Song 42, October 17 - 24, 2011

"Ernest Borgnine"

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"Ernest Borgnine" - song #42 - MP3 file

"Ernest Borgnine"

Length: 6:30

Track count: 29 tracks

Instrumentation: Field Recording of birds and airplane, Stratocaster, EBow, Vox amp, Live effects.

I started this song as part of my "Composer In Residence" installation during Electrogals 2011. Basically, I set up a small mobile studio on the stage in the gallery, and worked on the song in public for 3 hours or so. I was joined by George, who sat with me a while as we chatted about Live, and then James, who sat with me as I tinkered with the song until the end of the installation.

I had started out with the plane and birds, and built around 6 minutes of spiky, weird music, mostly digital rhythms. But while James sat with me in the gallery and I worked on the song, I decided I didn't like what I had come up with. I stripped the song down to the airplane and bird intro and started over. I had a rhythmic effects chain set up on one track in Live, and used that as a rhythm to start the gentle guitar part that comes in around :30 and builds for a while. I did overlapping guitar parts, just single notes and slides. I'm used to recording by myself, but it was pleasant to have company.

My original inspiration for "Ernest Borgnine" was the Scottish band Mogwai. They have the most weird, non-sequitur song titles, and make the most beautiful music. Some Mogwai titles I was thinking of were "Dracula Family Reunion" "I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead" and "I'm Lionel Ritchie." None of the songs have anything to do with the title, as far as a listener can discern. But I love their music and whimsical titles. So I picked the first random celebrity name I came up with - Ernest Borgnine - and built my song around that.

Mogwai also uses a lot of layered distorted guitars in their music, so I rounded out the last part of "Ernest Borgnine" with a ton of guitars, some played with Ebow, some with distortion, all through my little Vox amp. I mostly used Live reverb in the computer, and one part has an odd pulsing effect called "Velocity Torn," but otherwise it's just Strat, Vox, and sometimes EBow. Of the 29 tracks in this song, 25 are guitar tracks. Apart from one short section near the beginning, it's all played in live, with no loops and no click track.

Fun Fact Alert! On the walls of the Flying M Ranch's restaurant, which is up in the woods near Yamhill, OR, there are pictures of Ernest Borgnine, lovingly enshrined on the wall among the raccoon hides, stuffed cougars, and deer and elk heads. Apparently he was in the movie "FIRE!" which filmed near there in 1977. And the ranch has its own airstrip - I once watched the Easter Bunny parachute out of a plane and land right on it, no lie! - so there you have it.


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