Monday, November 26, 2007

Loscon Weekend Enchilada

Three Days to Never: A Novel

The day after Thanksgiving for Los Angeles science fiction and fantasy fans means Loscon and a lovely holiday tradition it is, too, although it does get in the way of any plans for out-of-town Thanksgiving events. I got to enjoy my annual dinner with Tim and Serena Powers (blatant link to most recent novel, above) on Friday night which was really delightful. We have conversations that run in about 14 disparate directions and we never quite finish any of them, so there's always more to talk about. I love these guys: smart, funny, and always thought-provoking. I gave Tim a copy of Diana's book The Company They Keep which he proceeded to stay up late reading - I know because I was sitting in the Green Room with Diana the next day when Tim walked in and said, "I was reading your book last night, I'm about a third of the way through--"

Diana was delighted ("Tim Powers is reading my book!") but I knew he would really enjoy it: good scholarship, solid connections, well-written, engaging - and it's about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams (and the other 16 Inklings, too) - what's not to like?!

Karen Willson came in and joined us during the break between the end of the Inklings panel (Diana Glyer, David Bratman, Tim Powers, Mark Ferrari, and another author (and librarian!) whose name I have blanked on; really excellent) and my concert. I was looking through my folder of "Songs Not Inappropriate for SF Concerts" and trying to decide what I would sing and she said, "sing to me! Pick songs you'd like me to hear," which made for an interesting selection. Started with "I Gotta Kill My Clone," which people really enjoy ("I caught her dating my boyfriend - I think he may prefer to be with her..."), then "High Frontier" - the song I wrote a week after the Columbia shuttle tragedy. If I'm remembering right I then sang "Difficult Drinks" and "The Fire Says Yes" which I consider sort of a "graying of fandom" song ("In the still of the night I curl up with a book but I'd rather be curled up with you--") and then "Come In, Houston," "Left Turn Love," and closing with "Emotional Junkie."

It was really fun for me that Dr. James Robinson, the musical guest of honor, did a combination concert/explanation performance following mine. I didn't know him or his work and he's delightful and very funny!

I didn't get to as much programming as I'd like and I drove home Saturday night so I could be at church Sunday a.m., thereby missing John Hertz and Tom Veal's infamous PrimeTime Party (starts at 1:00 a.m. and runs until 7:00 a.m.; it's a lot of fun) - but perhaps next year I'll make my excuses at church and stay for the whole enchilada.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Engineering, from the Artist side...

What prompted me to write this post (and the previous) was the degree of satisfaction I got from doing the hands-on mix of a rather complicated song. This particular singer was more oriented toward performing in the room rather than remembering we were capturing the performance via the microphones (funny, because he's very good at being on-mike in the worship team setting). So he dropped in and out in funny ways related to when he turned his face toward another 'character' - these things need to be corrected, or at least minimized, in the mixing process. This particular song also had an internal narration and a choral section, so at some point in the song every microphone needed to be turned up to specific levels, which would change and shift throughout the song, but because of the pedal clunk of the live piano sound (see previous entry) I couldn't leave the microphones on through the whole song or there was too much bleed-through.

And it's really fun for me to figure out what I need to do and create a mental road map of the work and then do it all in live time - very exciting! And I really don't know why it's exciting to me. Hmmmmm.

Now the challenge is learning to be content with the reality of its massive imperfections because live performance standards are quite different from studio performance standards, and understandably so: there's so much energy in live performance that a clunker of pitch goes by and is quickly forgotten - but you capture a recording of the moment and you can listen to it over and over and over again... *sigh*.

This is definitely "live" and I need to be okay with that...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Engineer Lynn - or Soundmixing

As a singer/songwriter, I've spent a fair amount of time in professional recording studios and I've watched a lot of mixing go down. Twenty-four tracks, flying faders, amazing punches - shoot, we even did a genuine reverse cymbal crash on my album (nowadays I suppose it would all be done digitally; can you tell I'm practicing to get crotchedty? Give me another 30 years and I'll have it down--). But I've not done much mixing myself.

I've been working with Jeremy (young brilliant musician and computer wiz, on the worship team together) on mixing the live sound from the performance of House of Bread so that we can have a reasonably good sound recording (I don't anticipate a wide release but at least for the folks involved and other churches interested in it, etc.). We're working with the little eight-track hard drive recorder that Jeremy used to capture the performance.

First fun part: the grand piano had a problem with the sustain pedal; this wasn't particularly noticeable in the room and the dynamics of performance are such that folks don't really notice it - they're more caught up in the story and the singers and the faces and the moment rather than an occasional soft *clunk*. But despite our best efforts on the day to minimize the clunking sound, the recorded track is full of it. And, being the sustain pedal, it's not even "in time" with the music (!!). So I re-recorded all the piano. This wouldn't be so hard in a studio setting but with a live performance where I was "accompanying" singers (allowing them to shift timings, etc., rather than driving the songs and forcing them to fit with the piano) it was a bit of a challenge.

Complicated by the fact we had 7 open mikes picking up room sound. Fine, we shut down the mikes we don't need at any given moment but it still leaves the singer's microphone with the original piano track audible in the background. This means I have to try and play the replacement keyboard pretty much the same way I played it live. Ha! Actually, that wasn't nearly so hard as I expected - Jeremy would give me the sound of the (new) keyboard and the original tracks and sometimes I needed more vocal and sometimes I needed more of the original piano. A few of the tracks were particularly "floaty" but even those I was able to re-record with surprisingly little difficulty.