Song #02 - Week of Jan 10-17, 2011

"Sorry, Birds"

(Right-click or ctrl-click to download the song, or just click the link to play it.)

"Sorry, Birds" Song 02 - MP3 File

"Sorry. Birds" - Length: 4:20

Track count: 11 Tracks

Instrumentation: MacBook Pro, Korg Radias & MicroKorg synthesizers, Bass, Hammer Dulcimer, Field Recordings, Ableton Live.

Original concept: Heartsick about the reports of thousands of birds plummeting earthward, dead. Disgusted at what humans do the the planet, and it's creatures. I wanted to write something about it. I got this melancholy sound on the Radias, and decided to use that. I toyed with the idea of using a rejected take of Anne Mueller's piece for the Stravinsky Project for this concept, but the synth patch* is sort of simple and cyclical, and emulates how my brain just can't let these thoughts go sometimes. How it keeps cycling around the same sadness. So I will continue along this path.

* The patch is a Radias synthesizer preset that has an acoustic guitar sound hooked to an arpegiator that cycles depending on what notes you hold down, and also a synced drum part. I made two versions of the patch using the Mac editor - each has different characteristics in the notes and the drum sound.

Process diary

Monday, Jan. 10: After a jam session in the studio with Robyn and Townsend tonight, I sat down with my new bass and played along with the synthesizer recording (scratch track) I made last week when I was trying out Radias sounds for another project. It's a patch with a drum beat and acoustic guitar arpeggios built in. I was playing it in E minor, which is really the best key ever. Felt good to just play. I love this bass. Maybe I'm making up for the lack of a bassline in last week's song!

Tuesday, Jan. 11: I thought about the project a lot, and mapped out ways to approach it, but it was a hectic day - a rare "out of studio" day dealing with finances, taxes and bank stuff, and then a dinner party at my house - so by the time I actually had a minute, it was almost 10pm, and I admit that I totally forgot about the project. I know this might happen sometimes as I get this daily practice built into my DNA, but it's not ideal. Oh, well.

Wed, Jan 12: Listening to the scratch synth track over morning coffee. I'm tempted to go all verite and just use the scratch track for the basis of the "real" song, but I also like the idea of starting over and doing a slow build up to the rhythm. As it is, it kind of goes right into the main rhythm and stays there, and then goes for over 5 minutes in sort of the same vein, so it could get a bit noodly. I'll try a couple new takes with the synth and see if I can work it a little bit.

A little burnt - I'm working on music for Rachel Tess, Anne Mueller of OBT, and re-recording drums and guitar on "Stockholm" for Mike Barber for Ten Tiny Dances in Seattle next month. But I took some time to work with the synthesizer parts for this song before tonight's rehearsal at Conduit. It's a pretty intricate arppegiator set up, but very tuneful. I'm enjoying playing it.

Thursday, Jan13: Rehearsed with the Radias, and tried out different patterns. Pretty fried from other studio work, but it's sort of meditative to do this. Resisting the impulse to just use my two demo recordings and lay tracks over them - but at some point I will have to if I want to get this done in 3 more days!
Friday, Jan 14: I know this is going to be a challenge, working daily not matter what life tosses into my path - but today was a bad day. I found out my sweet dog Ebi has cancer. So I am kind of a wreck. I rehearsed the synth for a few minutes, but will have to pick this up tomorrow.

I have decided that this will be a series of single takes. I'll do as few edits as possible. Lucky, since I don't have a lot in me right now.

Saturday, Jan 15: Cancer diagnosis positive for Ebi. Nothing else seemed to matter today.
Sunday, Jan 16: I'm just going to try and bust it out today. I am honestly not in the mood, but making a sad song fits my mood. Synth, some body percussion, couple of bass overdubs, either some guitar or dulcimer. I hate to say, but my heart really isn't in it. Let's see if I can lose myself a little bit.

Progress - I opened the Mac editor for the Radias, and made a copy of the Radias patch that's the basis for this song, and changed it with different drums and no phaser. I played some on that, and some on the regular patch. Was hard to make the track sound the way I wanted it, but I think I reached a fair balance between immediacy and slop.

I recorded several synthesizer parts on Radias and MiroKorg, layered in some bird recordings I had made in the past. Played a little hammer dulcimer on the intro and outro using he new pickups I got for it - sounds pretty good. It's out of tune, but I am liking that sound right now. I also the Live reverb sound called "Large Space Chorus." I think I use it on every song I do in LIve. Maybe I should challenge myself to do one without it someday!

The last part is the bass - I plugged it right into the MOTU, and it sounds good just plain. It's a good bass. I have never really played bass very much, apart from noodling around, so this is a challenge. I think because I am more used to the guitar, I find myself playing on the G, the highest bass string. (Also I can't hear so well over the other tracks, and they are bassy.) So it will be interesting to see if I can get a good bass track for this song. I am about a third of the way through it. I have to take a break now.

Monday, Jan. 17th: Sound check and publish. This is hard, to keep going - but I listened to what I did last night, and the bass part I thought I'd have to totally re-do is really nice. I love it. I want to do some kind of turnaround halfway through, and then let the bass line drop below one more part, probably a second harmony bassline. I want to fight my urge to use guitar, bass is really filling the spot in my heart, so I feel like it's come to a good place.

I will record quickly and not over-work it. Not because it's publishing day, but because it feels right. I actually love this song, which I didn't expect.

Here is a screenshot of part of the song in Ableton Live

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