Acknowledgements for the Reconstruction EP

There were too many things to say to squeeze them onto a single insert page on a CD, so I am taking advantage of the space I have on this blog to list my acknowledgements and also to talk about the process of recording this album.

I will start with the acknowledgements to spare those who might not be interested in the technical details, though those details are cool, I swear! 😉

  • This album would not exist if it were not for the help and patience of my dear husband, and for the most laid-back (and super fantastic, seriously solidly sleeping) baby.
  • I want to thank my musician father for his feedback on songs when I thought the auditory “vision” was going astray. I love that we have music and songwriting in common.
  • I appreciate the graphic design advice given to me by my step-dad. This was rather tricky since he is not connected to the Internet and I had to describe to him, over the phone, what I wanted to accomplish on the album cover. Luckily he is a great (retired) designer, as well as a musician, so he gets it.
  • I am ever so grateful to my friend Jen Boone for helping with the photo shoot for the album cover. She is the first friend I made when we recently moved to Louisiana and we’ve not known each other very long. However, she was quick to lend a hand when I wanted to drive to an unfamiliar area of town to do a series of self portraits in front of an abandoned building. The word “abandoned” inspired a “YOU WANT TO GO ALONE AND TAKE THE BABY WHERE?” when I told my husband what I wanted to do. Jen was happy to babysit during the shoot, and to give me feedback on when the wind was blowing my dress just right. 🙂
  • And YOU. If you are reading this, it might be because you bought the album and saw the link to my blog. Thank you! Supporting musicians is what allows them to keep making more music. ❤

Other liner notes:

  • “Dusk to Dawn” originally appeared on my 2010 album The Soundtrack to Your Demise. Because that album is very different from the rest of my music, I thought it might be nice to attempt a dreamy piano version of the rhythmic, beat-heavy, and synth-driven original. I’m really happy with the piano arrangement.
  • The song title, “The Medium,” refers to a concept in the Legends of Muirwood series by Jeff Wheeler. Though this song is in fact about that concept, it is also about my general spiritual beliefs.
  • “Make Him Mine” is directly inspired by The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (written by Robert Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s passing.) If you’ve read the first three (of 14) books, you know whose point of view I am taking. It’s not spoiler-y, just in case you are avoiding spoilers.

Now for the technical stuff:

  • I am so very pleased to say that this album was recorded using entirely open source (FREE) software. I used Ardour 3 as my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and used Yoshimi and Qsampler for my MIDI sound fonts. I ran all these programs using 64-bit Ubuntu Studio 13.10, a Linux-based operating system (again, all free.)
  • For the beautiful grand piano sound, I used the open source Maestro Concert Grand piano sound font provided by Mats Helgesson.
  • I did not have any guest musicians appear on this album. I like to think I am rather resourceful at getting my keyboard (via MIDI) to sound as much like other instruments as possible. I try not to push those boundaries too hard though; I am still a piano player at heart.
  • My keyboard, an old Casio Privia, has a huge selection of drum presets, and it is amazing what a lot of time, patience, and clever editing can do to make boring, repetitive drum tracks a whole lot more interesting. For the record, in hindsight, it may have taken the same amount of time to just hire someone to play drums and record them. I ran into a few snags that had me searching dozens of presets for just the right boom/crash combo with a cymbal that was not too long and not too short. Painful.
  • If you are still reading this, you may enjoy some of my previous blogs about setting up my studio and using MIDI in Ardour. I also wrote a post on the specs of Ardour (though my blog post was written for the previous version of Ardour, it is still good for the basics.)

 

 

 

 

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My Thoughts on Amanda Palmer and Musicians Playing for Free

In the last couple of days I have seen many people posting about the recent controversy involving Amanda Palmer.

On August 21st, Amanda put out a call for volunteer musicians to join her and her band-mates on stage in every city of her tour. She offers to pay them in beer, t-shirts and hugs.

Several news outlets such as Prefix and Digital Music News have published articles either bashing this practice or talking about how people are bashing this practice in light of the huge amount of money she raised using Kickstarter. There are some pretty harsh replies in the comments.

But when I read the articles, I was not outraged. I didn’t see the fault in this request.

I thought from the headlines that I would be upset. After all, I am a musician who has had to play plenty of shows for no pay. Instead I was given the meager compensation of being allowed to operate a merchandise table, sometimes only during my set. I was even asked to play a show this past summer at a very large convention where my perks were so non-existent, I was not even privileged enough to be able to attend the convention!

Needless to say, I turned that one down.

I am lucky that my fans are generous and I usually make enough to cover gas and tolls, and can stash a little away for my next big equipment purchase (I am so close to getting new monitor speakers for the studio!!!)

I get the outrage though. I get that musicians are insulted that somehow people expect them to perform for free while everyone else involved in a production gets paid. I am not sure how or when this started, but it seems pretty common these days.

In fact, a former band-mate of mine, who has a new band and is playing regular (paid) gigs, recently posted a response he wrote to a request for his band to play for free. I might have clapped after reading it. I certainly shared it with anyone who would read it. This is what he posted on his facebook page:

Got an e-mail asking The StraightJackets to play a corporate affair…for free. They promised us “exposure” via their website and videos posted on YouTube that would be far more valuable.

Oh, by the way, they wanted us to bring the PA, too!

My response:

Thanks for contacting The StraightJackets.

Corporate shows start at $1500. Outside shows cost $1000 more because of the added PA necessary.

We will add your event to our calendar which gets THOUSANDS of hits and will add videos from the show to our video page giving you incredible exposure for your product. Literally millions of hits per month. You will have more clients than you have product for. That will more than offset the fee we charge to play for your event.

What…you don’t think that the exposure is worth the money?

Neither do we.

But, we are glad to provide you with this exposure since you have asked us to rehearse until we are good enough to be in demand, buy a full PA big enough to handle an outdoor event, travel to your event, set up our PA, play for your event and entertain your clients and friends, tear down, and load out our gear for you…all for free. I guess you are also wanting us to be skilled, talented, and professional, also for free.

Sorry.

You don’t give your pools away for free and we don’t give our music away for free, especially to corporations. You will be paying someone to pick up the garbage for your event, the least you can do is pay the musicians, too.

Good luck on your upcoming venture.

Stuart

So yeah, if this email got me all riled up, you would think I would be outraged by Amanda Palmer, right? Nope. Why? Because if I was reading Amanda Palmer’s blog, it would be because I was a huge fan. And if one of my favorite musicians gave me the chance to play with her on stage in my home town, I would take it without a thought. Beer, a t-shirt, and a hug as payment? Bonus.

She has a paid band backing her up. This call for volunteers is a way to incorporate her fans into her art. It is something she is known for. There is a reason she has a HUGE following and can do spontaneous shows and pack the place.

The controversy apparently arose from the fact that she raised a huge amount of money from Kickstarter. They wonder if she has all this cash, why can’t she pay these musicians?

I think people are missing the point.

Yeah, she did raise over a million dollars from Kickstarter, but since she breaks down where that money is going in her blog it is clear to see that this money is allocated to her amazing Kickstarter rewards and to creating and distributing the album. It has nothing to do with whether or not she has money left over to pay musicians; she IS paying her touring band. Instead, it is about her fans having a once-in-a-lifetime experience to become a part of her show rather than just watching it from afar.

So yes, I think musicians should be paid, but sometimes you take a freebie because it is something that is so cool, you just can’t pass it up. It might even lead to a future paying gig. There is a big difference between being asked to be the main entertainment for a private party and asking if any fans would like to be a part of their favorite musician’s show.

So you just keep doing what you are doing, Amanda Palmer.

***UPDATE*** (9/20/2012)

Digital Music News posted an article yesterday called Amanda Palmer Agrees to Pay Guest Musicians. The article quotes the blog, but does NOT post a link to it. I always like to read things in their entity, so I searched for it on my own, and now you can read it for yourself.

While searching, I also located a blog from September 14th that further explains Amanda’s personal experiences with volunteering or having to pay her own way, and the benefits she received from it.  For example, I learned about an experience she had with her former band:

“…sometimes even paying for my own travel for the privilege of playing with my idols. (the dresden dolls lost a lot of money in order to travel around opening up for nine inch nails. and good lord, were we grateful to lose that money…it won us a huge bunch of fans).”

Amanda makes many, many good points about how different things work for different artists, no matter how famous or how obscure. I really recommend reading it!

My opinion on the matter still remains that there are situations in which I volunteer my time, and others in which I do not. I guess it depends on whether or not I feel I am being taken advantage of, or if perhaps I am gaining some sort of advantage (even if small) for doing so. Only good can come of her decision to pay these musicians, but I still do not fault her for asking for volunteers. After all, I am in the middle of recording a CD at the moment, and where would I be if I didn’t have musician friends who were willing to work for peanuts?! The good will comes back around, my friends.


Setting Up a Linux-Based Recording Studio (a Preface)

It seems to me that the process of setting up a Linux-based studio is going to unfold like a novel, putting me, the main character, in situations where I am out of my comfort zone and I will learn and grow in the process of working it all out.  So I am going to set these journal entries up in chapters. Today’s entry is a Preface of sorts because I want to talk about the history behind the decision to use Linux.

In the beginning… I married a computer nerd. Of his 12 (I think it is 12 but it could be more) computers, all run Linux except two, and really, one of those is partitioned so it can run Windows OR Linux (Ubuntu, I think) so really that makes it 1.5 that run something other than Linux. I can see the draw. Open Source software is free and if you are a computer wiz like him, you can have input on the software yourself because it is this big happy community of computer nerds who welcome input and improvement. Super duper.

I entered into the marriage clutching my Mac. I recorded 3 albums using that laptop, and though it had become an old man, it was familiar and safe and trust-worthy…until it died. I am not saying it didn’t have its problems. It was an old computer and for some reason, during the year it was made, Steve Jobs felt USB and Firewire were the only way to input information. I could not plug anything in that used a 1/4″ plug.  I got around that problem by buying a mixer with a USB port and went along on my merry way.  But everything sounded a bit muffled.  How could my very expensive condenser mic sound so… flat and lifeless?  I know now…. poor analog to digital conversion.  My tech-savvy husband help me figure that one out.

So the Mac is dead and that mixer is out for future recordings.  Time to start over.

I wanted a new and improved Mac. Perhaps a desktop with which I could use all these cool new analog to digital converter toys I have discovered.  Then the “Steve Jobs only gives you what he thinks you should have” speech came up again.  That aside, my husband had an even bigger message that I could not ignore: I should be able to make great recordings with my condenser mic and a brand new converter for my keyboards and bass guitar using FREE software. Free. It is hard to pass up the opportunity to try something that might work just fine for free.

And that brings us to today.  I am really trying not to be dubious.  I am trying to be positive, but when we cannot even get 64 Studio or Ubuntu Studio to load onto this machine smoothly, I am very wary of what is to come.  I think back on my Mac as if I am daydreaming about an old boyfriend – forgetting all the faults and limitations he had. Only remembering that he was perfect and easy and reliable.  Yeah, so I had to buy a book called “Garage Band: the book that should have come in the box” (or something like that) to figure out the nuances of the software that, as the title implies, should have come with the Mac.  But I forget and forgive all that now.  Familiar is good.  New is scary.

Let’s see if I can just get through this first step of system install…