iPadded Cell

One of the exciting aspects of recording these days is the affordability of it. The most recent release from Dave Migman was created on an iPad, iPadded Cell. Almost all of us have some sort of electronic device, just to survive in the modern world, that probably comes with or can download recording software. When finished you can upload your recordings to Bandcamp for free (the fee comes out of your sales rather than up front).

For a while now iPads have included the whole Apple software bundle, including Garage Band. I work on a PC so I have no direct experience with Garage Band but I assume it’s pretty much like any other DAW. It comes with a fairly useful and robust sound library of both traditional instrument sounds and electronics. As with any other DAW, if you want the subtlety of performance a physical object would produce, the non-musical squeaks and wonks that are often incorporated into the sonic palette, especially since the elevation of jazz to serious art music, you’ll be very unhappy. You’re still going to need a real instrument and microphone and, most obviously, a real musician. But you can do some amazing things with these software instruments.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts about Migman’s recordings, he’s most at home with his guitar making some rather punkish squalls of rhythmic noise to accompany his blood and sinew, modern myth poems. Some of the slicker sounding, more classical accompaniment on this album seem incongruous and a bit misguided. The opening track in particular, “No Soothe Throat”, came across as an ominous forecast with its plucked strings. It turns out that much of the recordings here have synth and electric guitar sounds that, to me, work better. But even the other recordings with orchestral patches seem to fit better. I’m not really here to review his work though I seem to be sliding into a review. I just want to point out that you can do some interesting and acceptably good work with inexpensive tools.

Here is an extensive quote from Dave: “I have my own misgivings about the album… partly guilt. I know a lot of musicians and they spend their lives practicing their art… with the touch screen instruments that the iPad version of GB offers you create sound by rubbing the screen (sounds bizarrely Sci-Fi erotic… like something from an old Woody Allen flick) – but its true. Pressure alters the sound, resonance, the way you touch the screen alters note length. It’s actually very intuitive and well designed. However, as stated in the note that goes with the LP – I’m fairly certain a monkey could belt out a tune on the thing. The presets offer structured chords in rhythmic sequence, which you can alter should you wish. For me the boon is that after years of carving rocks I can’t play guitar so well, the old hand claws up. The guilt factor comes with the ease and comparative lack of skill needed to create a tune.
Another drawback with GB is that you can’t alter the levels to a great degree and to transport the tracks to a laptop or PC is complicated and time consuming… it’s also a bitch to recompose each track into the full song. I’m sure there are ways of doing it.”

The other thing I wanted to point out about Migman is that he is a hard working guy. I don’t know of many people recording poetry and music together and most of us who are seem to be too easily distracted by other things. Dave, too, is distracted. I know he’s written at least one novel while producing several albums of recorded poetry. I start to wonder if the guy sleeps.

If you want to do some good in the world, buy his work. Any of us who are recording poetry and music or other sounds are less than marginal. We need your support.

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


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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