An Attentional Arc Of Working: Compressing Beats and Focusing Energy



Watch some tennis and consider working.

I’m still watching tennis.

I open up the music file, listen for five seconds, and realize it isn’t happening—
the beat is plodding
(my enthusiasm is low).

I consider going back to watching tennis.
(Are mornings even optimal for making music?) 

Almost anything could improve the piece, but what?
I should just try something, anything.
Anything but doing nothing.

Just for kicks, I compress the beat to make it double time—
it sounds better
(enthusiasm is rising).

I recorded the original beat live but now it’s superhuman (mistakes and all).
The beat sound like compressed energy.
Its variations come at faster rate and it’s more interesting now. 

I forget about tennis.

I work on the piece and its new double time beat
(enthusiasm is high).
A double time part creates space in the others
because musical relationships are always contextual—
something fast makes something else seem slow by comparison. 

I play a new bass to go with the beat—
the skittering drum hits pushing my fingers to play fast.

(Incorporate the bass variations now—you can’t add them later.
The bass could be one continual variation.)

I fiddle with the drum sounds (getting to know this sampler):
there’s too much mid- rather than high-range frequencies (easily tweaked).
A “full sound” is a mix that at minimum includes
crisp highs and rich lows.

What happens in the middle is tricky though. 

I pan various percussion elements.
(Is over-panning a thing?)

I remove annoying drum hits—annoying because they’re predictable.
My ideal drummer or beat is reliable without being predictable.  

I consider quantizing parts, but why destroy the music’s imperfections?
My mistakes lead me to new places.
Am I confident enough to share them?

Energy beginning to diminish, but the piece is still sounding better.

I grab a tangerine and then get sidetracked trying to peel it with grace. 

At least make the music’s opening clear:
just one sound (marimba) and the double-time beat.

The other sounds have yet to convince me that they belong:
they’re nice individually, but in the mix, greedy.
We’ll see.

Ironically, after all this beat-tweaking my favorite part is the end
where the beat runs out.
The beat ran out because in making it double time I cut its length by half.
I could cut and paste it to make it longer, but that’s a no.

The end is where the music takes a turn.

I’m trying to remember how this happened.
I think the turn was triggered by a second marimba part
that I had transposed into new chords.
I played along to that new part
not knowing what those new chords were,
but trusting that they had a relationship to the original.
Now, in the space left by the double time beat that has run out,
that relationship between the chords is getting clearer.

I want to remember
that the music’s taking a turn at the end
happened through a series of steps
which created a divergence
from the piece’s initial gesture.

Remember the concept of divergence—
it’s what brings a curve to music. 

I save the file and thoughts of tennis re-appear.
I think I’m done.

One thought on “An Attentional Arc Of Working: Compressing Beats and Focusing Energy

  1. Wow, that’s incredible. So real. Sounds like my process so much.

    And I’m dying to hear it – send it! Andrew 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone


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