Tweaked AIFF Booth Lake

This has been quite a learning process.  Thanks to help from a Soundcloud friend, I’ve managed to improve it slightly.  It also stimulated a dialogue about my process of making audio tracks for my poetry, part of which I’ve excerpted here, in an edited version:

 I Could Have Been a Banker was my first attempt at laying down vocals first. All three Soundcloud tracks were made that way.  I have another Soundcloud acct – alisonboston where all the tracks were made with the intention of putting vocals over, but in the end I felt the tracks – with the exception of What the Fiesta – were complete without vocals.  So for me as a poet – the text is my script, my delivery of the text is the ‘melody’, then all the other stuff is the ‘chords’ and arrangement!  I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.
Anyway, in the end I realised my Garageband is corrupted and I have an appt with the Genius Bar at Mac to sort it out. Will probably have to uninstall and reinstall.  I think more RAM is also in order!
Nonetheless, I tweaked it using the EQ settings you sent as a guide – tweaking both the vocal track and the master track.  I also added a duplicate vocal track with very slight delay to fill out the sound a bit.  Then did some digging around on the web and found a forum where exactly the volume problem was discussed. It recommended unticking ‘normalisation’ in Garage Band preferences as normalisation can apparently cause problems, then share as an AIFF file rather than MP3 – so that’s what I did.
The other thing you talk about is the vocals being part of the music rather than on top of it. With Booth Lake I was going for that – as I wanted the vocals to be ‘in the forest’ rather than ‘talking about the forest’ – yet I wanted the words to be discernible (they’re good words IMO!)  I think I’ve retained that ‘part of the forest’ sound.  As I’ve been working to create this track, I recorded the vocals numerous times – working to get the right pacing and tone of voice, then added effects to create the right sound.  I even slowed it down and speeded it up – at one point I had a very Laurie Anderson ‘Oh Superman’ sound, but I can’t for the life of remember what I did!  I think I changed the speed after adding a slight delay.  All of that fiddling with effects may very well have degraded the original vocal track.
The track also samples a slowed down and edited version of the intro to Santana’s Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation.  I imported the MP3 to Garage Band then cut it up – there are 3 tracks of it in the master – I loved the quality of the intro, but I didn’t want it to sound like the original, nor did I want to be accused of stealing! – so I cut it into pieces and made short loops which I then layered in 3 tracks, so there is some intentional overlapping. The loons were ‘borrowed’ from some YouTube and other loon recordings I found on the web.  There are 4 different loon loops on 2 tracks.
Forest lake
Image by AlexRK via Flickr
The thing that surprises me most about that track is that when I listen to it now I hear the suggestion of water lapping around a boat, and oars – the poem was written after a canoe trip into Booth Lake in Algonquin Park, Ontario.  An amazing place.  Magical. Mystical.  A place ‘where I could die and dying wouldn’t matter’.  Quite serendipitous that the Santana tune that resonated and gave me the sense of what it was I had been missing is ‘Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation’ – because that is what Booth Lake is like.  There are all these dead bits of trees that look like animals, all around the lake – they take on the life of the animals in the forest – quite haunting, in a good way.
There are 14 tracks in all.  In addition to the tracks mentioned above, there are 2 bass loops, plus a tabla and a conga – all of which I manipulated with effects.  There also a total of 5 vocal tracks – 2 which had effects added, this are set at a lower volume, 2 which were tweaked with the EQ – they are the main vocals – and 1 which is used to create the background vocals at the end.  You can hear them all through my headphones – of course, everybody’s sound system delivers a different quality, plus everybody’s ears hear differently, so what you hear may be quite different to what I hear, or what your next door neighbour hears!
Another thing, not mentioned in the correspondence, was that I wanted to create an intense sound of the wilderness.  You know that incredible quiet at night on a lake where every sound is magnified.
Anyway, although I’ve been fascinated with audio since I was a teenager, and explored it to certain extent both in high school physics class, and at university in my theatre studies and at the campus radio station, it’s only been since I bought the Mac Book with Garage Band that I’ve finally been able to start exploring sound and using it.  A composer whose work I admire – Matthew Herbert – suggests going out and collecting live sounds to make original loops.  I want to get there – it’s a matter of having the technology, which requires money!  Fortunately as the technology has advanced it’s become more affordable.
I have bought a midi controller which I’ve barely ventured into learning how to use, it all takes so much time!  I threw off two opportunities to perform live this week in favour of working on the Booth Lake track.  I’d like to work with tracks and loops in live performance, need a loop station for that…I do what I can do with the technology I have.

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