Song 29, July 18 - 25, 2011

"Solo #01 - Zither"

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

"Solo #01 - Zither" - song #29 - MP3 file

"Solo #01 - Zither"

Length: 4:52

Track count: 10 tracks

Instrumentation: Ableton Live, out-of-tune Zither.

This is the first iteration of a series I'm planning, called "Solo," where I take an instrument from my studio and make a song using only that instrument.

My puppy Sally peed on the floor in my studio, forcing me to clean, which I don't do very often, and I was moving this old, out-of-tune Zither that I used to tinker around on when I was a kid. I rescued the zither from my parent's basement a few years ago when my Mom moved. It's woefully out of tune, but playing it made me remember my childhood forays into Zither-land - you would slide a piece of paper with the noted laid out under the strings, and plink out one of the ol' standards using that as a guide. There are three sets of strings on one side grouped into chords that I used to be fond of. Although I am sure I mostly plinked without the paper, as is my wont.

Anyway, I was plinking on it, and got the idea for the "Solo" series, and the thing sounded so warm and woeful and rich and a little creepy, as befits a child's out-of-tune, long-neglected instrument. So I ran into the booth to record it using my LS-10. I was in too much of a hurry to fire up the pre-amp and condenser mic and computer for a proper recording.

Originally I had planned to used melodic figures played on the zither, as out of tune as they were - but as I edited my recordings into musical phrases to put into Live, I found myself diving into the sounds - pitching them down, stretching them out, and getting inside them. Those sounds were much more interesting to me than the melodic phrases. So that's what I went toward. One of my favorite sounds, in fact, was a recording taken between strums, where I hit the zither and moved it. When I stretched that out and deepened it, it became like a whole world, with half-heard voices and sliding movements like snakes or lizards. Trippy, man!

While composing in Live, I put resonators on the sounds I'd made from the zither, and it sounded even more like voices, through a vocoder. THAT was cool! When I added a small delay and some reverb, it was something else entirely. So that kind of took over the whole thing.

Trying not to over-think this - I had planned so much melodic movement, and that's all been scrapped in favor of this new odd direction, so I am embracing that. And so something oddly nostalgic and scary-sweet has become… something else. In a less literal way, to me this feels even more nostalgic and scary-sweet than the zither sounds I half-recalled from when I was a kid. It was more expressive and evocative, at least for me, the more abstract it became. I guess sometimes abstraction helps the story have room to emerge.

Thanks for listening - Enjoy!

<<-- Back to 365.52.12 Index

Contact Heather: