One last JazzFest teaser: the beatz, they are approachin’….

by wijeratneworks

Jazz Fest Halifax01

It has been several months since a beautiful, balmy summer evening in July 2012 saw us debut the WijeratneWorks project, featuring DJ Skratch Bastid. Boy did I have a ball that night. Many of you have asked to see/hear some footage from the show; I can tell you that it has certainly been an agonizing wait for me especially. I only recently got the call from the CBC saying that we would be going into the studio to begin mixing and editing, not forgetting that all the audio will ultimately be synced to video, yeh. It won’t be long now until the whole show hits the airwaves, but if you need something to keep you going until then, here is an excerpt of my favourite piece from the show:

Tsimo!


Notation

Thanks to a harmonious collaboration of GOOGLE Docs, LOGIC Score Editor, and MAC screenshots (I stand in awe of technology and btw how would I survive without shift⇧-command⌘-4, the world’s most useful keyboard shortcut?!), my ‘score’ for this section ended up looking like I’d been armed with scissors and glue, yet never had to worry about paper cuts and sticky fingers:

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 2.33.01 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 2.34.54 PM

Skratch Bastid burns up the Schubert (please forgive us Franz)

Skratch Bastid burns up the Schubert (please forgive us Franz)

the young Reeny Smith belies her age

the young Reeny Smith belies her age

no time like the Dave Burton

no time like the Dave Burton

me

me

In the studio

To finally hear all the recorded audio footage was cathartic, to say the least. I’m quite proud that Tsimo! has come out so well. Notably, there is quite a symphonic arc to it; gratifying considering that it was a world premiere, ambitious in scope, with all of us on stage slowly working our way down an untravelled musical path. Once in the studio, I was blessed to work with mixer/editor Pat Martin and the very visionary Karl Falkenham. Karl and his fellow CBC producer Glenn Meisner recently retired after a combined seventy years (gasp) at the CBC.

CameraAwesomePhoto

Glenn & Karl @ their farewell shindig

I feel so special that my WijeratneWorks debut marks Karl’s last official work as a CBC producer, and that he even came out of retirement to wrap everything up, his enthusiasm and expertise ever-present. He has been a catalyst for the creativity of artists through the decades, and I salute him.

Karl

Karl pouring over his mix and edit notes

Pat just can't help touching all the buttons

Pat just can’t help touching all the buttons

Whatever did we do before we had [….]?!

Since everyone loves stories of the almost-gone-wrong, I’ll leave you with my personal anecdote of mid-session studio angst. I’m paraphrasing conversation amongst composer, producer and mixer/editor, but you get the gist:

ME: “Oh noooooo! The balance of all the samples in this climax is completely upside down. The most important loops are too quiet….while the least important ones are too prominent. We are able to adjust the levels of individual samples right?”

PAT: “Actually, no.”

KARL: “It’s not possible because we don’t have the DJ’s material on separate channels at this point in the piece. Everything is lumped together; we can’t change the balance.”

[Silence]

PAT: “Do you have the samples with you now?”

ME: (my state of anxiety worsening) “Arggghh, they’re at home….Oh wait! I may have put them all in a mobile folder….”

[Subsequent note to self: there’s no point in having the DROPBOX app on your does-everything-but-make-toast iPhone 5 if you don’t fill its folders with the files that you actually need]

ME: (depression at rock bottom) “Well that’s that then. So much for the mix.”

KARL: “Would Skratch have them?”

ME: (glimmer of hope) “I could text him right now! Gawd, I hope he’s not on tour.”

Amazingly for me, this story had a happy ending. If ever DROPBOX were to have a competition calling for the most eulogized story of how their service saved someone’s *ss in a moment of crisis, here’s my winning entry: a mere 5 minutes after thinking that my whole mix was doomed, my dear colleague responds immediately to a text sent from the studio by transferring all of the 100+ samples I constructed for the whole project, directly to our man at the console. Karl grins.

The moral

Well, make better use of DROPBOX, obviously ;)  Having individual samples at our disposal allowed us to overdub them onto the live track, fine-tuning via automation exactly according to the dictates of how this particular climax of the piece should grow organically. To my ears the transformation was so stark; from the muddled to the emotionally coherent. It was a powerful exposé of how ‘balance’ is just as expressive a musical parameter as phrasing or any other. The acoustic equivalent would be to have, say, an orchestra playing perfectly in time and in tune but not expressing anything meaningful due to the fact that all the various musical lines were utterly out of balance.

(concert photos by kind permission of Stefan Massing)