Hey folks, while writing the album, I spent a lot of time also thinking about the types of projects I might like to do afterward. One such project would be to document each song’s stories. As I told bits of them to people here and there, I’ve come to realize how writing is a deep and complex process, and how style is so personally philosophical.
With that, I wanted to start with a song I hadn’t yet shared with you (unless you bought the album, of course). Let’s start with that, here is Green Tinted Windows. Read on if you’re curious as to how this song came to be.
Awaken and Green Tinted Windows
Green Tinted Windows was originally written under the title, Fallen Star and was designed to be the second movement of a two movement piece. Awaken, Fallen Star would be the complete piece, and represents some stuff… well, I’ll tell you later. And can you guess the title of the the first movement? Mmhmm, pretty straight forward right?
I suppose this story goes all the way back to Awaken actually. Awaken was born earlier than any of the other pieces of music on the album (with maybe the exception of the drums in Try and Fail).
At the time, I think I had just gotten my sound panels and hinged some of them for a vocal booth. Around that time, I had become friends with an intern at the time, the great and powerful Zoe (and amazingly unreachable). I had some weird little electro beat worked out and turns out she likes singing for no reason at all.
Zoe came over and sang the words, “Here comes the rain again.” I had this amazing idea for a cover of the track and I was determined to manifest it. However, in implementation, well, it was reasonably terrible. Although, I did get to experiment with a real live vocalist. So of course, I made her make a five part harmony with herself. Why? Guess I wanted to know how it would sound.
This is what it sounded like (yes, this is a bare-all experience):
I know, it should have won a grammy.
I never bothered to finish the track, but I did want to experiment with the idea that I could treat a human voice like a midi instrument. There was a video out there that told me this. And in fact, it’s very true. Analyze some transients, bind them to midi notes, all automatic.
You can do this in Live or Logic, but in my case I used logic. And hey, I had a five part harmony I could pull apart and play with. And so I did. I think there were goes like, “I wonder if I can make a pad out of this part of it” – which would yield some process of me fiddling around to find out what parts of her voice were bound to what keys, and then playing with sample parameters and effects to have this human driven synth.
The whole process quickly yielded something interesting. Zoe came over and I asked her to simply improvise over the track. I love improvisation in music (it’s how I wrote music for a long time, and was even an approach to my programming). So… she wailed like a banshee, I put a shitload of reverb on it, and man, we were both really impressed with how it worked out.
Here’s an early bounce, working title “awake” (WIP 1 – July 2012 — wip means ‘work in progress’, and so this is the first bounce I did ) – note that that, relative to almost ever other song, this song didn’t go through that many changes from the first, to the last, bounce. I mean, minus the second half of the song I deleted.
Why did I call it awake? Because in my mind, I imagined this body floating in a purgatorial state. They are effectively no where. But they hear a voice calling to them, and they start to wake up. Simple right?
Now, I mentioned above that the second half was removed (go review the final if you wish). This is an important note as, I really saw this as a two part piece. The WIPs in fact change to “Awakening, Part 1” in my bounces folder. At the time this was going on (July 2012), I was very much developing a lot of skills. I couldn’t finish the song, I couldn’t get that second half to feel like something I was proud of, so yea, it got cut.
I tried and tried again to write a Part 2. It just never happened. It’s quite true that the best ‘part 2’ I ever got was that first attempt. Sometime a year later I made all these decisions and called the song ‘done’ for the first time on June 5th, 2013 – Here’s the premaster –
And that was it for awaken, for YEARS. Seriously, I mixed Awaken close to last. Otherwise, it was this part of the album for years before any of the other pieces, and it just sorta floated about.
Wait, a subtitle of ‘star’? Wtf? Well, this is important. Remember how I said Zoe and I were pleased with out this improvisational thing worked out so well? Well, it did, and I thought about this a lot. I think until then I hadn’t really created anything I felt was very unique to me, and interesting. Around this time (2013/2014) a friend of mine was directing her first short film, and had asked me to do the music.
A character in the film is sorta this evil soul stealing woman (like, literally soul stealing). I thought that the process on Awakening pt 1 might yield some interesting results. I said to Zoe, “you’re this evil creature floating about in the back, beckoning the soul as well as your pain with your song.”
She improvised, I recorded. Then, I edited, and edited, and edited. In this case I wanted to hand edit the waves with multiple interleaving parts. In my mind, this temptress, she has this way that she weaves. It’s all very floaty in my head.
Anyways, it sounded really cool in surround sound. And that’s all I’ll say about the film, but this is important as we change topics to…
Oh ho ho, now the names are starting to make more sense aren’t they? In the same way I extracted vocals I recorded for that awful electro “Here comes the rain” track, I wanted to take the recording I made from star, and I wanted to make music out of them. And at this point, I had loooooong since given up on writing awakening part 2. Except, I hadn’t. I just knew it would be a different song.
Soooo yea, that was the goal. And I was having fun with effects. Oh, and sparseness. Here’s wip 2 (wip 1 is apparently silent, uh.):
Now, Fallen Star was the second to last song I wrote. My process at this point was reasonably ironed out and it didn’t take me too long to get to something I wanted to call done. I think this was all done in February of this year.
During mixing, I decided to have more separation between this, and awaken, and rename the song. For whatever reason, I was reminded of a childhood moment, looking at the doors to my parents house. There were, well, green tinted windows.
Philosophically, I wanted to portray Zoe through the effects almost exclusively. I used a side-chain gate to only allow her more natural voice to pop through in time with the kick. I thought that this effect added a lot more interest to her voice, and also allowed me to get more out of a loop (yea, I cut out quite a bit of the stuff from star and made something special).
And, uh, well, that’s that. Awaken was super simple to mix, Green Tinted Windows was slightly more challenging (I had to pull the synth apart). But in general, I think both of these songs came out well and didn’t front the greatest of the challenges (not that they weren’t hard work.).
And that’s my journey with these pieces, thanks for coming along.