So I’m getting more into pop music. I’m spending more time on Pitchfork, getting mad at their reviewers and getting excited about the huge palate of sound that’s out there right now. I’m hearing awesome music that I know is influencing composers who are writing concert music, and I’m starting to understand that music on its own terms, rather than the music that’s outside the concert hall. I have two reasons for this exploration, and both are selfish: first, I want inspiration for my own writing. Second, we’re making a record in September and I feel like I need to start to understand what a record is.
Does this sound nuts? It isn’t. As someone who spends so much time immersed in the acoustic, classical sound-world, I’m starting to realize that I don’t have a damn clue how the rest of the musical universe understands the recording process. Chicago Q Ensemble got schooled when our friend & collaborator, Kyle, told us about the division between “capturing moments” and “creating moments” in music recording. Classical recording, of course has been all about capturing moments: whatever it would have sounded like in the world’s greatest concert hall, that’s what we want it to sound like. And if you add anything, it’s cheating.
The indie bands that Pitchfork is covering, on the other hand, painstakingly craft the record itself as a listening experience. The live show might be something else entirely; but the record inhabits its own sonic universe. There’s nothing wrong with addition, manipulation, and having ten more tracks than you could ever produce in person.
I mean, when you’re a composer and you choose an instrumentation and you write for those instruments and you know that sounds they can produce and you do your best to write something interesting and innovative for that combination — I can sort of understand that process.
But when you’re a band, in the studio, endlessly layering, and choosing from all these different electronic instruments and sounds and samples and manipulations — when, essentially, every existing sound is available to you — I don’t get that. It blows my mind to think about all those options. How do you ever go about determining what kind of sound you want when you have unlimited choices?
The good answer, of course, is to let the music lead you to those choices, and stop when you feel like you’re done.