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!