Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chapter 14: Proof in Polyphony

The tones I hear are immediately alien to me, but like all hack music journalists, I will hereby attempt to describe one sensation with words designed for another: I hear a bed of harmonies, stacked thin and tall like sheets of wax paper, supporting what is clearly a loan "voice" bouncing around on top. The harmonies sustain and bend in tiny steps like an organ of some sort, but taste like a product of the 80's; like the sawtooth waves of a poorly synthesized string patch. The arrangement and melodic structures are just as alien, clearly organized but not adhering to any rules of American music that I can recognize... unpredictable and unheavy.

As quiet as the night has become, we are still unable to discern the exact source of the music in the Fisher Price city. We crane our necks in every direction but just as a melody rises to meet our ears, a car will buzz by on the busy road up near the house and sweep it upward.

I am content to keep trying but Dave is ready for plan B, "Amplifier. Gavvy, go get an amplifier."
"We'll need another extension chord or something to get---"
"ALREADY TAKEN CARE OF. AMPLIFIER!" he asserts, pointing to the house.

It takes me ten minutes to figure out exactly what the best course of action is for this new mission. I should use condenser mics if I hope to capture such a timid source, but that means I will need a phantom-powered mixer. And if I'm going to go to that much trouble, I might as well try to record it so I can dissect it later (and also present the proof to you, who even as you are reading this, think me a liar). Unfortunately I don't own a nice battery-powered condenser, nor do I own one of those small digital hard disc recorders. I run up to my room, grab my laptop (which, thankfully, is charged), my portable audio interface, a Shure SM57 and an XLR cable, and race outside. I have to stop halfway down the dirt hill leading to the backyard in order for my night vision to catch up. Dave must be watching me because he hisses, "Gavvy, get OVER here." I steer the pile of gear I'm cradling towards his voice and scuttle towards it.

I should have connected all my cables inside where there was ample lighting, but I'd been too worried about missing the tiny show. So here I am frantically assembling my portable recording rig using only the screen glow from my laptop. The micromusic comes and goes, wafting by my ears just when I think it's finally over. It soon falls completely silent, but before it does, I'm able to record this.

1 comment:

dan said...

That was great, thanks for your efforts...the introduction made it that much better. It reminded me of an elusive ufo sighting.