January 2007

As a rather serious music collector, I know that I can’t be the only one with this problem, but it’s something that has bugged me a little bit each of the past time I’ve put CDs onto my shelf and into my collection.

I often wonder when I’ll simply have the chance to listen to not only a particular piece of music again, but the CD by it, and the CD by that, and the crate of records sitting on the floor by them all. Compact discs have now been in the commercial marketplace for over two decades now, and even many modest collectors I know have aquired five hundred or more CDs in their collection. On the more serious side of things, I also know people with between 5,000 and 10,000 CDs in their collection.

Although my collection falls far, far below the 5,000 mark, I still cannot comprehend when I’ll have a chance to actually sit down and listen to a good portion of my actual collection. I have a lot of music in my iTunes library and my 20 GB iPod is almost full, but shuffle is the best way to sample the collection and even then it’s only a sampling. Sometimes I simply get a bit bummed out looking at things in my collection that have been neglected, trying to give face time where I can by grabbing something when I’m running out the door to drive the car somewhere.

Not only that, but in addition to what I already own, I’m listening to new music weekly (probably 5-10 new albums minimum), so my actual time to devote to older albums is dimished as well. I know lots of people who download at least as much music and have external hard-drives full of 25,000 songs or more. Listening to a collection that large would take non-stop play (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) for well over three months (assuming 10 songs per album) just to hear every song, and once again, that doesn’t include anything new added to that collection in that time span.

Am I going to have to wait until retirement to hear some of my collection again? Will I even like some of it by then? Do I need to take a break from new music for awhile? Help me out here people…

It’s taken some time to come to terms with it, but it seems that I’ve always been a much better singer in my head that in real life. I was kicked out of choir in junior high because the teacher said that I was tone deaf. This was no problem with me, as it allowed me to take two periods of art class, my favorite at the time.

Later on in high school, I decided to go out for choir again, and under another teacher I actually found that it was something I really enjoyed. My last two years of school, I even took part in swing choir (along with full choir), wearing the goofball cumberbund, bow-tie, and all. Yes, it was all very cheesy and I’m sure that if I saw videos of myself from those days I would cringe, but my teacher was pretty open-minded and let my overzealous friends and I actually choose a lot of the songs we’d sing. We picked semi-obscure songs created from William Blake poems and to this day I can rattle of lines like “Tyger, tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / dare frame thy fearful symmetry” in the same melody we sang them in roughly 13 years ago to date.

In college, I gave up on choir because everything got much more serious than I wanted to be, but I found myself drawn to and imitating singers like David Gahan and Morrissey in my spare time (away from the ears of anyone near). On the drives to and from college (5 hours each way), I’d sing myself hoarse while alternately simply having fun letting loose and trying to keep myself awake on the long stretches of road.

Post-college, the first band that I was in didn’t force the issue too much. Our first release was largely instrumental and lyrics were both buried in the mix and/or filtered heavily, turning them into what was basically another textural element rather than something most people would consider a full-on vocal recording. Our following EP had one vocal outburst from myself, and despite lots of practice and many, many takes, it’s still something that I was never quite happy with. A couple friends who heard the song stated that they preferred the instrumental tracks on that short release, solidifying the view in my head that my vocals somehow killed the momentum of the title track.

All of the above said, the past two weeks or so have been spent recording vocals. It’s the vague musical project that has been in the works for over a year now, and quite a leap given my somewhat uneasy past experiences with my own voice. With every single song there’s now an acclimation period, where I literally have to waste at least ten takes just getting used to the sound of my own voice in the mix, and usually many, many more after I re-listen to recordings with fresh ears and hear even more things that bother me. Instead of masking everything in filters or burying them in the mix, vocals have become a focus of tracks instead of a quiet textural element. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, but a bit frightening as well.

It’s all sort of a new experience, even though I’ve been through some of it before. Standing in a room with my computer and/or one other person knowing I have as long as I need to get it right is completely different than standing out in the middle of a big empty studio space while five people stand behind glass and give pointers and the clock ticks on a four hundred dollar day. In some ways, though, that ability to endlessly re-record has forced me to become an even more harsh critic of myself as I rediscover the limitations in my (admittingly not so great in the first place) vocals and then try to play on what strong points there are.

At several points during the process, I simply wondered if the whole vocal thing should simply be scrapped and songs should be taken back to instrumental form, but at some point along the way a breakthrough or two happened and now vocal tracks simply feel “right.” I’d get laughed right out of the room at an American Idol audition, but I guess time will tell whether these things sound as good to everyone else as they do to me.

In the time since I last updated (which was many moons ago), I had a nice long holiday break in which I both relaxed and got a lot of things done. I thought about posting here a couple times, but didn’t really end up feeling like it.

One of the things that I did in the past three weeks was move my office/”studio” from the living room of our house into a room upstairs. We finished remodeling a room after a couple months of work, and I decided that an actual desk and chair would suit me better than sitting with my legs at awkward angles under the coffee table. The new space is very comfy, with hardwood floors (and rugs for sound dampening) and walls that are painted mocha with a faint blue-grey ceiling. It’s very cozy and seems to be working out much better than my cluttering sprawl in the living room.

I’ve had a record sleeve frame for some time now sitting in the basement with a Johnny Cash record in it, but figured that the new studio called for something new. I decided to let the patron saints of electronic pop music watch over me and in a completely unintended touch the artwork actually matches the walls nearly perfectly.

Oh, and music has been worked on. Yes it has.

New office and studio