Fripp and Eno, “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.

Okay, so today, in the process of trying to mix and master last night’s first-dart-in-the-board soundscape recording (it’s updated now with a second candidate), I dragged out (No Pussyfooting) by Fripp & Eno.  (One of the things that Graham Cochrane at Recording Revolution suggests, for the practice of mastering, is the use of a deliberately chosen reference track to work against.  Not really being in well-trodden territory here, I thought that might be an appropriate place to start.)

And oh man, does that record hold up well.  I’ve owned it for years and always liked it, but at the same time I’ve never heard it like this–now listening to it both in the producer’s role and also the soundscapist’s role.  What an amazing thing to have done at that time, with only those resources!

I was struck by a few things, listening mostly to “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.  The natural decay of the analog tape is fascinating to hear with intentional ears;  not only does the volume level decay, but the EQ shifts as well, losing more high end with each iteration than elsewhere in the spectrum;  each loop sounds successively “darker” and essentially subsumes into mud with enough time.  By contrast, the digital decay of the Ditto X4 I’m using seems to keep a pretty consistent EQ profile throughout the decay process, and I suspect that at some level (certainly beyond where I’m at now), a player will respond differently to the unique sounds.

And of course as a player one can’t help but think of Robert’s description of the ambient soundscape as a place of “hazard”.  Indeed!  I can certainly hear some obvious places in my own soundscape in which I fail to negotiate the hazard successfully, and thus resort to the Crafty Guitarist’s credo, as articulated by Hellboy #1 Tom Redmond:  “If you play a wrong note, play it again.”  Now…this is pretty easy to do when said note comes right back around automatically 6-8 seconds later, several times, which is at least partly what Robert was talking about!  But this is part of the excitement of doing full improv, isn’t it?  I might really screw things up!  And so I am actually pretty jazzed about developing things further myself, warts and all.  I consider myself fortunate that I can listen to the genius of Fripp & Eno in their pioneering work to create a whole new genre, and rather than get intimidated, get juiced instead.

And I am.  I’m finding myself thinking about all kinds of ideas of what to do in the future when I hear the flub go out into the loop and need to respond to it.  Listening to both (No Pussyfooting) and Let the Power Fall today also reminded me that I should further develop the practice of fixing the loop for a time (stopping overdubs) to be able to play an intentional line on top of it.  And with the Ditto X4, there is also that second loop to consider as well.  I don’t know exactly how that might best be used, but I intend to experiment and see if ideas arise.

In the meantime, I needed to gush a bit about “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.  Man, what an enormous statement!

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Test: first ambient recording.

So just this week for the first time I committed an ambient improvisation “to tape”.  I may discuss further details of that later, but for now I’m trying to figure out the best way to ramp up storage for such things, and naturally, there are stumbling blocks.

So, for now, I’m going to try a direct link to the .mp3 file in a public Dropbox folder.

That is here.

Note that depending on what I set up etc. etc., this post may wind up being overtaken by other events, but for now, we’re a-testing.  Stand by…

Also, for anyone who does find himself here, please understand that this file is pretty raw:  a very simple edit (clip trim, start and end fades), one additional reverb plugin added, and the most rudimentary volume adjustment to get it up above the (roughly -18dB) recording level.  By no means has it been mastered, or even really mixed–and the signal processing settings felt very arbitrary in the first place.  (Understand it is quite literally the first recording of an ambient improv I’ve ever done:  I am new both to the end-to-end of production, and also to the art of soundscaping as a player as well.  It sure promises to be fun, but right now at least I am the quintessential n00b!  🙂  )

UPDATE:  Here is a second release candidate, after having applied some more mixing and mastering attentions.

Dhafer Youssef again: get a load of this guy!

For all its irritations and annoyances in this crazy, nascently-weaponized world of social media, YouTube remains an absolutely astonishing resource.  From Pandora I recently first heard Tunisian oud-ist (if that’s not a word, I think I should make it one) Dhafer Youssef, and was captivated by his sense of mood on his Ascetic Journey.  Today, simply on a lark, I thought I’d chase a link or two of his, on YouTube, and see where it led.

(cue sound of jaw dropping)

Holy smackers, Batman, get a load of this guy!  Let it never be said that cross-genre innovation and muttery is dead or even mildly unhealthy.  Wow!

First, check out Dhafer Youssef the vocalist, fully as impressive there as he is with the oud heroics, in “Delightfully Odd“:

Aside from that marvelous voice, the ensemble strikes me a whole lot like the small groups of Israeli bass wizard Avishai Cohen and fellow Tunisian Anouar Brahem–which is to say, for me at least, gloriously alive, engaging, and unapologetically athwart easy categorization.  A great group, captivating music, exquisite sound…and Youssef himself is infectiously engaging.

Next, I ran across “Winds and Shadows”, which…oh hell, just watch it:

Magnificent.  What a marvelous blend of traditions!

And as I hear more, I’m becoming even more impressed by his touch and dynamics, to achieve simply massive amounts of space within these pieces and groups.  Check out this trio, with the same Norwegian guitarist from the Winds and Shadows clip, along with trumpet and flugelhorn, in this medley:

Man…now I’m a huge fan of Miles’ interpretation of Aranjuez on the Gil Evans collaboration Sketches of Spain–“huge” as in, I hold up Miles’ absolutely heart-stopping “the softer you play it, the stronger it gets” solo in that piece as one of the finest musical moments I have ever heard, anywhere–and with that context for where the bar is set, I really like this arrangement and delivery.

So, I needed the bookmarks, if just for me!   🙂

 

Dhafer Youssef, ‘Ascetic Journey’.

Apparently it’s oud on the Pandora channel this morning, and I’m not complaining!  This lovely piece has come up a few times now and continues to get my attention.  I love the mood, the space, the insistence, and of course the eleven.

Looks like there’s at least one live clip out there as well.

Interesting, I think how this live clip demonstrates how tough it must be to pull off such a piece live.  The sound capture is not flattering, for starters–presumably it sounded much better in the room. As well, it strikes me that the ensemble takes a few minutes to find its legs, trying to deliver all that space…together.  (It seems to me that by the end, they’re there.)  But there it is, still identifiable and insistent, and it makes me want to hear more.

‘Blockhead’, imagined…larger.

It’s fun when the Crafties in my TwitFace space show me new musicking things.  One great example, which deserves further posting, has been an introduction to Petra Haden’s a cappella work, among which she has done more than one King Crimson / Guitar Craft piece.  (Check out Hope, Red, and The Sheltering Sky (!);  she’s apparently keen to release an album of such that may wind up with the name “Sing Crimson”.)

This clip is of drummer Dan Moore, playing “Blockhead” on Steve Ball’s Tiny Orchestral Moments project, and it immediately made me wistful for GCCO.

Not only is it fun watching Dan, but the entire arrangement is pretty rich.  (As in:  possibly rich enough to be open to the “ensemble cast film” criticism…but hey, I’m a fanboy and I like it anyway.  🙂  )

Bookmarked!