i needed new units of measure, and what’s left
september 25th, 2002
After finishing across, it was clear that I was going to have to fill about 6 more minutes with music. To make this happen, Josh and I sat down at the computer. Josh has a bunch of recordings of me on there from the last three years or so. He also has a massive collection of sounds and snippets of music heís made. We started with tracks recorded during the Tiny Hairs sessions that we didnít use. For the next few hours or so, we mined Joshís files for sounds and pieces of music that would work with the piece. Much tweaking was done. Much filtering, processing, reversing, and uhÖplain olí messing around was done.
This song ended up being i needed new units of measure. And soon after we started work on it, I decided that I wanted the two songs to be part of a larger piece. They work with each other to do something much more effective than if they stood on their own. They do, however, prove very effective on their own anyway ñ which is a point of pride for me, and Iím sure Josh as well.
All the work was really done by Josh, and I was the hands-off director. Josh is going to be credited as Producer for this song, since thatís pretty much the only way to pin down what he did. At first I felt a little weird because it seemed like he was doing so much work, and I couldnít really help at all. But then I realised that it wasnít like it was becoming ìhisî song or ìhisî project, he was simply taking some raw material that I had presented him with (the Tiny Hairs sessions, and some of my own tracks from earlier versions of the song), and was making it into something cohesive. Adding nuance, and character with some of his own sound and music creations. A real-live collaboration! Holy crow! This was all done the same night we recorded the final vocal track for across, so when the time came for ìsomething elseî on this song, I just walked in the next room and improvised some vocal tracks.
We finished units, and we still had like two and a half minutes to fill. I was stumped. It took me a few days to come up with the idea of taking the whole concept to another level. Units is like an unstructured version of across. I knew this before. But what could be added to this? Something before units? Or, something after across? I decided the third song should take the ideas in both, and distill them, or pare them down to just be the simple main idea. So, thatís how we get whatís left. But thatís just the beginning of the story. Making this happen was a total nightmare.
First, I went to a friendís practice space to use his Rhodes electric piano (Thank you, Casey Meehan!). Josh set me up with his mini-disc recorder and I just lined in. The deadline was looming on the horizon, and we still need to leave time to mix down, so I decided that I would work for an hour, and whatever I came up with would be it.
It was awful. But we didnít know it was unworkable till the next day. Truly, it was just dreadful. Iíll just skip to the next part of the story. Josh and I were on the back porch sulking because weíd been trying to make it work for like, hours. All of a sudden I realized that Iíd been going about it the wrong way. I said ìIt should be a simplification of the idea! I should play a variation on the song, but like, really simply!î And josh said, ìthe lead from the old old versionî (this being the acoustic guitar track on units) and I said ìthatís exactly what I was thinking!î so we ran inside and grabbed the mini-disc and headed for Caseyís space.
This time I went through the amp. Josh set up a mic, and I played for seven minutes, and we left. It was great. We felt so good about it. We got back to Joshís-er, the uh, studio, and played it back. There was all this crazy unexplainable overdrive. Josh says heís still investigating to find the culprit. In any case, we had no time to do it again. After a few moments of feeling like scrapping the whole thing, we found there were a few little parts that came out okay. Including one line where I just played the lead. No variation - just played it straight. We decided to use that, and then a few other lovely parts that made it through undistorted. Basically the song built itself after that. Josh did some tweaking, we did some mining, and came up with the final piece. It turned out way better than I had expected even in the beginning. Yay, us.
So. There you have it. The first and third songs of today we are cartographers. If you have any questions about technical stuff, I’m sure I can find out for you. I may have even picked up enough to explain it myself. Wouldn’t that just surprise the pants off ya?