastic mental connections activated by instrumental music-making. It makes me want to see my own fMRI scan when improvising with other musicians.

Since sharing that video, I had the opportunity to put all of my neuro-musical skills to the test. By now, you have all read about my experiences with Out of Your Head, Baltimore’s premiere free music collective. I have spent most Tuesday nights at The Windup Space, which is a few short blocks north of my city apartment, and the musical home of the collective. The music is always improvised; the groups are always unique. The following two samples came from a “quartet night” on July 29th.

OOYH bass quartet sample

OOYH guitar quartet sample

After meeting many of the talented musicians in the collective, I finally had the opportunity to perform with them last Tuesday. I received a message in the morning that I would be performing that evening during the late set. I would be sharing the stage with Jon Birkholz (k) & Ben Zurier (dr). As usual with Out of Your Head, we had never played with each other before. As the new man in town, it was my first time even meeting these musicians! The trio consisted of drums and two keyboards & electronics. We played two songs.

I like to think of improvised music as a dynamic conversation. By drawing on years of technical practice, listening skills, emotional perceptions, and their interplay, musicians have an ability to construct a coherent statement to transmit into the world. Though analogous to composition, an improviser must be able to do this at the speed of thought. Like the best dinner parties, great improvisation leaves you feeling engaged and wanting more.

By using the tools of modern science to investigate physical processes, it is possible to see a physical basis for the amazing synergies in a live band. It is really not fair to try and capture this dynamic with short audio samples, as I did above. You can not hear how the pieces developed over time. You can not watch the musicians interacting—or not—on stage with each other. You can not hear the way subtle nudges from one musician propagate through the whole ensemble. What you can hear, however briefly, is the focus each musician is bringing to their corner of the ensemble. Each player gives of him or herself for the good of the other players, and the audience. In the brain, each region combines to synthesize motor, aural, emotional, and temporal impulses. In the ensemble, each player combines rhythms, pitches, timbers, and feels. Many individual parts are massaged into a unified whole. Musicians are constantly training to be empathic collaborators. It seems the latest research only reinforces the importance of exploring deeper collaborations, which excellent musicians have know about all along.

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back in the studio, part 3

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During my time here in Baltimore, I have been working hard to clean up all the files in my album. I am planning on mixing in New York, and there is no reason to pay for edits, when I can do that work myself! This is probably the least exciting part of the project: adding fade ins/outs, splicing overdub takes, bouncing edited files, choosing versions of songs, picking a song order.

Though I have diligently taken my time with slow, detailed work, I believe it is now all finished! I am heading north to Maine for a week. While I am there, I am planning on exporting my final bounces, and then I will be ready to schedule some studio time in New York. Additional Maine projects include a tango writing project, reading, and photography. It will be excellent to return to Vacationland!

back in the studio, part 2

tim peck at the helm

tim peck at the helm


 

sean farias on bass

sean farias on bass


 

miki matsuki on drums

miki matsuki on drums


 

On June 10th, Sean, Miki, and I came together to begin an audacious project: record basic tracks and overdubs on 10 new compositions, over the course of 3 short days in the studio. We were all set up by 1pm, and then tracking began. Tuesday’s session had the additional pressure of being a short day with the full trio, necessitating a 5pm stop time. My plan was to work on overdubs in the evening. Of course, this also meant that we would be tackling the project’s most challenging music on the first day. Though this made for a long first day, I was confident in my playing throughout, and the band sounded great!

After a very long day of tracking, I was ready to turn in for the evening. I decided to not listen to anything that first day. I figured that my exhaustion would only cloud my judgement. In part 1, I talked about the benefits of recording at a destination studio. One of the chief ones is pictured below!

keyboard accommodations

keyboard accommodations

After a solid night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we were ready to hit the studio again in the morning. Despite our limited time on Tuesday, we were able to accomplish all the tracking I had hoped. We started Wednesday morning right on schedule. The trio was energized by the positive vibes so far, and we flew through the remaining five songs! We were playing well together and being highly responsive. We were even able to work through several technical difficulties in both the keyboard and bass set-ups efficiently. By 2pm, we were ready for a lunch break. Over our grinders from the local pizza shop, we listened to the recordings so far.

tim tracking

tim tracking


 

My perception of the sessions was pretty accurate. I was so pleased with how it was all coming out! While listening back, I noticed a few parts that we had missed, and a few that could be better. With just a couple more hours of work, we had all the basic tracks done! I recorded a few overdubs before dinner, and the project was reasonably “in the can.” In celebration, we enjoyed the rest of our Mexican food and a bottle of Scotch that Miki picked up earlier that day. Robert joined us for dinner, and we had an after-dinner hang to listen through the record. This was the first time we listened through all the tracks together!

editing on RADAR

editing on RADAR


 

Though Thursday was budgeted for more tracking, we didn’t need to use that time. Sean and Miki both hit the road by 10am. It was a job well done, and I am incredibly thankful to their contributions on this record. Mark and I spent another several hours doing some edits, and then bouncing the entire project down to WAV files, so that I can continue editing, and then mixing, over the summer.

keyboard comand

keyboard comand


 



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