Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Mr McFalls Electronics Day

I arrived at this wonderful space, through an avenue of overhanging beech trees, gently brushing the roof of the van in welcome. The studio space has a breath-taking view of the Scottish Borders, and it is a gentle, and welcoming space to work in. 

Meeting with the players and electronics people from McFalls I feel instantly, well, um, welcomed and so very happy to be here. Robert chats happily about Anna-Wendy and her fiddle teachings, Brian is colourfully trying both violas, and I am blessed, as he chooses the heavier and trickier but with a richer sound. Ricks bass guitar is swifly replaced by the most gorgeous looking acoustic bass with pick up. This bass looks like it has been resting at the bottom of the sea, singing siren songs with the slinkies, with armada gold stashed inside, telling tales of canon and pirate. If I ever coveted an instrument, I cannot have coveted it like this.... sigh. Su-a comes fresh from doing a gig for babies, all energy and focus with the wonderful hair up down up down up down up. 

Martin and I set up and have a look through the patches, discussing whether we think they will work, what the issues might be and ways that we could approach those issues. He is a Max wizard, clicking through the patches, and deftly tweaking and typing. Alex Fiennes is on the sound, taking the feed from the live musicians and our laptops and producing gorgeous mixes. Occaisionaly Martin and Alex speak to each other in fluent serial number. 

The first piece we work on is Sea Longing, inspired by my time on the Uists, facing the sea, at once enveloping and spearating - feeling as though I am experiencing all the centuries overlapping each other. The electronics work! This is a joyous moment. Brian's viola is happily triggering the samples whilst the laptop people just sit and babysit the Max patches. The patch is designed to listen for certain notes in a certain time window, and upon hearing these notes, to trigger the samples. 

After lunch we have a look at Dochas, or Uaimh na h-Àrd-Eaglaise. This piece is more seat of our pants. It involves building loops on top of each other, each player has several loops to pile up. The structural issue would be that the opening of the piece is very slow, so even a milimeter's nudge either way will cause the whole house of cards to tumble later on in the piece. We adjust the max patch in some mid afternoon frantic wizardry and finally get the piece to fly. The delays are added manually, as we're running out of time. We wanted to get the musicians to play with number generator toys to randomly affect the delays... ah well. next time.

Alex is making some wonderful mixes from the day to put on the McFalls website, which you can find if you click:


I am sitting here as the light dies, a pale turquoise sky against the black of the trees, a mellow jazz noodle rises into the air like cigar smoke as Rick is on the veranda playing his bass.