This blog is a continuation of a series. See here (Page 2016a) for the previous blog.
Year 2016: 5th Observation Part c
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 site.
“Listening to the making of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ (with Alan Parsons as engineer), I ponder…. Unlike so many US bands of the time whose core attraction was the live performance, Pink Floyd and other British bands I was predominantly listening to and influenced by, effectively used the studio as their stage” (Page 2016c; Gallagher 2012; Price 2015; Ryan & Kehew 2006)
For me, I had always been a performer. In the tradition of US bands, my core expression was on stage in a live performance. I had recorded specific music styles that I knew could translate easily to the live sound context – the stage in a venue. However, the musical style I was focussing on here – psychedelic rock – clearly had demands for different types of technology required.
The music style I was pursuing was inspired by British-based psychedelic rock artists of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The site of these performances were in the studio, and therefore each of these creations were done with the aid of studio-based technologies.
In order for me as an artist/performer to be able replicate and reproduce the range of studio-created music and sonic tones, I was going to need access to these devices. I pondered: how was this to be done in the production process effectively and efficiently?
I had at this time access to an elaborate range of virtual technologies third (3rd) party plug-in instruments and processors. These included replications of many analogue devices of the particular production era I was focussed on – late 1960’s and early 1970’s – , including instruments such as synthesisers; and audio processors in the three categories of spectral, dynamic and time-domain.
Figure III – 3rd Party Plug-Ins by Manufacturer (Page 2016d)
Whilst I had access to some of the more notable manufacturers such as Eventide, Lexicon and SSL; along with access to a broad range of more recent notable manufacturers such as AIR Music Technology, Antares Audio Technologies, Avid, East West, IK Multimedia, Massey Plugins Inc, Native Instruments, PSP Audioware, Sonixvox, Sonnox, SoundToys, XILS-Labs and iZotope; I wondered whether the virtual technology replications were going to allow me the dense layering of the textures required for the psychedelic music style. Analogue processing devices were well regarded for their warmth of tone and range of sonics, with music recorded with such equipment often characterised with aesthetically pleasing device-induced distortion, hum and other noise associated with imperfect analogue devices .
Technology – Stage versus Studio
Of the technology I could readily access – contemporary equipment of analogue, digital or digital virtual devices – either within my studio, at either the SAE Institute studios (as a full-time Senior Lecturer), or at the QUT studios (as a post-graduate research student) what was going to assist me in this process? My mind wandered considering many options.
My performance live rig was quite elaborate for its function to reproduce typical guitar-based rock music. With other floor-based – analogue and digital – devices, and a broad range of analogue guitar amplifiers, my live rig setup was flexible. With a range of – mostly digital – dynamic, spectral and time-based processors, I could reproduce and sculpt just about any music and sonic tone to reproduce just about any contemporary organic rock-type sound in a performance situation, on stage. In addition, I also have a range of guitar emulators – such as the Fractal Axe-FXII – that allowed me to bypass the use of any guitar amplifiers, and go directly into a venue’s PA system, exponentially expanding the music and sonic palette I could access.
Figure IV – Live rig (Page 2016e)
However, psychedelic rock music was more complex, with multiple textures and layers that occurred often simultaneously. Was my rig in its current form going to be sufficient? Whats more, if I did create psychedelic-based music in my studio – with multiple textures and layers – using my wide range of digital virtual devices complex, how could I effectively and efficiently reproduce these in a live performance context? Perhaps I needed to develop my current studio technology, expanding my current quite limited studio rig of outboard processors.
Figure V – Studio rig (Page 2016f)
I needed to research and consider pieces of equipment that will complement what I currently have, and what I need to fuse my performance and recording of my craft, avoiding a valley or void between the two very important aspects of my music-making practice….. two aspects that have not met before: stage and studio equipment. I decided that what I didn’t want to do was, was create a studio album that I could not then easily replicate in a live performance. I had always been a performer, and to be able to perform congruently to my recording was a major motivator for me as an artist.
I was clearly invested in this pre-production stage of the music-making process. I needed to consider how I was going to approach the production and what equipment I would use for best effect. It was obvious to me how necessary it was for me to continue to immerse my self in two ways: the sourcing of more textural artifacts discussing the recording techniques in that era (books – The Beatles, Pink Floyd, articles on Molly Meldrum, etc); and also researching a range of equipment that I acquire, that would supplement the equipment I already had, that could more effectively replicate the sounds of psychedelic rock, that I could add to my performance rig. Yes, I desired a rig that I could effectively roll from my studio, onto a stage; and once that performance was complete, to then roll the same rig from the stage, back into the studio. It was my goal to be able to replicate all aspects of my musical and sonic creations in any of my performance locations – on stage, or in a studio.
 There are countless testimonies heralding the desired qualities and characteristics of analogue devices across decades of music and sound equipment, and cultural production reviews. However, three more recent acclaimed cultural productions detailing the historical significance of such devices and production workflows are: Ryan & Kehew’s 2006 book “Recording the Beatles: the studio equipment and techniques used to create their classic albums”; Guggenheim’s 2009 “It Might Get Loud” starring Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, U2’s The Edge and The White Stripes’ Jack White; andGrohl, Monroe and Young’s 2013 documentary “Sound City” about a Los Angeles studio during the 1970’s and 1980’s where a number of East Coast artists had hits with records recorded and produced at the facility. These artists included Buckingham and Nicks, Rick Springfield, Fleetwood Mac, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Doctoral Pilot Study Part 3a (Page 2016g). It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.