On Endurance, Thinking, and Playing

A few observations:

1. Wearing headphones for a long time is no fun. We’re not talking earbuds here, but good quality headphones that go over your ears and play a high quality sound so you can hear what’s going on. It’s a drag to keep them on your ears for long periods.

2. Being your own producer makes the horn playing harder. This is because you don’t get up any steam in the recording process. You play and record something, then diddle around with the computer, then do it again, then contemplate, diddle more, play a little more, and so on, never really building up a rhythm with the playing. In a traditional recording session, you record take after take, while someone else operates the machinery and does the contemplation.

3. Creating the ideas and executing them all at the same time is wonderful, but also hard. We classical musicians are used to an orderly process: someone writes the music, we get our part, we learn it, we perform it, we record it. In the current project, I’ll get an idea, then figure out how to make it work, record a few parts, reassess, think some more, record some more. Not only am I trying to make the idea work, but I’m interrupted by my own flaws (bad intonation, bad rhythm, bad sound…), and I have to be constantly going back and redoing stuff. It’s like building a sculpture by carving a little, buffing a little, gilding a little, then carving some more, then gluing something back on that you accidentally carved out.

What’s interesting is that a work process seems to be emerging. It goes like this. Get an idea. Record some of it. Move onto a different tune. A day or two later, come back to the first tune. Rerecord some of the lines so they sound better. Wait a day or two. Wake up at 6AM with a good idea for that same tune. Record some more. Eat lunch. Listen to new version, which gives a new idea for the drum part. Alter it. Wait a day or two… This is much less linear than I’m used to, much more cyclical. Which is hard, but satisfying in the end. I wonder if novelists work this way.

Incidentally, some house guests of mine gave me a turkey caller. It’s now part of my drum kit.

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