This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2016a) for the previous blog.
Year 2016: 5th Observation Part b
Whilst I was making headway with the development of my music praxis – significant headway in my opinion – , my actual production plan still did not have the degree of clarity I had hoped for after four (4) weeks. I therefore decided to go through each step of my Praxis v5a in terms of my production process, deliberately and systematically.
Figure I – Praxis v5a (Page 2016b)
In following this process I made my 5th Observation.
Figure II – 5th Observation (Page 2017)
Of the five (5) stages of practice, I was in the first stage of creative practice: the creative stage.
In the creative stage, I brainstormed a number of Project 1 creative ideas based on my project brief. The five (5) track EP was to be representative of some aspect of my life: past, present or future envisioning.
The next element listed in my Praxis 5a was musical style. I reflected on what styles of music I had and hadn’t engaged in over the course of my life. I referred to my music influences chart (as introduced in a previous blog) to reflect on these. One musical style of passion that I had never attempted, was psychedelic rock. I decided I needed to explore this style more than I had done previously.
Bands such as the Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Who, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Jimi Hendrix – to name a few very successful artists – experimented with recording and production techniques during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s (Moore 2012). Technology was developing exponentially (large format consoles and analogue hardware devices); there was a US-citizen generated global social movement (aka the peace movement) protesting the allied forces involvement in the Vietnam war; and it became quite common practice amongst the youth, and their icons – artists and musicians – to engage in recreational drug taking (typically, marijuana and hallucinogenics such as LSD) (Théberge 2012; Théberge 1997; Lewisohn 2010). I knew from my years of listening – firstly, holistically as a fan, and then more from an analytical and critical listening point of view as my interest in both music and audio developed (Moylan 2007, pp73-81; Vella and Arthurs 2003, 30; Everest 2007; Corey 2010), psychedelic rock used musical forms and audio processing in distinctly different ways to folk and pop songs.
“Monotonic songs were becoming increasingly popular in those early, heady days of psychedelia; I suppose they were meant to be listened to while you were stoned, or tripping. To my mind, that was really the only way they could be appreciated” (Emerick & Massey 2007, 8).
Psychedelic rock was innovative in the era. In addition to the simple musical form, psychedelic rock relied on analogue processing devices and experimental techniques, using new pieces of equipment, and existing equipment in ways they weren’t necessarily originally designed by the manufacturers to be used (Ryan & Kehew 2006; Moore 2012, 143). Such experiments were often the result of pure creativity as was the case with many artists of the era. For example, Peter Townsend in the creation of “Baba O’Riley” (The Who 1971) . Townsend used a new technological device – a sequencer – to develop a hypnotic rhythmic pattern that was stylistically congruent with the genre of psychedelic music. However, more inventive creative practice included use of pre-recorded tape, spliced together in altered ways for interesting effect, slowed down to half speed, or sped up to sometimes double speed, reversed; or with multiple tape players connected in series, or multiple heads placed on the one tape player, in order to create experimental and ambient sonic and musical characteristics (The Who 2007; Lewisohn & McCartney 2005, Ryan & Kehew 2006).
My musical influences
Having developed my musical influences as noted in an earlier blog, I scoured over the chart, and highlighted three particular artist names who ventured into what I considered to be psychedelic rock:
Pink Floyd, and a lesser known artist around a similar era in Australia,
Early Beatle influences were the three albums, 1966’s “Revolver” (The Beatles 1966) , 1967’s “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (The Beatles 1967) , and 1968’s “White Album” (The Beatles 1968) .
The first of the these albums “Revolver” had one song on it which has become known as a significant turning point for the Beatles:
“Tomorrow Never Knows”  was a total departure from anything the Beatles had attempted before. The song consists of three main elements: the hypnotic, riveting ostinato of Ringo Starr’s drums, coupled with the bass, unchanging throughout the entire song; a well-selected assortment of tape loops fed to the faders of a mixing console; and John Lennon’s vocal” (Moorefield 2005, 30).
Having almost exhausted themselves with the hectic touring schedule they had maintained over a number of years, the Beatles were in the process of making a conscious decision to do more in the studio. The band and its management believed they were now positioned to maintain their global popularity through album sales alone, without the necessity to tour and perform (Lewisohn 2010; Everett 1999, Ryan & Kehew 2006, 410). The artists therefore were to have more time in the studios, became more involved in the productions, and “experimented with abandon” (Moorefield 2005, 29). In the case of the Beatles, often the inventive creative practice occurred as a result of a directive by the artist of the producer to achieve a sound they could hear in their heads, but unsure of how they could achieve it with the available technology:
“But my musical tastes didn’t matter here: my job was to give the artist and producer the kinds of sounds they wanted. So my ears perked up when I heard John’s final direction to George “….and I want my voice to sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a mountaintop, miles away” (Emerick & Massey 2007, 8)
Another major influence on my self was Pink Floyd. My brother was older, and as such had been quite strongly influenced by the social movements. He bought a number of their albums over the previous decade, at an age when I was still developing my musical ear. Pink Floyd produced many albums that I have since listened to – either directly in my household, or via friend’s. However, the most significant album for me remains 1973’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.
“I recall many nights, laying on my beanbag in my downstairs bedroom, door shut, overhead room lights off. Some small desk lamps in the corners – complete with coloured cellophane.
My gramophone player was on, and I embarked on a journey….
I gave in to the moment, closed my eyes, and allowed my self to be transported to the unknown….
I was wandering, no idea of what time or space I was heading to… I was being transported around the galaxy on a musical and sonic tour.
I floated on the music and sonic textures, as it carried me to another time, to another space..
There was so much to focus in on… at any time, within any space…
Clocks ticking, voices chanting, sonic soars to the left, sonic soars to the right….
The musical and sonic soundscape lifted me, and propelled me to far away stratospheres and universes.
I was travelling, by my self, in a time and to places no one else knew existed.
I was travelling in a time and to a place, where no one else existed…. I was travelling in a time and a place, where no one else could reach me….
This was my time – every when time, and a place – every where place.
I was alone, but not lonely….
There was no one else here to tell me what I should be doing….
In that moment in time – listening, exploring, time travelling – I was independent, I was in charge of my own destiny…
In that moment in time and space, I was me…
In that moment in time and space, I was capable of doing anything.….” (Page 2016c).
More exploration required
I decided the need to explore “Dark Side of the Moon” further in terms of equipment and production process as this juncture, in order to get some more insight as to how I might go about producing a psychedelic styled EP. In addition to listening to the album, I investigated literature such as Reising (2005) . He spoke more of the intended aesthetics, and whilst this was useful for me to gain a better understanding of what – in the opinion of the authors – made this album psychedelic, it was not the specifics I was in search of. I therefore turned to more industry-based textual readings for insight of what I may not have yet realised or discovered about this particular album. In articles by Harris (2005) , Massey (2000) , Parsons (1975) , Price (2015)  and Gallagher (2012)  – generally from interviews of the engineer of this album, Alan Parsons – they listed significant pieces of equipment used and detailed various aspects of the production process.
I had a long history of Alan Parson’s personal works through albums that I and a friend had, namely:
I was therefore quite familiar with Parson’s multi-layered arrangements and arrangement style. The pieces of equipment mentioned in these articles were of specific microphones, synthesisers, instruments and amplifiers used. However, most importantly, the articles discussed a number of production techniques that I was familiar with, that had become standards practice in contemporary music-making. However, standard practice that did not necessarily rely on acoustic instruments or typical live-guitar performance devices. I knew how many of these musical and sonic tones could be achieved, but through the virtual world of instruments and samples. I could not see at this stage, how I could recreate any of these psychedelic-style musical and sonic tones through the external hardware device options I currently had in my live rig, or had access to.
 Parsons, Alan. 1976. “Alan Parson’s Project.” On Tales of mystery and imagination, Alan Parsons. Mercury. Vinyl LP.
 Parsons, Alan. 1977. “Alan Parson’s Project.” On I Robot, Alan Parsons. Arista. Vinyl LP.
 Parsons, Alan. 1978. “Alan Parson’s Project.” On Pyramid, Alan Parsons. Arista. Vinyl LP.
 Parsons, Alan. 1979. “Alan Parson’s Project.” On Eve, Alan Parsons. Arista. Vinyl LP.
 Parsons, Alan. 1980. “Alan Parson’s Project.” On The turn of a friendly card, Alan Parsons. Arista. Vinyl LP.
 Parsons, Alan. 1982. “Alan Parson’s Project.” On Eye in the sky, Alan Parsons. Arista. Vinyl LP.
 There is generally a distinction made between guitar-based effects and processing devices used in typical live performance scenarios, and studio effects and processing devices used within studio environments and tracking/recording scenarios.
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Pilot Study Part 2c (Page 2016d). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
Beatles, The. 1968. White Album. Apple Records. Vinyl LP.
Reising, Russell. 2005. Speak to me: the legacy of Pink Floyds The dark side of the moon, Ashgate popular and folk music series. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Company.
Ryan, Kevin and Brian Kehew. 2006. Recording the Beatles: the studio equipment and techniques used to create their classic albums. London: Curvebender.
Self image courtesy of David L Page Accessed 4th February, 2016
Théberge, Paul. 2012. “The end of the world as we know It: the changing role of the studio in the age of the internet.” In The art of record production: an introductory reader for a new academic field, edited by Simon Frith and Simon Zagorski-Thomas, 77-90. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
Théberge, Paul. 1997. Any sound you can make: making music/consuming technology. Hanover: University Press of New England.