It’s that busy time of the semester again! The time where time itself is running out and the assignments are piled high! Recording projects are wrapping up and are in the final mix stages, essays are full speed ahead and how I wish there were more hours in each day!
Tonight I finished tracking my Music Production Project for semester 4. I haven’t blogged about the production process like I did last semester, so apologies for that! This semester FLEW, I think the Erasmus trip to Norway accelerated that, where does time go when you’re having fun, eh?!
I have been working on one of my own songs for this semesters’ production project. It is a song I started working on over Christmas, inspired by Electronic/Dance music I had been listening to a lot (and still am- I’m also currently enjoying various Dubstep tracks while walking, the Sound City album while driving and Evanescence while running!). I have been writing New Age/Chilled Electronic for a few years now as I really have been enjoying creating music “in The Box”. Logic Pro 9 is my little getaway place!
While I was in Norway I continued working on the piece of music, structuring and shaping the sounds and taking deep inspiration from the emotions and experiences of the Erasmus Programme and the natural beauty of the cold, snowy, sunny, fjord and mountain landscape. The programme was very intense emotionally as I struggled with homesickness for my friends, college, home and family, I felt slightly lost at times as workshops made me close my eyes, look inside myself and think about sound, light and creativity in new ways.
When I came home I had a draft mix of synths, beats and ambient nature recordings, which I was very happy with. There were only 2 lines of lyrics, which I tracked at home “Close your eyes/What can you see?”. I listened to my mix on the lovely Genelecs in the college studio just for fun and it was suggested that I make the the music into a song, go write lyrics and melodies and think about bringing the song to a whole new level, record acoustic drums and other instruments! Make it my production project! I was skeptical at first as I was rather attached to this piece of music (music for thinking to- as I saw it as), which I composed entirely by myself.
Enter Keith Caffrey. If you have been following my blog, you’ll already know that Keith is like the other musical half of me! He is my songwriting partner and close friend, the music I’ve written with Keith through the years has always had deep, personal meaning and a creative enjoyment I never experienced before. I sent Keith the draft mix and emotional ideas I would love to communicate through lyrics (closing of the eyes, looking inside myself and being more aware of myself yet still feeling slightly lost).
Very quickly the music turned into the song. Keith came down to my bedroom studio and we tracked the entire vocal idea. The lyrics were so deep, personal and emotional, Keith understood perfectly what I had been feeling (as spiritually close friends, there are few who understand me so well!). It was also as if Keith KNEW we had only been studying the art of vocal expression in college, he felt the song should have lots of aspirate on-sets and releases, creaks and shakes.
With minor structure adjustments and a guide vocal done (and a huge migration into Pro Tools 10!), the song was ready for addition instrumentation. I’m not going into the nitty-gritty details of my sessions but I recorded drums in session 1, harp, piano and electric guitar in session 2 and female vocals in session 3.
During my time in Norway I made lots of new friends and valuable contacts, Fiona McErlane being one of them. We met in the airport and sat next to each other on the plane from Dublin to London and hit it off straight away with giggles over drinks! I heard her singing in the music performance workshops in Norway and was blown away by her pure, crystal clear, angelic voice. I knew back then I wanted to work with her in the future but didn’t know for what project!
I asked her to sing on the project and play a little bit of traditional harp. She was excited about the song and the inspiration of the music and lyrics (she was actually present when I made the recording of the fjord shore in Norway).
So tonight was our final recording session, we tracked lots of vocals and had a very productive session. I was so happy with her performance, she gave it 110% emotionally and technically, she jumped right in with suggestions and gave it her all. I was also happy that I got to finally track using the Distressor compressor (gentle 2:1 ratio) and got to try out the Rode K2 valve mic, it sounded sweet!
Our session was the first official night time recording session in DkIT 6pm-9pm. Yes! Finally! A night time recording session!!! I’m a big fan of working in the evenings/nights (last semesters’ Monday 9am-12pm were not to my liking!). Energies are high, vocals are warm, people tend to be more relaxed in the evenings I find! So please, for next semester, more night time sessions please!
I better go to bed, it is 12:30am now and tomorrow is a new day of vocal editing! I will of course share the song “Close Your Eyes” when it’s mixed. Special thanks to Keith Caffrey, Fiona McErlane, Craig Sullivan, Gavin Clarke for their creative input and help and to my friends for their support!
I’ll leave you with this fun snap from tonights session!
This week’s playlist is 5 songs across any genre which have a political message. This is an easy playlist, there are so many political songs! Here’s 5 I personally enjoy:
1. “Searchlight” – Fallon Bowman (2003)
This song comes from the politically heavy album “District 6”, the first solo album by Fallon Bowman (formerly of Canadian heavy metal band Kittie). The album was released under the artist title Amphibious Assault. Ms Bowman is my absolute favourite singer and I’ve been a fan of her since 1999! This was the first song I heard from her debut solo album and I still love it.
This song talks about the peacetime during the Cold War.
“A cold war peacetime,
Fuels a struggle of divine,
Magnitude and strengthens weakness,
Illuminates the searchlight.”
There is no official video for this song, this video is a fan upload.
2. “Russians” – Sting (1985)
I’m a big Sting fan and I’ve always adored this song for it’s beautiful minor key and instrumentation. This song really moves me and gives me goosebumps. Opening with the ticking bomb sound, the political theme is set straight away. In essence the song is about the Cold War. Every lyric makes reference to it. A lyric I particularly love is “There’s no such thing as a winnable war. It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore”. Sting expresses his fear for “Oppenheimer’s deadly toy” and his lack of faith in America’s defence when he sings;
“Mr. Reagan says we will protect you. I don’t subscribe to this point of view. Believe me when I say to you, I hope the Russians love their children too”
3. “Zombie” – The Cranberries (1994)
A song I didn’t discover until I was 19 years old when my old rock band Black Daisy covered it as part of our live set. I fell in love with the song for it’s raw guitars and beautiful haunting melody. Of course I’ve heard it way too many times since, radio overplay has killed it but I can’t bear to leave it out of my list.
Lyrically the song expresses the pain caused by war and also the madness and disillusionment that always comes with it. It is a song for the innocents involved. (“Another mother’s breaking heart is taking over the violence”). It does not have a side nor express an opinion. It does make reference to the 1916 Rising which suggests the song is about political Ireland. (“It’s the same old thing since 1916. In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting”). The term “zombie” could signify the soldier or political leader who has no thoughts- he who kills without thinking of the innocent victims and the grief violence causes- “Whats in your head, Zombie?”
4. “B.Y.O.B” – System of a Down (2005)
Hard to pick just one song from this band! A truly wonderful band they are! Love, love them! This song is a protest song about the war in Iraq. What I think is really clever is the pop melody for the lyrics – “Everybody’s going to the party, have a real good time. Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine”, combined with the distorted guitars. These lyrics suggest that America enjoys going to Iraq and has a good time there, killing and causing unrest. It doesn’t get more blatent than the following lyrics – “Blast off, it’s party time. And we don’t live in a fascist nation” and “Why don’t presidents fight the war? Why do they always send the poor?”
5. “Black Rain” – Ozzy Osbourne (2007)
Another song about Iraq. Ozzy expresses his bafflement with the war-
“Politicians confuse me
I watch the body count rise
Why are the children all marching
Into the desert to die?”
He clearly sees no point in countries meddling with other countries politics-
“We’ve got our marching orders
Defenders of our home and our pride
We’ve crossed too many borders
I really like this song. Ozzy really has a way with phrasing words and expressing a message clearly.
This week’s blog is a discussion of my favourite and least favourite genre of music. Let’s start with my favourite musical genre- rock!
I have been a fan of rock music since I was 15 years old when I became friends with a girl who was already a huge fan. She introduced me to the music of Led Zeppelin and I became completely absorbed in their music very quickly. At the time I was starting to learn electric guitar and this music inspired me greatly to play and progress.
Not long after this, she introduced me to the music of Metallica, the first song I heard was “The Unforgiven” and I fell in love immediately with the gorgeous Spanish guitar introduction and the hard, heavy verses. I had never heard Metallica before this and I remember being so shocked that the band I had always thought of as being the hardest, heaviest, scariest band in the world, could compose something so haunting and deeply beautiful. This was the real turning point in my musical taste and I became completely obsessed with everything Metallica related!
This newly discovered passion for heavy music inspired me to seek out other similar hard rock bands including Rammstein and other forms of rock music. Nu-metal in particular dominated the heavy metal magazines Metal Hammer and Metal Edge and television channels Kerrang! and Scuzz back then. It was mostly through these television channels that I discovered new rock music. The Internet had little or no role in my discovery of music, back then I had only a dial-up connection and wasn’t really allowed to be online anyway!
I still enjoy rock music very much and in particular the music of Metallica and Rammstein. I find their style of music appealing for many reasons, starting with their guitars. I have a deep appreciation for their guitar skills and sounds. I love their style of playing, those chug-chug, heavy, fat riffs, yes they are mechanical and rigid but that appeals greatly to me (see “Devil’s Dance” from Metallica’s 1997 Reload album YouTube link below). I also love their clean, shimmering guitars, always rich in beautiful chords. Rock music in essence is guitar-driven music and that is the number one reason I listen to so much of it.
I usually like the vocal styles of rock singers, I like how grainy and edgey vocalist’s sound and how they combine great, catchy melodies with anthemic phrases. Usually the lyrics stand for something and mean something deep. Take this Fozzy track below for this melodic, rock vocal combined with excellent guitar riffage and those shimmering guitar sounds:
I am a huge fan of hard rock audio production, I love the full wall-of-guitars sound, the huge drum kit with the clear kick drum and cracking snare drum, the raw vocal and warm bass.
Apart from the musical characteristics and audio production of rock music, I’ve always liked the image that came with it. I like the alternative and rebellious fashion combined with moody facial expressions. Full of attitude.
Since my awakening to rock music, I have always viewed this genre as an authentic one. Bands that write and play their own music is greatly important to me and this is of course, the fundamental element in rock bands. Bands work as a unit, they eat, sleep, breathe their own music and work extremely hard to finish their albums. Similar to the indie bands as discussed in this week’s tutorial, rock band members are friends and are from the working class, these being more key elements of their authenticity.
Now on to my least favourite genre of music! This probably comes as a shock considering my favourite genre of music is rock, but I really can’t tolerate death metal! Sorry to all you lovers of death metal! I mean no disrespect in any way! It is simply a genre of music I don’t “get”.
The number one reason I dislike this genre of music is the vocal technique. I can never understand any of the lyrics and I dislike the lack of lead vocal melody, but of course, the music itself doesn’t allow for lead vocal melodies because of the genre defining speedy, frantic guitar riffing and pounding drumming. I don’t like the deep, screaming style. Even when the music itself is down tempo and actually appeals to me, the vocal style just doesn’t work for me. I can’t listen to it. I also don’t like the imagery the bands portray, I find them scary and sometimes grotesque.
Being a rock fan, I can certainly relate to the fans of this style of music though! I appreciate the incredible skill of the musicians who perform these complex riffs and masterclass techniques, I understand the hours upon hours of practise these musicians put into their rehearsals and I marvel at their abilities. I’m sure the fans love death metal for these reasons and probably also for the fact that these bands are real people making their own music, just like my favourite rock musicians. Death metal is every bit as authentic as rock music in my personal opinion.
I have been feeling creative lately! I’m announcing the follow up track to “Ashes Forever” which I posted online a couple of weeks ago… “The Key”. 🙂
Composition for this piece started about two weeks ago in my bedroom studio. I wished to complete it before my trip to Oxford so I could mix it over there, but feeling this song was coming from somewhere very deep inside me, I didn’t want to rush the creative process.
I had composed all the music by the time I got to Oxford and there I mixed what I had and structured half the song.
I returned home to Ireland in a whirlwind of emotions and penned the lyrics and vocal melodies shortly afterwards. This song is a deep one to me and I hope the listener enjoys my creation.
It’s the first time I’m publicly showcasing my violin skills on a recording and also my lovely B flat tin whistle, I was really surprised how nice it recorded, adding just a touch of reverb! It’s probably also the first song I’m actually not playing guitar! Written, composed, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered entirely by myself with the exception of giving my friend Lee Fitzpatrick some deserved credit for advising me on my equalisation curves at the early stage of mixing!
So put on your headphones, sit back, relax and breathe and enjoy “The Key” 🙂