Heading Back Up the Mountain


After releasing our second CD, in 2005 we went broke and had no choice but to back off from our music.

Instead, for nearly 4 years we concentrated on digging ourselves out with a long detour through the world of Japanese > English commercial translation, while dust gathered on our instruments and Microsoft Office not wave files danced through our computers.

Now for reasons beyond our control the stream of our translation jobs has dwindled to near nothing, and again we are facing financial ruin.  Fortunately thanks to our ample credit card limits, the flip side of this is that at least temporarily we once more have time for our music.

And this blog, where we plan to regularly post pieces of our Work-In-Progress music, is the first fruit of this renewed focus….

While  ”bbqq” is the first of these pieces…..

Part of “bbqq”
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2 quarti and shrinef“bbqq” stands for bowus-bowus, quartus-quartus and refers to the 4 magical instruments with which we recorded the piece.  It is the first music recorded with our new equipment and the first that we edited with our new software.

As befits a first try, it’s full of all sorts of minor warts and blemishes, but once we set aside our editing hats (that is set aside the hypercritical mode of listening that concentrates on finding defects and which is absolutely essential for editing), we were more than pleased to discover that our music had grown mightily during our four-year layoff.

Obviously the vein of positive quiet and active chill that we had mined with our second CD has not petered out.  Indeed the first new stuff we got down turned out to be so rich with magic, it makes us suspect that whoever or whatever it is that’s in charge of this strange show wants us to get back to our music, and that our translation career vanished because we are not supposed to waste our time doing something that will soon be done primarily by machines….

But to move beyond such metaphysical observations, bbqq is the first time we recorded each of our individual instruments on a separate track, and we were blown away by the astonishing things that this allowed us to do.

For example we discovered that when several instruments were playing, often it was possible to simply delete a nasty noise from the problem track without this being audible to a listener.  And when one instrument got too loud, we found that after the fact we could decrease the gain on that portion of its track, and then like magic, suddenly there were all the other instruments with their sounds still intact.

Of course tricks like these must be common knowledge to anyone who has done any serious recording, but since we avoided studying “how to record” because we prefer finding our own way of doing things, these insights burst upon us as exciting new kenshos (“Kensho” – a temporary incomplete satori….. which we strongly suspect is the only type of enlightenment that actually exists.)

Bbqq was also our first try at overdubbing.  First we recorded 50 minutes of the two of us playing our bowus instuments
( 2-string Dotara and 8 ft. long 1-string Ektara.  Check out our Bowus Family page for pictures and information about these instruments, then we edited the file down to 30 cleaned-up minutes, and finally we recorded our two quartertone kalimbas on top of the Bowus tracks.

In fact until recording Bbqq we didn’t really understand the meaning of overdubbing.  It was merely something that we knew we wanted to try, just another of those words that one somewhat mechanically throws into a sentence as a kind of mental placeholder.

So the first time we tried to overdub, we were quite disconcerted to discover how different it was from when the two of us are just playing together.

Still once we got used to the novelty, overdubbing turned out to be intoxicating.  Even though our music is improvised and unfolds without plan, since we were playing along with previously recorded tracks that we ourselves had layed down, it was uncanny easy to feel our way in……

While with 4 instruments going, the richly involved patterns often seemed like some peculiar type of counterpoint, not to mention that there was just so much sound !!!

Of course a purist listening to the most complicated sections of bbqq might insist that there the music gets a little bit busy, and to be truthful we feel that way too.  Still we think that on this one it’s correct to cut ourselves a little bit of slack, on the grounds that it was quite human to get carried away when we first tasted the astonishing power of multi-track recording.

Similarly, on the technical side, though it may have been a bit materialistic to have leapt directly to 4 instruments (each of which we double miked, so in the end we were working with 8 tracks), we feel it was cool and brave to immediately test the full capabilities of our new equipment.  Also we figured that if we started with a seriously difficult project, we’d make lots of mistakes in a hurry, and so jump start the learning process.

And certainly we did make our share of mistakes.  For example with hindsight we can see that we positioned our condenser microphones too far away from our instruments, and were forced to compensate for this by upping some of our mike preamps to the point where they made our instruments sound unnecessarily harsh and introduced bothersome hiss into two tracks.

Still we’re ecstatic that we’re finally at a point where we’re facing problems like these, and feel that just having such problems means we’re in an excellent situation.

Not to mention that it would have been both anticlimactic and downright stifling, if we’d gotten everything just right on our first try.

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