Tuesday, October 21, 2008



The track I've selected is Open Wide, the title track of my album on the Circus Company label. It wasn't chosen as the title track as a representative of the sound of the album etc. - the songs run the gamut of electronic/dance music styles I feel - but because it was the first one made with the unifying concept of the album: using strictly my mouth for all the sounds. Concepts, in both form and content, are important to me. They help satisfy the mental part of the mind, body, and soul requirements in music.

It started out as a straight percussive track at first, with the grinding and clicking of my teeth at the center of a basic four-on-the-floor groove, and a simple "synth" pulse (made by stacking, tuning, and filtering a held vocal tone). Gradually the rhythm evolved into a more open and broken-up pattern, I found it stronger and more interesting and decided to run with it. Realizing that the reggaeton-style beat only needed a similar basic pulse to drive it, I replayed the synth stabs to the new groove, matching them with the drums.

The idea of adding vocals didn't come around until the track got to the point where it needed to make a turn, and while chord and sound variations where attempted, I found that holding the same synth chords for awhile to let the LFOs modulate them worked well. A nice and simple way to build tension, fill out the track for a bit, and return to the main, stripped-down groove. The chorus of Open Wide was chosen from a few improvised vocal takes, as it fits perfectly, not only sonically over the synth, but conceptually, with the overall vibe and rhythmic deviation from typical contemporary dance music structure - a kind of "are you afraid of the dark / the unknown?" sentiment. The "Say / Ah" refrain was then added to reinforce the concept and lead back into the chorus, as well as an Eastern monk-styled chorus hit on the one of every 2 bars to punctuate them. I try to tastefully evoke other cultures, times, and places in my music when I can to provide a subtle sense of adventure and departure for the listener, particularly for the club setting where things are often homogenized and too contained. The last vocal additions follow suit, with two tracks of indigenous sounding overdubs to add some transition accents and character, and tie the main vocal passages together.

At that point in the track, say 3/4 of the way done, was the last add and subtract stage. This is a crucial step in the creation of a track, and several seemingly minor changes are made that play a major role in the final form. One example: there was originally a constant hi-hat pattern, that ran at 16th notes during the 'verses' and a broken 8th note pattern during the chorus. While it did provide a good amount of energy, it felt a little too relentless and busy so I scaled them back - the 8th note pattern, with slight variation, is now the main pattern, and a simple 1/4 note hat is now in the (second half of each) chorus. I also decided to split the sound into two, separately pitched and panned hi-hats to open it up, with the attack rolled off for more of a shaker effect and replayed the patterns live for a warmer, more human feel.
When making electronic music, especially in the digital domain, I think it's essential to involve our naturally imperfect human touch wherever possible, so we don't drown ourselves in the 1s and 0s.

The final addition to the track was, as is often the case, the one that wrapped it up. While recording the "Say / Ah" vocals, I also added a playful "horn section" behind it, following the refrain. (The would-be horn section was built with several mouth impressions of brass sounds - trombone, trumpet, french horn, etc. - an approach revisited on the album in "Roundabout" to a better effect.) This helped fill out that section, but I felt the horns should also appear in the chorus. I tried a straight higher-pitched horn riff, but it just wasn't sitting right. So while in the sampler these horn recordings were located, I went to access a filter but went to the loop tab by accident, and turned it on. It defaulted to a medium loop length but sounded interesting so I moved it to increasingly shorter settings until it had that high squawky horn-like sound heard in the choruses and final verse. Yet another example of how chance and human error can be vital in the creative process. I liked the sound so much, I thought it deserved a solo!

The process of making Open Wide, the track and the entire album, with only sounds from my mouth was challenging, but ultimately a creative playground. Never has making such a bold statement against impersonal methods of sound selection/design and composition been so much fun. I tend to lean toward the unusual and unique in my work, but love the feel and function of a good, solid tune. And of course our voices, like our fingerprints, are completely unique and have a lot of sonic potential, especially when used outside of lyrical norms (as also proven by several amazing artists, within music and beyond, that have used the mouth as their tool, their instrument - by no means do I claim to be an innovator in this regard). So for me it was the next step; use a totally unique sound source of my own and a relatively unusual production style, and try to make cohesive, memorable music that doesn't ignore or get overshadowed by its concept, and can be enjoyed on a number of levels by a variety of people. A true balancing act, if nothing else.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

brilliant artist and brilliant artwork to accompany this artist.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i love your arwork and thisone is really outstanding !

6:41 AM  
Blogger modyfier said...

marc's track was a fun one to play with...it set up a bodily context...characters interact with the drawing (inspired by teeth).

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this one deserves a video to accompany it!

11:37 AM  
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Kulnev site! PS will be glad to receive from you on the Old and different coding FAQ Thank you for your attention

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