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Archive for July, 2011

Recording Percussion Instruments

July 25, 2011 1 comment

Hi there guys and girls, how are you doing?

Today we were doing a recording session on the first “single-like-something” of our musical project and as the time for capturing an unique percussion instrument came by I was struck by an idea… To make something a little different.

But let’s make things a little clearer here. :P

That unique instrument I was talking about is an alfaia, a big Brazillian folk drum with a particular deep, low sound. I must tell you it’s capable of filling both rooms and souls all around alike. (Here you can see how it looks like:)

Alfaia

That's an alfaia. It's big, loud... And heavy. :P

Well, how can you even begin to get such a feeling into a recording? We did an experiment today and I’m very happy with the results…

We decided to place an extra mic for that recording. Aside the regular top mic (for getting the main “dry” kicking sound) we’ve got another one at its bottom as well. The result is a nice, warmer sound, a mix of the clearer drumstick pattern plus a monster natural reverb, somewhat detuned and full of unpredictable harmonics.

Take a listen to the top side (R), the bottom side (L) and both mixed together. Beautiful and alive–and that’s a flat recording, we can still get much more by equalizing it.

See ya, have a nice week!

Classical vs. Popular (Counterpoint)

July 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Hi there, good night, how are you all doing?

One of the most important–and interesting–issues when it comes to composing and arranging music is how to do a nice and functional counterpoint. Of course, it’s a broad theme but we can roughly say a counterpoint is an auxiliar melody which supports and dialogue with the main theme without being just a mirror or a straight harmonization of that first one. Our studies of course included an exercise (as always) that I’m presenting here for your appreciation. :)

In this particular theme I’ve tried to perform a crossover between classical and popular elements through the intercourse of some typical characteristics of each style. There are a lot of little details to analyse here and there but the core thing to look at is how the two melodies (violin vs. flute) behave when they’re soloing. The violin starts its work right at the head of the bar (causing a somewhat “distorted” notion of the strong count in this case) while the flute makes it through an anacrusis (“correcting” that notion of time, showing the classical point of view of the same thing). After both solo intruments being presented we can hear they “dancing” together without necessarily losing their particular characteristics.

You can give it a listen here:

Enquanto chove

And you can check the original sheet here (without some minor tweaks).

Conterpoints can make music much more beautier if used properly and I’m still working on that… Meanwhile take a listen to an abosulety astounding counterpoint job from the genius Pixinguinha as he does it through his sax giving the flute a helping hand. :) This is a “choro” (a Brazillian music style, predecessor of samba) and it’s called Atraente.

Atraente

That it for now, see you next week!

Old Sailormen Songs…

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Hi there, how are you all doing?

After a long, long stormy year I’m finally managing to set sail heading back to my own little, cozy island… And being in touch with the sea always helps me to get the job done–even if it’s not a REAL touch, but an emotional one.

(I guess I was a sailorman in another life if there’s such a thing. lol)

In my efforts to find my way back home I’ve been reading and listening to anything I can that’s sea related… Just re-read Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” (can’t recommend it enough, it’s my favorite book EVER), read an awesome short story from the Portuguse writer José Saramago called “The Tale of the Unknown Island”, I’m ready to start Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”…

And music-wise I’ve discovered a lost gem that’s really broadening my senses regarding songs, history and the sea itself: Paul Clayton. The guy was not only a pleasant voice to hear but also a hell of a folklorist… Reading his reports on how he’sgot to a song or details on lyrics and such is an absolute delight.

Therefore I couldn’t help but getting inspired by him. Here’s a new-old song from me paying a tribute to some of the sea stories I like most. The 2nd strophe relates to Conrad’s “The Shadow Line”, the 3rd to Poe’s short story “A Descent into the Maelström” and the last one refers to Moby Dick (which I’m buying along with a Paul Clayton’s remastered CD at Amazon right now. :P)


The Cursed Old Sailorman

Who's that one now coming 'round the
corner from the pier street?
A cursed old sailorman who's brought with
him just dark sea memories.

He was the sole survivor of a
starving crew in a ship adrift.
A cursed old sailorman who's brought with
him just dark sea memories.

He's saw it from the bottom:
talkin' 'bout the Maelstrom here!
A cursed old sailorman who's brought with
him just dark sea memories.

He's written 'bout a captain against a
whale and a sunken ship
A cursed old sailorman who's brought with
him just dark sea memories.

I hope you like this one… But wait, there’s more! An instrumental theme inspired by the novel “The Lost Sailors” by the French writer Jean-Claude Izzo. Another excellent read I must recommend with no delay. There are a couple confusing acoustic guitars here but it’s meant to be that way. -.- lol

Os marinheiros perdidos

That’s it for now, enjoy the tunes and have an awesome week. ;)

Experimental Music: How To? :P

Good night, how are you doing?

A couple days ago I was listening to the already-classic Björk’s album Vespertine (released in 2001) while thinking about this: how can such experimental music be so loaded with emotion and manage to reach (and touch) so many different people around the globe? (Just like me in Brazil, far from being an Icelander… :P)

Of course there’s not a simple single answer to that. For a start I would put some of this into vocals arrangement’s account (since the human voice is the only absolutely unanimous musical instrument in the world and every culture can relate to choirs in a way or another); maybe there’s some more to delegate to the variety of “rhythmic cells” you can find within a single song from her–I mean, there’s something for everyone in those recordings (rhythmically speaking), even if one’s not really getting the big picture while listening to it.

But going even further with that, what makes her music amazing–aside her one-of-a-kind of a voice–is that the final result is always greater than the sum of its parts.

And that’s the way to go when you’re trying to make some musical experiments: not only to drop random noise all over the piece but making them “talk” to each other, giving each click, blip or note a role.

Despite sounding like a mess sometimes :P Björk’s music is always structured under restrict rules. I’ll use “Undo” (because it’s my favorite one from this album and that’s it lol) as an example to make some points.

From the very beginning we can notice how widely varied the rhythmic cells here can be. The two sentences that form the chorus behave as if they were proposing two different “angles” on the same object… Take a look:

Compare the first system (sentence) to the second and you'll see how they're in fact two different "shots" from the same thing.

Beautiful, isn’t it? Even if you can’t read music. :P Take a listen to it clean along with the metronome:

Undo (voice)

And then other elements start to “unfold”… lol Each one giving us a new piece of info, never being redundant–and exactly due to that a listener can never rely on an isolated fragment to understand what’s going on. It’s the whole that makes it what it is.

The same goes for the harmony. The arrangement takes a lot of time to decide if the key is B Flat Maj or G minor… :P No, not really. It takes some time to reveal the truth–what happens only at 2:22 when the chorus makes a full-force appearence. (It’s B Flat Major, by the way.)

I could speak a lot more on what happens here but really, if you got the setup behind this you can understand everything almost to the end… And I say almost because there’s a little appart piece of harmony yet to be shown. A very emotional and unexpected one. It’s achieved by an amazing use of voices conduction inside the chords, and it’s so beautiful that I decided to make a small recording with an acoustic guitar to show it better: :P

Bjork – Undo (Ending)

It’s a very subtle and delicate chords progression (Bb6, Bb6#11, Dsus4dom9,  Dsus4dom) done by changing small “bricks” into the chords like this:

Bb-G-Bb-F to

Bb-G-Bb-E to

D-G-C-E to

D-G-C-D

I must say this is some nice Brazillian harmony. :P If you don’t believe me take a listen to this rock song from a Brazillian band:

Lanterna dos afogados (Os Paralamas do Sucesso)

Well, what more can I say? I urge you to listen to Björk’s album… :P There’s a lot to learn–and feel–there.

See ya, have a nice week! :)

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