Dave Migman, in the rough

If you’ve been reading Poetry and Other Sounds you’ve probably already encountered Dave Migman as a contributing author. Also, I’ve made passing mention of him before. Primarily we’re interested in his recordings of poetry combined with music. But Dave is multitalented and is most driven to express himself by writing: here are links to his publisher and his book, The Wolf Stepped Out, his blog, and his literary podcast (the Dogcast can also be found on soundcloud.com). In his soundcloud biography he mentions being a stone carver though I haven’t found any links to this work. But, there is a link to his graphic art.

I’m drawn to the colors and textures, finding that it reminds me of Max Ernst.

I want to start you off with The Drift, which Dave mentions later in an email discussing his recording methods. While I like Dave’s recordings, the spoken pieces more than the sung, The Drift has gotten hold of me the way music does when you’re fourteen and you play a song over and over until the vinyl has worn almost as thin as the patience of everyone around you (we had records and 8-track tapes when I was young (I don’t think cassettes were being commercially made for music yet, it was just a dictation medium of very low quality), and some of us only had mono record players…can you play an MP3 until it wears out?).

I say “in the rough” because Dave seems to follow in the tradition of English verse rich in blood and sinews and direct statements. I see it as a sign of honesty, integrity, and impatience (I consider these artistic virtues but they might be social liabilities, as expressed in his song Solitary Man). You can’t call any of these tracks smooth. There’s nothing paté about his writing or his recording: it’s all meat and gristle you can chew on.

Dave has already spoken of the ease and usefulness of a free audio editing program, Audacity.  I’m going to let him speak for himself, quoting from an email I opened this morning. I’m assuming that the “directional microphone” he’s referring to is a cardioid mic, which picks up less and less of the sound as it moves from front and center, so you aim the microphone at your sound source. By the time you read this the Tascam DR-05 could be off the market. It is a handheld audio recorder, inexpensive and easy to use, with built-in microphones. There are numerous recorders of the sort on the market and for the first time anyone with $100 or a little more can have very high quality recording equipment (when I started recording in 1996 the portable recorders available were rarely under $2000, plus microphones, and had a lot of breakable moving parts and recorded to tape; and if it was a cheaper digital unit it came with copy protection so you couldn’t transfer your recordings).…Regarding the pop filtering he mentions, you can buy little foam hat-like things or mesh discs that mount to a mic stand. If you really don’t have the money but can access old nylon stockings and a coat hanger, it’s not too difficult to construct your own (if it’s touching anything that the mic comes into contact with, such as a mic stand, be careful not to bump it). My advice, along with using a pop filter or windscreen is to take a step back, especially if you like to scream and yell. A little distance is good for the microphone as well as the recording.

Well, I’ll try to clarify things. I work with a variety of methods. But I do like to keep it simple. I’m not great with technical issues as I do not have a head for mathematics. Certain things flow intuitively. Neither am I trained in music, I know what strings to tune on a guitar, and I can feel which notes will sit with a bass line etc.

I am a prolific writer. I have files and hardcopy notebooks filled with poetic bile, notes culled from the road or relationships and thoughts on life. Thus my process is pretty haphazard. I record a guitar riff ( I had a directional microphone that I would balance on a pile of books next to the amp (a tiny 25 watt thing). Then I test the levels, all long as I’m not hitting the red too much things record fine and the mic’s proximity to the amp cuts out any background noise. Currently I record on a new iMac, using its built in mic which isn’t the best, I’m still hunting for my mic. Sometimes I also record lyrics for tracks on my Tascam DR-05 mp3 recorder, these tracks I then slot in place over a ‘rough’ vocal in either Audacity or Garageband (the two studio platforms I use).

When I first began recording my own stuff on my laptop in 2008 I would just holler into the built in mic, but found that these vary from computer to computer, so it’s worth buying a mic, if you are looking for professional quality you’ll want something directional and something to stop your p’s and b’s popping (I used to put a cloth over the mic, it seemed to help).

Song construction varies, but generally I create files of riffs, these I might add to, and once again the lyrics are chosen by what feels right rhythmically and what suits the mood of each track. Often I cobble together several pieces of text to create one song. I do like reversing sounds, altering the pitch and I used to have a piece of vocal transforming software which was useless for the intended purpose but when set on a certain effect, and when the mic was rubbed against the table or palm of my hand produced the bizarre sound that you hear through “The Drift” – so it’s good to experiment. As for other instruments, I use harmonica, harmony, wind drum, Bodhran, guitar, thumb piano etc recording straight into the computer, or Mp3 recorder (currently this is why most of my audio tracks pick up the noise of the busy street I live on – but it’s all ambience).

Notice that he was using an effects processor for an unintended purpose. Please do as Dave does. In the digital world it’s pretty hard to damage anything but the results can be incredible. In the physical world show a little more care—electronics and liquids should never meet; microphones and electrical components are easily damaged by even small bumps and bangs. Imagination can be simple. If you play it right we call it art, whether it’s smooth or in the rough.

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