Thursday, November 21, 2013

big city songs

Ya know that opening riff from "New York, New York?" I've often wondered whether its note-for-note similarity to "Optimistic Voices (You're Out Of The Woods)" from "The Wizard of Oz" — in which the farm girl first sees the glittering metropolis — helped it strike such a nerve in the generation who first heard it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

thoughts on mixing a live show

6:45 AM  -  Just got through with a weekend of mixing Ken Slavin's new album, "Live at the Metropolitan Room." Polishing every single note (not kidding: every single note of a one-hour concert), getting every level just right, making sure the bass and piano and drums sit in just the right proportions every moment, getting the feel of the audience just so.

In a studio recording you can theoretically re-record and punch in and re-take till you get exactly what you wanted. With a live show, though, it's one shot and that's it. You get one chance to place the mics just right to pick up the sound of each instrument, and then the players have one chance to nail every aspect of a nuanced performance (because there's always bleed from the other instruments on stage) there's not a lot you can do to actually change or fix wrong notes or strange cues. Right around 100,000 notes, and every one can make it or break it.

But then again, in the studio there's not a lot you can do to re-create the magic of a great performance in front of an excited audience. Studios can be so dry and uninspiring. So I've been enjoying every single minute of it, hearing some terrific musicians do their thing in front of an audience that was, quite literally, jazzed.

Slavin is an amazingly great performer, with a real knack for reaching an audience with just the right blend of professional polish and human emotion. It's a pleasure to work on tracks like this and bring out their grain and make them shine and pull out all those odd, interesting moments that could only happen once in a career.

Lucky for you the record button was on, and you get to hear this recording in about a month.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

veterans' day thoughts

My father-in-law wrote this today, in preparation for Veterans' Day.

We pretend that our war dead 'gave' their lives. That is a civic fiction (happily pushed by veterans and veterans' families). Many soldiers didn't think they would die. And many were forced into the military service. I don't think we need to pretend and honor them for 'giving.'

But we do need to honor them.

We honor them because they did serve, however reluctantly.

We honor them because their lives were taken from them. I think it is nice "if our cause it is just." But they did not make the decisions that led to war, so we honor them no matter what the cause was. That means we should honor Confederate dead, even though we hate their cause. Germans should honor their war dead, as should the Japanese — not including war criminals, of course. (If we honor only those who died in a just cause, then we should honor only those who willingly died, and how could we determine that?)

We should also mourn not just their lost lives, but also the lost lives of their descendants who were never born.

Tomorrow we honor not only them, but those who serve and served, because death isn't the only cost soldiers in warfare pay. Some are wounded, both physically and psychologically. And all are in line for suffering or death.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

where have you actually been?

Facebookers have recently begun circulating a do-it-yourself map of the US, colored to show where you've visited and lived. It's always interesting to find stuff like that out about your friends, but there's something odd about it too.

When you've visited California, the state of California gets filled in. But what if you only lived in San Diego for 5 years and never left the city limits?

Which leads us to the intriguing question, where have you actually been?

Catherine and I regularly express gratitude that we've seen so much of the world — Thailand, Panama, Scotland, England, Austria, China, France — but what if we only colored in the cities that we'd been to, and not just the countries? What if we only showed the routes?

What would our life in San Antonio look like, even? No more than several spots on the north-ish side and downtown, with a few narrow roads running between. I remember reading a critique of Fiesta that mentioned that one of the Fiesta Kings, King Antonio (selected by and from moneyed Anglos), whose week-long duties include visiting tons of schools all over San Antonio, would be seeing the south and west sides of town for likely the first and last time in his life, though these kings are always lifelong residents. Well, what criticism is that, really? Though it sounds ideal to know your city in all its multivaried glory, how many of us really do anything close? We all have our beaten paths, even in the places we think of as our well-worn homes.

It all makes you realize that no matter how much of the world you see, you'll never ever see more than a tiny fraction of what there really is. The most well-traveled among us are, like Thor in Utgard, imbibing huge amounts of the vast ocean but only lowering it a half-inch.

Here's to the impossible, to seeing and hearing and tasting — experiencing, knowing — all of God's tapestry, all the points and points-between-two-points, whether a continent or your own postage-stamp neighborhood, or the uncharted corners of your self.