A Recording Memoir

A recording memoir? Like spending months in the studio with rock stars? Endless drama and creativity? Even those books (try Tony Visconti, Glyn Johns, or Phill Brown) give a hint of day after day at a control surface playing knob and fader ballet. It’s rarely glamorous. The excitement is a bit more rarefied, that sense of a job well done.

That story is becoming legend as even professional musicians do more and more of their recording alone at their home studio. They might still have some interesting tales of life on the road but their recording experiences are becoming as dull as any amateur’s, possibly not even getting to play with those cool looking faders and knobs, just sitting at a computer’s monitor clicking the mouse between takes.

Welcome to the blank screen of infinite creativity. It’s just you and the machine. I hope you can work together. It need not be as intimidating as it seems, maybe even less so than a blank sheet of paper.

Last November (2014) I began to write down my experiences in recording as I attempted to make the transition from clueless to creative. The memoir would be Prattle and Din. I spent most of my free time for the next nine months bringing the tale up to date, as of August 2015, telling the story of each recording as well as of my (mis)adventures with technology. That’s almost twenty years of me and the machines, beginning in March 1996 on a 4-track cassette portable studio. Since 2002 I’ve been working on a computer with DAWs and virtual instruments and processors. Don’t worry, I haven’t become some sort of jaded technocrat; I’ve managed to remain true to my roots and am still pretty seriously clueless.

Of the reasons for me to write of my experiences recording poetry and music (or other sounds), other than to just get it out of my system, I think the most important is that I can inform and warn (and maybe entertain) others who would attempt to create a similar art. I’ve tried a variety of home recording solutions, both hardware and software. Along with the articles telling of each individual composition, its aggregation and evolution, I have posts on microphones, software instruments, effects units, analog and digital portable studios, et cetera. Learn from my mistakes (buy a preamp for your mic!). My experiences are limited so I’ve added numerous links to every article.

I might also inspire you to get beyond some of the conventions of music to try more experimental ways of producing sound. If you think a pop song or classical music is the best thing ever and that’s what you want backing your poetry, by all means. But, really, there’s no reason to get stuck with convention. Everything, absolutely everything has music making potential. It’s just a matter of capturing those sounds and then doing something with them, whether leaving them natural sounding or mangling them beyond recognition (just taking something out of context is often enough). The sound manipulating possibilities within computer software make this very exciting to play with. And if you’re a poet you probably already like playing with sound.

If you have experience recording my story might just be a bit of nostalgia and a source of argument (for instance, I do not glorify recording on a 4-track). Checking out someone’s instruments and tools in recording is quite a bit like checking out someone’s library—it seems to be the geek alternative to butt sniffing (I reek amateur).

I almost forgot, you might have an interest in my recordings and want to know more about them. Almost every post has a story about the sounds I’ve used, maybe something about how they were processed, and how they were put together. There are often photos of the recording tools and of household objects turned into musical instruments. There are screen shots of how the sounds are laid out on a DAW’s timeline, showing the structure of the thing. There is the poem itself (or rant or dream) and often some background information as to what was going on in my life when I wrote it and how it evolved over time, if it was an early work.

I want more people making this kind of nonsense—poetry and other sounds—so it is in my self-interest that I convince you it’s worth your time. I just want to kick back and enjoy what you’ve done. I want the luxury of being a fan.

Sylvian/Wright, Migman, and myself

Some recent releases of recorded poetry and music…

2014 David Sylvian released a recording of a project he had begun in 2011 when he paid a visit to poet Franz Wright and recorded Wright reading poems from Kindertotenwald, There’s a Light That Enters Houses with No Other House in Sight.

I had not heard about it until this summer, about two months after Wright had died (May 14, 2015). I had no problem ordering the CD from Amazon but I’ve since heard that it’s already hard to come by. Start emailing Samadhi Sound to let them know it’s their obligation to keep this in print and available (at least through them, if they’ve got problems with the big distributors). I understand that it’s expensive to print LPs and CDs and to keep them on hand but there’s no reason to not have a download available.

Dave Migman has released another album available for purchase at Bandcamp, In the Fine Night We Marched…we’re testing my memory here, I think this is part 2 of The March. The storyline is a retelling based on his notes of a walk from the Pyrenees to Fisterra, along the Via Franca, in 2013. The musical aspect of the record is different from most of his solo albums, which tend to have a DIY punk edge of rough guitar backing his voice (try The March, part 1), while his collaborations with Spleen have a rich electronic backdrop. The music here is primarily synthesized but sparser than Spleen’s style. If I remember correctly he said this album was made in Garage Band.

To help tell the story on my recording memoir Prattle and Din about what I was doing in 2011, just before I began posting my recordings on SoundCloud for all to hear, I re-issued an anniversary collection from that year, 15 Years of Prattle and Din, and put it on Bandcamp. Originally I burned about ten CD copies to give to friends: so, to me, it’s something of a joke to say it’s been re-issued. Most of the compositions were recent (as of 2011) but a couple of them, such as “Music, the Beginning” and “Evil 1”, are recreations of things I’d first recorded in 1996. It’s not particularly representative of my oeuvre in that it lacks stylistic diversity. That is, I tried to put together a fairly cohesive album.

Cryo Is Not Meant to Last

Since creating Poetry and Other Sounds a couple years ago I’ve started two other blogs, both of which have been more successful at cracking open my imagination.

Poetry and Other Sounds is the noble idea, a place for people to connect and learn and, I’d hoped, communicate. It must go dormant until I’m in a different place in my life or until someone else with more time and a more journalistic personality revives it. I’m pretty much clueless as to what’s going on in the world, artistically or otherwise; a more engaged personality is needed.

The Naked Old Man is the ignoble idea. It was meant to be a place for me to rant. Considering how opinionated I am you’d think it would be a non-stop flow of words. Maybe it’s that the plan has been degraded by thought and conscience until I’m mentally stifled. I hope I overcome that weakness. Or adapt to it. I think over time there will be many more posts.

Prattle and Din is my most recent blog and it could be of interest to you, which is why I’m writing this now, and seems to be the thing I actually need to be working on. It’s a memoir of my experiences recording my poems and sounds.

As I work on Prattle and Din it begins to shape itself. The original intent of just telling a linear narrative leading from composition to composition broke down, maybe, even before I started. There are side stories and back stories. There are brief forays into technology as I would stumble into each new tool and, sort of, learn to use it, and I have to tell you about that. There are personal and social events intruding upon creativity and the process of production. The world collapses and sometimes I go down with it and fail to produce anything for years at a stretch (I’ve been making art for so many decades—never living off it—that to have a long fallow period does not alarm me in any way).

Prattle and Din is a story that solidifies in March, 1996 and covers the creation of over 80 audio compositions since then. It’ll take me awhile to jot it all down.

Telling the tale of my recordings is the one way in which I can continue the ideal of Poetry and Other Sounds.

May the frost be with you.

A Moment on Radio Wildfire

Just a quick post…

I’ve just heard today that my “interview” for Radio Wildfire, regarding the purpose of this blog, will be broadcast between 8 PM and 10 PM UK time, Monday June 2nd, 2014.

Of course, if you’re already here you know about the blog. Maybe my interview will clarify a few points.

It’s also been posted on soundcloud.com, where it should remain available for some time.

Outside Broadcast

Originally posted on Poetry and other sounds:

For over two years I’ve been hoping there’d be a way to hear the works of David McCooey beyond the confines of the few tracks he’s posted on soundcloud.com. Finally, he’s released an album of his poetry soundtracks, as he refers to them, a mixture of music, sound design, and poetry: Outside Broadcast.

And now I’m a pretty happy guy.

So many of us producing this sort of poetry and music thing are not musicians or recording engineers and the results tend to be pretty ragged. The poetry might be excellent. The performance or reading of the poetry, however you want to think of it, might also be fine. The choices of sounds and how they’re pieced together might be interesting and moving. In general, the idea of what we’re trying to do might be brilliant. But unless we’re collaborating with musicians and engineers the results can be hard on…

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Mark Goodwin and Brian Lewis on Poems, Places & Soundscapes

swampmessiah:

I always wish I could be in England. Right now I’d like to be there to witness and experience this exhibit.

Originally posted on Strange Alliances:

Poems, Places & Soundscapes exhibition space Poems, Places & Soundscapes exhibition space

Poems, places and soundscapes describes itself as ‘An international exhibition of digitally produced sound-&-poetry focusing on place & soundscape’. It is a description that does not do justice to the depth of sensory texture the visitor experiences from the combination of media in the meticulously curated exhibition of work from an extensive range of poets and presentations.

This type of work is also available online, but there is something of a sense of occasion walking into the intimate Cube gallery in Leicester’s Phoenix arts complex.

I interviewed the exhibition’s curators Mark Goodwin and Longbarrow’s Brian Lewis to find out more.

Tell me about why you put this exhibition on and a little bit about it.

Mark: One of my motives is that I’d like more people to start making this kind of work. I’m amazed by the variety and ingenuity of the of sound-enhanced…

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Poems, Places, and Soundscapes

Poet Mark Goodwin and publisher Longbarrow Press are putting together an exhibition of poetry as sound art, this month in Leicester.

I’ll let Mark’s notice do the talking:

Hello! Happy Spring!

As part of my Arts Council England Grants for the arts funded project – Mark Goodwin’s Sound-Enhanced Poetry – I and Longbarrow Press will be exhibiting digitally produced sound-&-poetry made by various international artists. The exhibition – Poems, Places & Soundscapes – will be held in the Cube Gallery at The Phoenix in Leicester, and will run from 7th April to 25th April 2014. More information can be found here: http://phoenix.org.uk/index.php?cms_id=850
The exhibition presents thirty sound-enhanced poems and twelve film-poems … and represents over sixty artists … including musicians, sound-designers, a painter, film-makers, poets, and poet-sound-artists.

We are holding an informal discussion event about sound-enhanced poetry, film-poem and artistic collaboration at The Phoenix in Leicester on the evening of 10th April … all are welcome to listen and contribute …

After the exhibition, Longbarrow Press will present the exhibited works, associated material and evaluation here: http://poemsplacessoundscapes.wordpress.com/

Kind regards, Mark Goodwin

Here’s the link to the list of contributors: http://poemsplacessoundscapes.wordpress.com/contributors/

I wish I could be there.