Song 38, September 19 - 26 2011

"I Will Say This"

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"I Will Say This" - song #38 - MP3 file

"I Will Say This"

Length: 2:50

Track count: 26 tracks

Instrumentation: Voice

This week's song is a voice collage. All the voices are me. I created 10 audio tracks in Live, and panned each one to a different part of the stereo spectrum, from hard left to hard right. Then, on each track, I recorded myself talking for a set length of time. I would record one track, mute that track, and go back to record the next - I couldn't hear the previous tracks as I went along.

Then I created a similar session of 10 blank panned audio tracks, and instead of talking, I sang a few bars of 10 different songs on top of each other. I Split the original 10-track voice track at measure 57, and put in the singing mix - with the words "wait" and "ok" at either end. I then did a repeat of the first section, and layered in 5 panned tracks of myself counting, going through the alphabet and other mundane lists.

The first track I recorded appears by itself first, and then all 10 voice tracks kick in simultaneously, then 5 more voices - then "wait," then 10 voices singing, then "OK," then the original 10 voices again. At the end there is a coda with just the first voice again, mumbling off into silence. I had no plan of what I would talk about, and no script - in fact, for a lot of it I was talking about the idea of myself talking.

To finish, it was a simple mix. 26 tracks. I used no pitch or time effects, as tempting as it was, and no compression (less tempting, as I really don't like compression.) I only added a little room reverb on the "wait" and "ok" tracks. Anything else would have been too much - I wanted all the sonic complexity - and the accidental moments of cohesion - to come from the layers of voice alone.

I have always been fascinated by the rhythms of human speech. A crowd can sound like the ocean - the sound of a lot of voices talking is a lot like the sound of water. I listen to the interesting ways in which multiple voices ebb and flow, how discrete random phrases and words crest, emerge and fall back into a cacophony, and also how suddenly an entire room full of people can go quiet at the same time. And I hear a lot of those qualities in this recording - for example, the sibilance of my "s" sounds on the multiple tracks makes a cool little hissy, herky-jerky rhythm, and the panning makes the hisses, and those rare moments of clarity, pop up all over the place.

I love layering voices. I have a fantasy of making a piece with 100 voices - in fact I almost did 100 on this song, just for a few seconds. But I stopped short of 100 and stuck to 26, simply because I liked the rhythms I was getting, and the words and phrases that would pop out of the mix in random places. I wanted to preserve that, and adding 74 or so more voices would make it something else entirely. Which I may very well do quite soon!

I have always been fascinated by sonic layering. This should come as no shock since I make my music alone, mostly by over-dubbing track after track. A lot of times I compare the way I make music to sculpture. Sometimes it's collage or accretion, building up layers and textures, and sometimes it's taking huge slabs of sound and editing away what doesn't belong. And sometimes I just stretch sounds like taffy. Sometimes there are very clear visual analogies between working with paint or clay and working with sound - and on the computer, with waveforms on the screen, FFTs and full-color real time spectrographs and the like, working with music and sound has a very literal visual component. Anyway - these are the things that occupy my mind. And now our work for this week is complete.

Thanks for listening - Enjoy!

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