Post Tagged mixing


Sunday, 11 November 2009

More work on the Buddha Reduction today. Spiralling closer and closer to a final mix / master. Today involved a lot of combing over files with a “fine toothed comb” so to speak… listening to each file with headphones on (something I really almost never do!) listening for clicks and unwanted anomalies.
I was confronted with new kinds of distortion, and came up with new ways of thwarting them.
I discovered unwelcome frequency peaks that were previously hidden. I squashed them.
I redrew the line between acceptable noise and unacceptable noise, and excavated the terrain to match the map.

Some days, my music work involves a lot of waiting for files to process, and then performing some small task and waiting again some more for files to process.

Tedium is an acceptable side-effect to progress.


Monday, 03 March 2009

My creative work precedes my mixdown / mastering work by a large gap of time, normally.

I’ve recently begun mixing and mastering for the Electret Quintet part 3, work which was composed and assembled in March 2008.

After a working through a few passes at a mixdown over the last few weeks, today I found — nested in the folder for one of the tracks to appear on the third part of this project — a folder titled ‘alt’, which contained a radical remix of that track… I haven’t heard this mix in over a year, and I’d completely forgotten about it! Pretty exciting discovery, for my part. The downside is that adding this new part in will add another couple of minutes to the total length, and I was already thinking it was reaching the limit of lengthiness. The first two tracks alone have a longer duration than the entirety of “The Electret Quintet part 2”.

It’s funny to me that the creative side of my psyche works quickly enough that I can record something and completely forget that it even exists. I wonder how much stuff I’ve created and then misplaced forever?

Didn’t the Residents record something that they intended to have released only once they’d forgotten they’d ever recorded it? That’s a good m.o., IMO.

Mastering Terror

Monday, 01 January 2009

I am coming to approach mixing and mastering with total dread.

It’s such a long, drawn out process for me, taking weeks… sometimes if I give up halfway & have to come back to it, it can be months.

I have learned that I cannot trust the way the music sounds through one set of speakers, the premix may sound ecstatic but if I burn a CD of that, if I listen to it on any other stereo I won’t hear the same thing that I heard when I was creating the piece originally…
…so I listen to the same piece of music repetitively, two to four times on different sets of stereo equipment while determining what kinds of changes I might need to make. Then I take my notes and remix and remaster, and then I’ll have to listen again to determine the changes I need to make. Then I’ll make those changes,
I’ll go through the listen/adjust/listen/adjust process again, and again and again… until I’ve hit that magic, blissful moment when everything sounds right on whatever stereo equipment I play the music through.

When I listen to an unacceptable master, it is simultaneously informative (too much hi-mid here… clean up that crackle at 2 minutes 43 seconds… oh! better mix down that part there… where’s the BASS?) and disheartening. DIS->heartening.
When I listen to a poorly mixed/mastered version of my music, I am FILLED with doubt about why I engage in this activity at all. I am confronted with the horror of my music’s dark side.
I’m already wont to doubt my own worth as a composer, but hearing the music again and again when it doesn’t sound the way I originally envisioned really gets under my skin.
Sadly most of the mixing/mastering process entails listening to unacceptable master after unacceptable master over and over and over. The psychological effect is something like staring compulsively at a slideshow of every single misstep, screwup and failure you’ve committed in the last couple of months. Eventually you start to think “Hey, I kinda suck!”

A well known professional mastering engineer can charge $500 for a single song which he or she will spend a few hours time on, utilizing very expensive professional equipment. Easy money. On the other hand, many amateur musicians seem to be able to stumble upon a good mix that sounds present and balanced next to professionally mixed music without any real apparent trouble at all.
There are CD repro / musicians’ services clearinghouses that offer mastering deals where you can get your whole album mastered for three hundred clams. Those hard-earned bivalves will buy you the time it takes for a brainless goateed fratboy to run your music through a pre-set bunch of EQ curves and compression designed to make all music “fat”. He won’t actually listen to the music while doing this, to be sure. 311 will blast through the monitors while your music is being “mastered”.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on the mixing and mastering for the second installment of the Electret Quintet, and a re-release of an early recording of mine called “ne quid nimis” and on a track for a compilation by the promising new label Droehnhaus.
I’m overwhelmed with that familiar mixture of hopeful promise and gut-churning doubt that comes with every mastering process. The sheer volume of WORK involved in producing a version of my music available to the public… much of it unpleasant… sometimes encourages me to fantasize a bit about alternatives, such as live performance.

To perform live, to create directly for a limited time and then let go… this seems like a very alluring alternative to the tedious sculpting of my recorded work, of living with one project for so much time before completion.

In my twenty plus years of recording experimental music, I have never once attempted to perform live. There is, truthfully, very little that is performance-based about my music. I record with a method that involves selection->manipulation->assembly->detailing. For every 10 minutes of performance in my recorded work there are untold hours of editing. I actually really like editing, it’s very joyful and natural for me. Through editing the small sounds become the big sounds.

So how do I do it? How do I step out – as one guy with limited equipment – and make a big, full sound that’s not monotonous and that I can be proud of?
I know I will continue to ask myself this question for some time to come. For me, it’s a “big” question.

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