Taking four months, from July 24 to November 21, ten thousand raw samples were sorted through yielding about twenty-eight hundred chosen ones (the estimated actual count is c.9967/c.2832).
The eleventh and final recording day was extremely light. I worked through roughly 200 raw samples to select about 75 of them. Contrast this with Day 7 or Day 10’s totals.
Here’s the breakdown showing how much we recorded in a day (Daily Total) and how many sounds I selected as my “go-to” choices. Remember the count is approximate:
DAY DAILY TOTAL YIELD
1 828 170
2 670 260
3 963 350
4 660 220
5 1400 372
6 800 206
7 1450 320
8 496 124
9 1040 260
10 1440 384
11 200 75
WHY IT TOOK SO LONG
I knew from my Bridge Music days this was going to be lengthy.
My goal was to collect at least six working samples of each surface: two examples each at loud, medium and soft dynamics, clear specimens to interchange and bring freshness to the recording. Alternatively, I would choose one beautiful sound and one representative one if the beautiful one was a fluke! Sometimes I had two great takes, sometimes up to five or six. It was a great thing to find several usable takes especially in the case of continually evolving sounds like long-ringing fences or panels.
By the way that’s at least six samples from a single type of actuator: a wooden dowel, a latex sleeved dowel, a latex mallet, a drumstick, a rubber hammer, etc. I sometimes had to listen to up to 150 hits (or more) on the same surface with minuscule variations of sound between them.
On the other hand there were instances where whole sessions were ruined because of so much ambient noise and NO sounds were harvested. Though we used contact mics that pick up the vibrations of the surface it’s attached to rather than sound in the air, many of the surfaces picked up vibrations of people walking by or school classes and tourists shouting. The team of course was aware of this issue and we purposely re-visited several areas to try to get clean takes. We’re covered.
Another element contributing to the length of this process was that each of the ten thousand samples had to be listened to in real time, appraised, compared to one another, culled and then edited to fade in and out. I could easily spend forty minutes or more on a single pair. Make a mistake and you’d have to start over again.
Then there was the task of naming the sounds. They had to be entered into a music notation program as well as named with an English-language description. Here’s one that isn’t even as complicated as some of the others: SUMMIT-CHAMBER / PANEL-BOTTOM / BASS DRUM / MED. HIT CONTAINS ALTO “E” OVERTONE / HARDER HITS CONTAIN “E-Bb” TRITONE / FELT MALLET- 7SC1T01-05.
Knowing my next job is going to be to review thousands of saved samples, this duplicate logging system gives context and understanding to the aggregate.
It was clear however that the actual file names couldn’t be so long. Going back in to comprehensibly abbreviate them added more time to the process. The file name of the description above reads: “7SC1T01 – 1.1 BD-ALT E, PANEL BOT, FELT M.” Translated it tells me this is from Day 7, Scene 1, Take 01. “1.1” indicates the first of two saved hits. You can figure out the interior abbreviations. “FELT” means the actuator or type of mallet used and “M” demonstrates a medium-intensity strike, i.e.: H(ard), M(edium) or S(oft). Though the words”SUMMIT / CHAMBER” do not appear in this abbreviation, the sample itself resides in the SUMMIT-CHAMBER subfolder indicating it is on Level 2 of the Summit.
WORK / HEALTH
I of course still have to work for a living so I didn’t have uninterrupted time for cataloging. Even though I cleared my schedule of as much as I could, sometimes days would go by before I could sit in my studio.
Also, one has to take breaks. Ear-fatigue sets in during extended bouts of critical listening. You just can’t discern what would ordinarily be plain to hear otherwise. It happens in the studio while mixing, it happens when cymbal and gong makers are evaluating the complex tones of their creations and it’s happened to me when I’ve been tasked with re-creating an orchestral score of someone else’s music from a recording.
First of all, I’m taking a week off (from gauging samples…I still have to go to work!). When I come back to it around December 1, I’ll review the 2800 entries in the music notation chart and see what notes I have. The ones with a somewhat homogeneous timbre will be worked into a scale. With Bridge Music I had a scale of about 6 notes in the bass, another very different scale up in the alto range, miscellaneous groupings of three or four sounds which sounded sort of like they went together, and an array of percussive scrapes, booms, crashes and clangs.
From this I’ll create my “virtual instrument” the ensemble of sounds from which I’ll draw upon to write the music. No sounds will be manipulated to give me something that doesn’t exist on the Eiffel Tower, no digital constructing of inauthentic sounds. This will take another month or two to create in my mind and then I have to “practice it,” again in my mind as I learn the instrument’s strengths and challenges. Once I begin composing, I’ll develop a greater fluidity in the medium with each new work.
No composing yet…still have to build that instrument. It’s coming though.