Song: Red As Red Can Be
Production: Cleo (Angelo Thomaz, Juan Manuel Puñales and Mattia Battegazzore)
The session was divided into three parts:
- instrumental session with all the instruments playing live with a live female pilot vocal;
- lead vocal session;
- backing vocal session.
1.1a Instrumental session (set up)
This and the following sessions took place at the Funkhaus’ K4 studio.
The wettest room was used for the cajon and two room microphones were placed at a couple meters of distance in an A/B stereo technique to emphasize the sensation of space. As close techniques, one mic was placed in front and one behind to capture all the frequencies and beats.
The female pilot vocal was performed live in the central room, to give more vibe to the instrumental players and to involve everyone in the session.
For the guitar, a close microphone was placed near the 12th fret and a couple of small diaphragm condenser mikes set with an X/Y technique. This was to achieve a guitar sound on the mix with a strong presence on the mids and not too spacey (X/Y creates space but it is not overly strong).
The bass went directly into a DI box via a tuner pedal. From here the mic signal went directly into the desk while the Hi-Z link output went to a mic preamp and compressor.
A Nord emulating a piano sound was used and its outputs were plugged two DI boxes before reaching the desk mic inputs.
1.1b Instrumental session (recording)
The cajon was recorded first together with the female pilot vocal and, after recording enough material, a quick comp was done to get good playback for keyboard and bass. The guitar player was recorded too but his sound was not sent to the others, to hold back some material for future comping and editing without affecting the other players performance.
1.2 Vocal session
We opted for recording the vocals simultaneously but in different rooms. All the mics were set with a pop filter and a low-cut on the way in. Limited time did not allow to record abundant material but the singers were pretty precise and hard compression on the way in for the lead vocal contributed to reach a good result.
The Cajon was the most delicate, given that its groove is not meant to stick to the grid. After careful comping, beat detective was used only to tighten up the main beats and, after clip separation, it was conformed at a strength of 90% and a tolerance of 10% to keep the real vibe. It was decided to use lots of copy and paste to create the best cajon track possible.
Bass and keyboard were easy to edit: comping was already adequate for dynamic, time and performance. Some gain corrections and beat detective were used to follow the previous edits.
The best guitar parts were selected solely from a performance point of view and, then, a lot of beat detective was used. It was not easy to use this tool here but, after copy-and-paste and some arrangement decisions, the track was good enough for the song.
Working on the lead vocal was a pleasure; because of his timbre and genre, no hard pitch correction was needed and some freedom was taken to leave the spinal vibe. While comping, it was easy to notice he sang some of the takes at a certain distance from the microphone and some up near. This was ideal to create three different tracks: one central, created out of the higher gain clips, and two doubles with the lower ones. This helped for pitch-correction too: the central one was slightly revised in Logic and the others were left at their comping stage to create some pleasant effects, helping corrections to flow more naturally. Only a few gain automation nodes were needed, thanks to hard compression on the way in and to his dynamically balanced singing.
Time correction was needed only on the backing vocals. After comping, pitch correcting and gain automating these, they needed to be slightly moved in time to make a more precise sounding vocal harmony.
3. Mixing and Mastering
Following a rough mix, which was made easily on Pro Tools in an hour, the mixing session started. Each single track was sent through a Trident desk in which all the most important EQing and dynamic processing were done (also thanks to some outboard analog compressors). Right after this, the mix was finished on Pro Tools using all the digital equipment needed.
Mastering was completed in Pro Tools and using Isotope Ozone 6 as the main tool. Some classic American folk songs were taken as references.
Single by band from Santiago de Chile based in Berlin. I was in charge of the production and engineering, assisted by Mattia Battegazzore and Angelo Thomaz (the three of us recently formed Cleo, an audio production partnership running a small studio in Marzahn 🙂 ) Pre-Production Herbstsonne is a two piece band consisting on Cecilia […]
Italian Dinner?!? is a musical track made up of samples taken from several recordings made during a friend’s dinner party here in Berlin. It was decided to use only that material to try to achieve something completely unique and, in a certain way, alternative. All the takes were done by using a stereo microphone recorder. It was inspired by Empire Of Coffee by Matthew Herbert.
After completing the dinner recordings, the most time-consuming part of the work was that of selecting all the best samples out of the over twenty takes executed.
The chosen ones were dived into three categories: rhythmical, voices and non-percussion instruments. Thanks to the Ableton digital tool Simpler, all the sounds in the first two categories were treated with its “1-shot” modality in which each time you press the linked key, you hear the whole selected sample with all its editing (fade in, fade out, filters, etc…). All the samples were, then, gathered into a layout so that it would be easier to play them as if they were instruments. Thus, both the percussive instrument and the vocal one were achieved and all the sounds were roughly mixed following their audio characteristics.
Three other tracks were created but, this time, thanks to the “classic” mode in the Sampler. This mode helps you to create an instrument by using only one sound: the original sound is linked to the C3, while all the others are pitched and, when needed, stretched to all the other notes. In this case food mixer, a tap and a beer-drawing instruments were created by using this method.
The song was built from a horizontal point of view: twenty or more loops were created and linked to a scene and, afterwards, they were recorded in the arrangement view in a way that sounded right and made some sense.
All the proper mixing was done at the very last stage with the addition of three return tracks per each kind of instruments with reverb on it (for the vocals a very fast delay was added).
Some simple volume automations were executed too but it was decided not to push this button too hard, letting the sampling itself taking the lead.
This is just a rough mix.
Metropolis is a Fritz Lang 1927 science-fiction movie. It is a silent film and the score was composed for a large orchestra by Gottfried Huppertz: he tried to mix the classical world with some more modern sounds to emphasise its industrial and apocalyptic environment. This movie is considered to be the pioneer of the science-fiction genre and has inspired a lot of contemporary production styles.
The target of this project was to create both non-diagetic and diagetic sounds on a selected extract from this movie, using only modulation synthesis and trying to reinterpret only the frames, without being influenced by the original sounds.
The non-diagetic sounds are everything whose source is not visible and is not intrinsic to the action. Some examples within this category could be: the soundtrack (mood music/score) or the sound effects which add to the drama.
Four instruments were created thanks to modulation synthesis and all of them were created by the Operator (digital synthesizer) in Ableton.
The first one is a high-pitched sine wave with an LFO constantly modulating both its filter and its amplitude. When the amplitude of a waveform is modulated, this synthesis is called AM synthesis (Amplitude Modulation Synthesis). If the modulating wave rate is below 20 Hz, the tremolo effect is audible on the original wave form but, if it approaches the audible range, it is more difficult for the human ear to detect each individual amplitude fluctuation in the carrier and “sidebands” are produced. The frequency of these sidebands (which are usually inharmonic overtones) is the sum and the difference between the carrier and the modulator. If we are modulating a complex tone made up of more than just one frequency, two sidebands are produced for each. A good reference for this kind of synthesis is to be found in some of the Karlheinz Stockhausen works. Anyway, the idea of this non-diagetic sound was to create a constant harmonising looped high pitched drone to go with the whole frame for a sense of tension. The bass takes on a similar role and, with his fast arpeggio and boomy sound, it aims to keep the viewer’s attention. In order to further enhance this, and to raise the tension level, some automation on the bpm of the entire track was added to speed up the whole soundtrack right through to the end. This was to typical of the famous Jaws 1975 movie theme in which the shark is never seen but when the particular sound is heard, everybody is aware of its presence and, when the animal gets closer, the interval is ever shorter.
In the middle range two other instruments with the same modulation were created and then everything was panned and mixed to fill out the space properly. Thence, some volume and filtering automation were set up too, to facilitate arranging.
All the sounds whose source is visible on the screen or whose source is implicated to be present by reason of action are called diagetic. This reference-category can be found in Forbidden Planets (1956): this was one of the first movies in which synthesis was used.
Numerous samples of diagetic sources appear in this piece of audio so it was really hard to distinguish between them, create, synchronise and mix them. The working process was based on creating one sound at a time, repeating it whenever necessary (with proper editing when needed) and mixing it with what had already been created. Some of these sounds were created by using AM synthesis like the sound of the lighting cylinder at the very beginning: here the amplitude of the triangular waveform (in digital VCO A) is modulated by the Operator LFO with a high rate but a low amount. The sound of the switch, as all the others in the project, is created in another track by an envelope with a short attack and fast decay linked to the noise.
The rest of the sounds are mostly made most by FM synthesis (Frequency Modulation synthesis). This technique was developed by John Chowning in the 60’s and is based on modulating the frequency of one oscillator with another one. When you put two oscillators (or more) in series, the pitch of the first one is modulated by the next. If the rate is below 20 Hz a vibrato-effect is reached but if you feed it at a faster rate, then sidebands are created. It is similar to AM but, in this case, more than two sidebands are created relating to the feeding oscillator amplitude. Most FM result in a very clangorous and a-tonal sound. The way to make it sound harmonic is to use harmonic ratios between carrier and modulator frequency. An example of FM synthesis in this project may be found with the energy rings sound (fluctuating around the robot). Here four oscillators in series were employed and they were automated so that they are turned on one after the other depending on the number of rings we see on the screen. All the waves are sine waves, to get a rounded effect and the automation is carried out while the scene is changing to make it un-noticeable.
Some other sounds were created using both AM and FM synthesis. An example of this is electric noise: a sine wave is feeding a squared wave and the LFO is modulating both the filter and the amplitude of the sine.
For a better experience use anything but laptop or smartphone speakers.
When you talk about minimal music, you are surely talking about a genre but, more that anything else, you are also talking about a series of techniques to be applied to any kind of track you want to produce. These techniques are really simple to understand and they are the key to turn your production into minimalism. Here they are:
- Drone (long notes);
- Ostinato (loops or short repeated melodies);
- Augmentation (playing a melody at a slower speed);
- Diminuition (playing a melody at a faster speed);
- Note subtraction (take one note away at a time from your melody);
- Note addition (add one note at a time to your melody);
- Metamorphosis (change one note per repeat);
- Static harmony (change one note per loop to reach a new chord);
- Rhythmic displacement (change the accent of each next note as it repeats);
- Phasing (creating longer loops of the same melody by extending the last note and repeat it until they sync again).
This piece of music is a clear example of all of these, and with also its only four instrument tracks it can be definitely defined as a minimal work.
All the synthesis is done thanks to Ableton Operator tool and the main theme was created taking as a reference Baba O’Riley by The Who.
For a better experience use anything but laptop or smartphone speakers (it is just a rough mix).
On October 13th, 2016, the Nobel Prize committee announced it had awarded Mr. Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. This decision is unique and, indeed, it was not without controversy: while there are a lot of people who think this is a fair reward for one of the greatest song-writers of all time who has always expressed something that goes even deeper than just music, on the other hand, there is an opposite mindset, followed by some of Dylan’s fans too, who are indignant regarding this choice because it is contemptuous of writers and an ill-conceived nostalgia award for gibbering hippies. This last group asked the artist to turn down this prize too, but this is not contemplated by the committee and, even if an award-winner does not wants to accept it, they will remain registered as the winner anyway. Furthermore, the opinion of the person in question is not actually known: he did not attend the Ceremony on December 10th at the White House due to unspecified “prior engagements” but, at the same time, he made it known that he was really amazed with this decision, adding that it is an unimagined dream for him to be awarded this way.
After all this ruckus, it is important to understand what the real distance between music and literatures is and, whether one actually exists, where their confines start and end. Only through the analysis of Dylan’s masterpieces may it be possible to ponder this area.
Positioning these two arts too closely together might be dangerous because it would limit the range of human expression: most often, poems set to music and vice versa are not always either compatible or successful because the techniques are often very different. But it is important to underline that while everything could be true, so, also, there may always be some exceptions to any rule. Dylan’s works may be considered one of these.
2.1 Dylan and the novella
The novella is a short piece of prose or poetry written about either a past real or unreal episode. It is linked to folklore an tends to be a vivid and concrete representation within a real and credible time frame. While it is often used to entertain, in some cases, its purpose is to teach a moral.
One of Dylan’s greatest masterpieces, “Hurricane”, could be compared to a novella as its poetic devices convey a better understanding of injustice, racism and corruption; he wrote this song as an hymn to get Rubin Carter set free of undeserved imprisonment and to let everybody know the truth of the matter.
To give some examples, he used imagery to underline all the issues linked to racism about that period.
“If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street”
“The DA said he was the one who did the deed
And all-white jury agreed”
With these lines, for example, Dylan wanted to demonstrate how badly the black people were treated and how unfairly all these decisions of such great importance were taken. In the second example, we can see a clear rhyme, which makes it a couplet and it is a very useful tool with which to stress this point.
A further example could be taken from the use of tone/mood to set the overall feeling of the song:
“All of Rubin’s cards were marked in advance
The trial was a pig-circus he never had a chance”
“Rubin Carter was falsely tried
The crime was murder one, guess who testified
Bello and Bradley and they both baldly lied”
All these couplets put considerable emphasis on corruption and on the unfairness of the absence of opportunity for Carter to defend himself from false accusations.
Examples of connotations are to be be found in this song, implying how the songwriter felt about injustice:
“Rubin’s in South America fighting for his name
While Arthur Dexter Bradley’s sill in the robbery game”
“Four in the morning and they haul Rubin in
They took him to the hospital and they brought him upstairs
The wounded man looks up through his one dying eye
Says, wha’d you bring him here for? He ain’t the guy!”
Bob Dylan wanted to underline that even though the victim claimed Rubin was not the culprit, the police still arrested him without any qualms just because he was black.
Through this song he was very determined to express all his shock at this and, knowing his words would be listened to all over the world, he exploited this privilege to spread this protest far and wide, trying to achieve maximum results.
After all of these considerations, “Hurricane” could has a lot in common with a novella: it is a real poem, that deals with historical facts, letting people know the actual truth and showing them this is not correct behaviour and, moreover, it is done to entertain
2.2 Dylan and the ballad
The ballad is a popular poetry composition linked to the dance and to the song; for this reason it is created metrically so that its parts are suitable both for movements and for melodies. Its verses are all hendecasyllables or mixed hendecasyllables with seven-syllable lines and it is usually structured like this:
- ABBA: first chorus;
- CDCD: first part of the stanza (piede);
- DEEA: second part of the stanza (volta);
- ABBA: second chorus;
This is the typical Italian ballad structure, but it is possible to identify at least six more types.
Following this, it is easy to say that a famous ballad by Dylan like “Ballad Of A Thin Man” may be linked to literature without any analysis of the strong bond between music and lyrics. However, it is important to explore this song further.
Concerning structure, Dylan took a lot of liberty: indeed, there are six lines of stanza followed by two pre-chorus lines; the chorus, which is repeated, says:
After three of these macro structures there is a six line bridge ( linking them to the other four):
“You have many contacts
among the lumberjacks to
get you facts when someone attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect,
anyway they already expect you
to all give a check to tax-deductible charity organzsationS.”
Thus, the full rhyme structure is built like this:
ABABAB (1st Stanza)
BDBDBD (2nd Stanza)
EDADAD (3rd Stanza)
BAFAFA (4th Stanza)
EDDDAD (5th Stanza)
EGCGBG (6th Stanza)
HGCGCG (7th Stanza)
Clearly, there is a general metrical idea underlying this song but the writer does not always follow this: in stanzas number three, four and seven the first line has a rhyme which collide with the others and in stanzas number five and six, the alternating rhymes are not followed faithfully. It is hard to find repetitive syllabication, however, this is also because of the role of the instruments that add voices which fill the last syllabus.
Mr. Jones could be interpreted as a simulacrum (alter ego) of Dylan. He shows that he was sick and tired of being constantly questioned; a person’s life should speak for itself. But the main character of this song could not only be a self portrait of himself, he could be a famous person or a kind of person everybody know with the same characteristics of Mr. Jones. It is hard to understand what is the truth from the moment he always gave different interpretations about this song. But maybe, in general, he wanted to convey a message: for instance, in an interview he said “There were a lot of Mister Joneses at that time”, it is likely that the world he describes in lyrics is a world in which everything goes and is accepted but the only rule is that you are not allowed to preach to others. Here we find samples of this (it is also easy to find the BDBDBD CD form before the chorus):
“You raise up your head
And you ask, “Is this where it is?”
And somebody points to you and says
And you say, “What’s mine?” and somebody else says,
“Where what is?”
And you say, “Oh my God am I here all alone?”
Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is”
With all of these considerations, “Ballad Of A Thin Man” is not so close to the classical literature ballad but, since there are many types of these, Dylan’s ballad could be conceived as one of those sub-groups.
If it is easier to identify Dylan with literature in the first example, it is harder to find really clear links with the ballad. With modern music, lyrics are often at the heart of a project and, when it comes to creating a new track, many artists simply begin with an instrument and voice. Dylan has always said he has written so many pieces of music thanks to his guitar and his note-book which he never abandons: as soon as an idea strikes, he takes his “friends” and jots down what comes into his mind; so he might conveniently refer to it when developing it, but, for sure, there must have been times when what came to mind while driving or dining with friends was exactly what he recorded in some of his records of which millions of copies were sold. At this point, it is important to say that we could compare literature and music at length, trying to understand if they are one and the same thing, but we are talking about two different techniques. Finally, perhaps, it is opportune to allow leeway, thus, leaving scope for human expression and to keep the two different arts distinct for the different moments with which life presents us.
However, this Nobel prize for Literature will always been talked about because of its unexpectedness, but in a world in which “The Times They Are A-Changing” is listened to and read by millions of people as a hymn about not being too reactionary and trying to cope with changes in the present and with the future. this is a fit award for a man who is not only a singer but also a story- teller who has created a new form of poetic expression and rightly worthy of the Nobel Prize for Literature
4. Partial references
The Atlantic and Kornhaber, S. (2016) Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Isn’t About Music. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/10/bob-dylan-nobel-prize-lyrics-literature-winner/503972/ (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
Attwood, T. (2014) Ballad of a thin man: The meaning of the music and the lyrics. Available at: http://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/827 (Accessed: 20 December 2016).
Cunningham, S.P. (2016) Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize for literature is wrong: An analysis. Available at: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/arts/bob-dylans-nobel-prize-for-literature-is-wrong-an-analysis-8859238 (Accessed: 4 December 2016).
Ellis-Petersen, H. (2016) Bob Dylan website acknowledges Nobel literature prize win after five-day wait. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/oct/20/bob-dylan-website-acknowledges-nobel-prize-win-after-five-day-wait (Accessed: 3 December 2016).
Nobel Media (2016) Nobelprize.Org. Available at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2016/dylan-facts.html (Accessed: 3 December 2016).
Treccani (no date) ‘Novella/Ballata’, in Enciclopedia Treccani. Available at: http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/novella/ (Accessed: 4 December 2016).