muted tones

january 04

this entry is from january 04. click here for more information about the curator, and to hear the finished work.

January Tones, Muted

december 22nd, 2003

I finished my submission for January’s Muted Tones, and am surprised and pleased with the results. My approach was essentially improvisational. I began by recording 10 minutes of improv on my Wurlitzer electric piano and then built upon that foundation.

One of the marks of a home recording for me is the sound of my creaking chair, or the of the steam heat coming on. The mic never fails to pick up these sounds. I like the intimacy this gives to some recordings, but in this recording, I wanted the “natural” sounds to be musical events, not just incidental noise. To do this, I used a reverse reverb effect on the room mic. The resulting sound works something like this:

Sound of chair creaking / brief pause / sound of chair creaking in reverse.

The repetition of the sound gives it an intentionality, while the reverse effect gives the repeated sound its own musical character. But since the sounds originally occurred randomly, there’s still a healthy dose of chaos to them.

With the 10 minuted Wurli improv in place, I improvised a bass part, followed by guitar and analog synthesizer parts.

I listened to the recording repeatedly, and kept an ear out for my favorite moments. I then sampled those elements and used them as the foundation of a new 10 minute composition. In many cases I made liberal use of various digital effects on the loops and samples, including tempo delay, time expansion, pitch shift, and micro samples to create digital stutters.

As I worked on this 2nd version, I recorded new material as needed to complement the samples. The new composition took on a sound and shape very different from the original improvised track, and I never really knew where it would end up.

One thing I tried to do was to contrast the cold and sometimes grating sounds of digital distortion with the warmth of acoustic instruments. I further tried to highlight the difference by making the acoustic portions very musically friendly (i.e. hum-able) while the digital sections are more like a sound collage.

For the record, I played Wulitzer, acoustic and electric guitar, plucked and bowed upright bass, Casio MT-68, Roland 808, recorder, and vertical glockenschpiel.


Paula Spurr [ web site ]

december 31st, 2003

What a beautiful piece of floating down a river on your back, watching the branches slip by. What is the meaning of the German title?

1 2 3 4 5