Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Re-Post: "Funky Flute Groove Experience"

[N.B. This blog entry is about 1.5 years old, from THURSDAY, AUGUST 07, 2008.  The reason I re-posted it here is that I recently learned that the site that hosted an older, inactive composition blog of mine was going to be shut down, and this was the only entry from that blog that had not already been transferred over to this one.]

This morning [AUGUST 07, 2008] I finished editing the guitar track to my most recent composition, Funky Flute Groove Experience.

The above link will take you to the programme note and recording of this piece, but a brief background is that I wrote it for Christine Gangelhoff (flutist) and electronics, to be performed at the most recent Newfoundland Sound Symposium (July, 2008). Christine and I had asked a local DJ/turntablist (DJ Russtafari) to be involved in this too, but we learned a few weeks before the performance that he had moved to Korea, and, incredibly, was not planning to commute back to St. John's for the performance! What was up with that?

Another part of the original plan was to have me play guitar on the piece, but, as the performance date got nearer, I started getting cold feet because (a) I don't perform much, (b) My confidence in my abilities as a guitarist is (deservedly) low, and (c) I was spending all my time composing the piece and had no time to learn a guitar part.

Christine, who had been expecting to perform FFGE as part of a trio (with DJ Russ and myself) called "Urban Sound Collective," was now facing the prospect of playing solely with the electronic accompaniment, and was a tad disappointed. Kind of hard to call yourself a collective when there's only one performer, I guess...

I therefore decided, in a moment of compassion/rashness, to follow through with my original plan and create a guitar part for the piece (which was otherwise about 95% finished), and to (eek!) perform it too. I second-guessed that decision a few times (which I guess means I third-, fourth-, and fifth-guessed it), but the good news is that it worked out okay; I am reasonably happy with the part I came up, and I wasn't nervous at all while playing it (probably because it was largely improvised, and the rest was memorized). And, as it turned out, we were able to find another DJ/turntablist in Deb Sinha, who was here for a performance during the Newfoundland Sound Symposium, who very graciously agreed to step in at the last minute and did a fine job. And so Urban Sound Collective was a trio after all, and all went well! Or, if "well" is overstating matters, then at least nobody was injured during the performance, and it has been my experience that one cannot ask for much more than that in life.

I guess the fact that I took a risk and didn't have it blow up in my face emboldened me to try recording the guitar part myself. I had never edited digital audio before (hard to believe, I know, in this day and age!) and so was apprehensive about the process; the fact that I was using a 10-year-old Mac G4 that crashes about twice a day did not inspire confidence. It took a couple of hours to get everything set up — I was temporarily stymied because I don't have a microphone preamp (necessary to boost the signal strength from 'mic level' to 'line level'). The microphone (used to pick up the guitar amplifier) had been connected directly to the digital audio processor (MOTU 2408MkII) but I couldn't figure out how to boost the signal (as I said, I was a complete novice at this!), so I routed it through my mixer and applied gain to the signal there. It took a ridiculous amount of time (the more time it took, the less inspired I felt), but once things were set up properly the process of recording was very straightforward.

I ended up spending hours recording and editing the guitar track — you can move individual notes a few milliseconds (or a lot of milliseconds) forwards or backwards until they are exactly where you want them, but it's a painstaking (and simultaneously amazing) process. I took several runs at the guitar solo (in the last two choruses of the minor blues that occurs around the middle) and the rhythm, quite frankly, is still a bit loose, but I eventually left it as is because it didn't feel too out of character for the piece.

Here is a recording:

DreamDance Picture

Postscript: I submitted this to MacJams.com, where it has received comments from members of that on-line community. Click here if you would like to read them.

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