A Magical Simultaneous Vision

April 10, 2017

Editing creates more and more sense out of a work or text. Everything in a piece is there for more than one reason; a chord might support the melody and develop a counter melody. An inner voice might give breathing room to the main tune but add a small, unexpected surprise to the texture.

I have just re-imagined a set of songs originally written over 20 years ago and observe that the harmonies were chosen often to clash with the vocal line. They were chords and clusters selected with joy, I was happy just to play them so long ago, but now I work to meld them into a cohesive shape.

The tones written must be there for multiple reasons and these rationales often make the music easier to play. A mind perceives the reasons behind those tones, and as it does so, the patterns become more interesting, more musical. The more musical a phrase is, the easier it is to play.

A few days ago, I was playing through the revisions with a singer* who stumbled numerous times on a particular word. Turned out that the composer might have set the syllables in a slightly un-natural way and as we worked through the issue we found a better way to do it and the problem ceased to be. The stumbles helped us fix an issue with text setting.

The set of songs were recorded in one three hour session with a violinist who was sight-reading. Finishing the pieces, I began to embed vocal cues in the guitar part to increase the chances of getting it all done on time. Each wrong note would decrease the chance of getting the right ones recorded. Every cue would help the singer find the correct pitch with greater ease.

I prefer to work from a complete take while editing a recording. There is increased listenability since the performers felt the entire gestalt unfold in real time. This flow is one of those subtle human things that listeners sense on an unconscious level. Performers broadcast all of that subtle stuff and that focus draws listeners in. It is a complex array of big goals and small, note-to-note shaping but also phrase and section shaping. Each gesture will in some way affect many subsequent ones and a small change in dynamic on page one means that others must be altered as well.

The whole and the parts are knit together – all the secrets of the world are in a grain of sand. Adjusting a delicate inner voice means there will be other changes as well. I like to think of this as the human mind working at its best: evolving the macro and micro pictures in a magical simultaneous vision.