Thursday, August 07, 2008

Funky Flute Groove Experience

This morning I finished editing the guitar track to my most recent composition, Funky Flute Groove Experience.

The above link will take you to the programme note for this piece, but briefly, I wrote it for Christine Gangelhoff (flutist) and electronics, to be performed at the most recent Newfoundland Sound Symposium (July, 2008). Christine and I had asked a local DJ/turntablist (DJ Russtafari) to be involved in this too, but we learned a few weeks before the performance that he had moved to Korea, and, incredibly, was not planning to commute back to St. John's for the performance! What's up with that?

Another part of the original plan was to have me play guitar on the piece, but, as the performance date got nearer, I started getting cold feet because (a) I don't perform much, (b) I'm not a very good guitarist, and (c) I was spending all my time composing the piece and had no time to learn a guitar part!

Christine, who had been expecting to perform FFGE as part of a trio (with DJ Russ and myself) called "Urban Sound Collective," was now facing the prospect of playing solely with the electronic accompaniment, and was a tad disappointed. Kind of hard to call yourself a collective when there's only one performer, I guess…

I therefore decided, in a moment of compassion/rashness, to follow through with my original plan and create a guitar part for the piece (which was otherwise about 95% finished), and to (gulp) perform it too. I second-guessed that decision a few times, but the happy news is that it all worked out okay; the part I came up with sounds fine to me, and I wasn't nervous at all while playing it (probably because it was largely improvised, and the rest was memorized). And, as it turned out, we were able to find another DJ/turntablist in Deb Sinha, who was here for a performance during the Newfoundland Sound Symposium, who very graciously agreed to step in at the last minute and did a fine job. And so Urban Sound Collective was a trio after all, and all went well! Or, if "well" is overstating matters, then at least nobody was injured during the performance, and it has been my experience that one cannot ask for much more than that in matters pertaining to the performance of one's music.

I guess the fact that I took a risk and didn't have it blow up in my face emboldened me to try recording the guitar part myself. I had never edited digital audio before and so was somewhat apprehensive about the process, and the fact that I was using a 10-year-old Mac G4 that crashes about twice a day did not inspire confidence. It took a couple of hours to get everything set up — I was temporarily stymied because I don't have a microphone preamp (necessary to boost the signal strength from 'mic level' to 'line level'). The microphone (used to pick up the guitar amplifier) had been connected directly to the digital audio processor (MOTU 2408MkII) but I couldn't figure out how to boost the signal, so I routed it through my mixer and applied gain to the signal there. As I said, it took a while, but once things were set up properly the process of recording was very straightforward.

I ended up spending a ridiculous number of hours recording and editing the guitar track though… you can move individual notes a few milliseconds (or a lot of milliseconds) forwards or backwards until they are exactly where you want them, but it's a painstaking (and simultaneously amazing) process. I took several runs at the guitar solo (in the last two choruses of the minor blues that occurs around the middle) and the rhythm still feels a bit loose in spots, but I eventually left it as is because it didn't feel too out of character for the piece.

As I mentioned, I finished editing the guitar part this morning, so here it is if you want to have a listen (and if you do, please leave a comment!):

•N.B.: If there is already music playing on this page, you can turn it off by pressing the "pause" button in the mini-MP3 player on the top of the right column on this page → → →

DreamDance Picture

Clark Ross: "Funky Flute Groove Experience" (2008)
Clark Ross, guitar (Gibson ES-335→Laney amp);
all other sounds made by Korg Trinity V3 synthesizer


Postscript: I submitted this to, where it has received comments from members of that on-line community. Click hereif you would like to read them.

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