Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Singing On The Edge Of My Seat

Things have been so hectic that I neglected to post about the passing of this milestone last week. We finished on the evening of Tuesday the 12th of February, and it feels like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders. Maybe it was because of the way the recording went.

Dan had arrived to begin setting up after dinner at about 7:30pm; we were soundchecked and ready to press the record button by eight. In the back of my mind, I was still not sure if I was ready to re-attempt 'Tiempo para el amor' (see earlier post) but I decided to risk the entire session by recording it anyway. The logic was to do it whilst my voice was fresh since it required more delicately controlled tones, as compared to the other remaining song 'Bembé' which is all about the energy. But there was a good chance that a laboured attempt at the first would jeopardise the success of the second.

Who Dares Wins right?

The first run through 'Tiempo' was alright but not scintillating; we both knew there was something better lurking in the wings so we scrubbed it and tried again. That next take nailed the whole pre-montuno section. Trying to carry momentum through, we moved to the inspiraciones and closing lines which were a little more involved since Dan had to cue my entry points: I prefer to sing with just congas, piano, bass and some hand percussion, with a lowish level of my own voice without reverb in the headphones so that I can hear what I'm doing to the mic; there's not a lot else to act as markers.

Momentum is difficult to maintain; the start and stop nature of 'recording and listening back' essentially precludes it. However, buoyed by success Dan loaded up 'Bembé'.

The beginning of the song is gentle with an open structure. That reveals everything about timing and initiation of tone. Several failed attempts at a flawless start saw me sitting down in the recording kitchen, glumly chewing in a couple of 'vocal zone' lozenges in an effort to soothe my voice. It was starting to look as if it wasn't going to be Bembé's night.

Lengthening the attack on the vowel did the trick, and we got the first half of the song done in one take bar the second verse. That took three takes. At one point Dan asked (rhetorically) "who wrote this verse?" because of the rapid-fire stream of syllables to be executed in one breath. Gurgle. I wasn't sure even then that everything was clearly enunciated and was just about to have another shot at it when Dan suggested that I listen to it - because he hadn't detected any smearing or tripping. He was right. The words did not skip as lightly as I would have wanted, but Dan had a point in that the way they were sung brought out the definition of the second verse.

The Chinese have a saying with translates literally into "To draw a snake, and then to add legs" which means to create something right, and then to make it wrong by not leaving it alone. Far be it for me to ignore an ancient proverb.

Frustratingly, the final hurdle proved to be the final two lines. But at last, by 10:30 pm everything was wrapped up. Like Catie who has finished all her standard flute parts, I too, felt a little bit of sadness. Only just a little bit.

I will always remember it as a precarious night, when it was touch and go whether things would work out. And the happy ending

Loo Yeo

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