Saturday, May 21, 2011

Recording "Spiral Jetty"

This week, the members of "ModernWorks" (Madeleine Shapiro, Airi Yoshioka, and Bill Schimmel) assembled in the Louis Brown Recording Studio to record my piece Spiral Jetty.   They were the group that commissioned it (through funds from Meet the Composer) back in 2006, and they've performed it at a number of concerts.  The recording was a natural part of the whole growth cycle of the work.

Now, here's the strange part.  Spiral Jetty also has an interactive electronic component - 4 channels of live processed sound.   But, we didn't record that material on Thursday - it actually won't be added in to the final project for some time.  Really, for the first time, I heard the whole piece without the electronics.  (Yes, every rehearsal I've been to has been with electronics;  I guess there were moments where we worked without the electronics, but that was rare.)

That's a photo of the studio - it's a nice warm setting.  And, incredibly quiet, given that it's in the middle of Manhattan!  Airi is on violin in front, and you see Bill behind the glass.  The accordion can be a loud instrument, so it had to be isolated.  Hopefully, Bill didn't feel self-conscious!  Lou is adjusting a microphone, and you can see Madeleine's cello.

Recording is an odd process.  A rock group can record an entire album and not be in the studio at the same time.  You really can't do that with this kind of music.  Instead, they recorded segments - 10-20 measures at a time, often with multiple takes.  My job is going to be to patch this all together to form a composite 'performance' of the piece.  There are a few passages that are going to require major surgery, but there's quite a bit where I can use larger chunks.

That's another shot in the studio.  See, Madeleine was there, not just her cello!

More on this later.

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