Okay, so after attempting a mashup of three songs for my first try at digital music manipulation, I discovered that the basics of production are no simple task to decipher. I’m still only three seconds into the song¸ and still deciding how the intro should go. Right.
I always find that translating a musical idea, a musical theme, into actual sound is a more daunting than it should be. The sounds – the way they’re shaped – are something I can hear as if from far away, as if they already exist.
Ever heard of Plato’s Idea? It’s the philosophy that the human mind struggles to understand and re-create notions or ideas that are actually in existence. So a beautiful tune, or a perfectly made chair – the Idea for that already exists, somewhere in the Infinite Mind of the Universe or something. It’s inside the human brain where we try to copy what is already an ultimate thought.
It’s that way with tekno music, yo. Every time the world rises in an automatic, unintentional wave of joy to a piece of amazing music, it reminds me of Plato’s Idea. A popular hit isn’t just that – it’s an example of perfection, an upholding of a principle. It captures not only a sequence of chords and percussive beats, but a genre, an era, a voice, a time, a longing.
Being an acoustic musician, I play songs from forward to backward. They unfold before my eyes. And even that process isn’t pretty. I know what the opening notes will be, the structure of the verses, and the rise and fall of the chorus. Putting all that together with lyrics is like putting together a newsletter before there was Publisher. Scissors, glue, tweezers and the will to destroy with precision. It can get complicated.
As I’ve discovered, so it is making songs using computer music. As I construct a track, I’m also learning what I need to do to get the sound I’m looking for. With laying down tracks, I find I have to build the song from the bottom up, rather than front to back. If that makes any sense. Instead of starting from the first verse, it’s necessary to lay down the foundation of the song – a percussive rhythm, organized breaks, bridges, looped sections, climaxes and cut-offs, and a general circuit of chord progressions, hooks and mid-sections.
Actually I guess I’m imagining it as if I’m building a circuit board. It really is computer music! You can’t connect the wires if you don’t have a motherboard with its multitude of little dots and lines. So it’s those lines and dots I’m working on.
One particular method helped me figure out how to lay down, arrange and interweave tracks, as well as use effects. I have some free software, a mic, a USB interface and headphones, so my workstation isn’t exactly complex. I imported “Candy Walls” by Trust, my favourite song of late, and sang along. Kind of like Walkman-singing, back in the ‘80s – talk about retro! I recorded something like what I sing in the car when I’m driving to “Candy Walls”. Then I edited and mixed my back-up vocals with Alfons; it felt strangely intimate, I have to say.
The product is nothing to write home about, but I now have a vast store of knowledge from the process of experimenting. Because of my lack of technology, the quality of the track is poor. I can’t figure out how to get rid noise and smooth everything out. But it’s a good thing I’m a Nu-Be . . . it makes me keen to learn!