Monday, February 9, 2015

Excuses and Disclaimers

Perhaps you've heard someone tell you that you should never make excuses for your performance. Right?


Here is what I think of as both the up side and the down side of the recordings that generally inhabit pianonoise.

First, I make most of the recordings myself. I have what is some relatively low-end equipment. I use a digital recorder I bought for 300 dollars about 12 years ago and which still somehow runs despite being in pieces! I have a pair of 300-400 dollar microphones and two stands and cables to connect everything.

The nice thing about all this is that I can make a recording pretty much any time I want to. I am on a fairly tight schedule with all the choir and band rehearsals that festoon my week, as well as church services, meetings, gigs and concerts, but I am usually on the clock in the evenings which leaves the morning free to make a recording or two. I am able to do this in the sanctuary of the church where I am organist and pianist, and thus have the use of a very nice organ and 7 foot Steinway piano. Most of the time the sanctuary is empty. When it's in use, there is a good chance I'm in use along with it, since I play for all of the groups that rehearse there regularly. This gives me some flexibility and flexibility is good.

What drives my choice of music is often what I am going to play on Sunday morning. This is certainly true of the organ part of the catalog but also frequently the piano as well, since I play that instrument on Sunday mornings which some regularity, including for opening voluntaries and offertories (and postludes). In these cases, I choose what will work for a particular service based on a variety of factors, and what winds up being online is simply what the sum total of all those decisions over time has been. But much of the piano side (and some of the organ music) winds up being extra-curricular, meaning I just felt like recording those pieces. In that case I have to fit any practice time (often there isn't any, or very little) and the time to record in and among the pieces I'm playing for church or for a concert or that have some deadline that other people will notice.

In either case, I'm often going through a lot of music in a short period of time, which means that on average the music you hear has only had about three days practice before it hit the microphone. That's not likely to produce the best possible interpretation, nor even the best technical grasp, and yet I've gotten pretty quick about learning many a piece, and, I have a couple of helps.

The first is that I can do several takes, so if I'm still actually learning the piece 'on microphone' --which happens, sometimes, I can get it right by the end. Usually I do about 3 or 4, no more. And I have the ability to edit the recordings, which I do to some extent. Really, though, if a fairly short piece of music (5 min. or less) needs more than a handful of edits it isn't worth it. I don't know the piece well enough and I'll try it again later. Some of the piece you are hearing are exactly as I played them with no edits at all, and others have a few. Many of them contain edits that shortened the original pauses during sections when I was flipping music around on the organ, which is why you almost never hear any page turning noises during a recording. It isn't because I've memorized everything.  I memorize pretty fast, but if it takes me 3 days to memorize a piece I'll record it in two! (that's another discussion). Another thing I can get rid of through editing are building noises, such as when the roof creaks or when a truck drives by loudly.

Generally I have only one day to record, and if I'm not in the best playing shape that day, too bad! Which brings me to one thing I'm proud of. Sure, I don't always get the sound right, or play exactly the way I'd like. But there's this:

You aren't listening to my highlight reel, the way a concert artist sometimes puts a few pieces on their site representing them at their very best. You also aren't getting  pieces I've known for years practiced for months, recorded by professionals using thousands of dollars of equipment and edited thousands of times. But you are getting my playing, every week. Each week I post something new on short notice. It's the best I can do consistently, the way I sound all the time, busy schedule and all.

And you know, from that angle It isn't too bad!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I don't bite...mostly.