Go Write Some Music

This past couple of weekends we've been working on the Parks & Recreation album, so progress on the Ideal Home Music Library has temporarily halted. I should be back in the bathroom by next week. In the meantime the strings and horns sound really good. We got them all together on the Saturday before last. On a gray and rainy day all 8 of the players showed up to the Montessori school where we're recording. By the way, we can now officially add Montessori school to the list of indie-rock recording venues. I know it isn't as cool as recording in an old church or an abandoned warehouse, but it's the best we could do. Anyway, there we were: me waving a little wooden conducting baton at a group of eight musicians sitting in pint-sized chairs, Anthony tinkering with knobs and sliders, all surrounded by math, science, and language materials, plus lots and lots of children's books. Quite funny. I had given the players the parts I wrote way ahead of time, so they all were well prepared. I had a score in front of me, and we went for it.

I heard an interesting piece last weekend on NPR about Johnny Mandell, a famous arranger. In his interview, he was describing his first arranging lesson. His teacher said, "Make sure you get musicians to play what you wrote, otherwise you won't know what it sounds like." I can tell you that "knowing what it sounds like" is only half the thrill of hearing your music played by real people. Of course it's valuable to hear how things do or don't work when played by humans. In my case, the baritone saxophone player gave me some notes about how his parts were written too high, and there was one section of a song where the strings sounded terrible because of some chords I'd misspelled. I tweaked the notes in that part, and everything turned out fine. But again, ironing out those problems is only half the thrill. The real thrill is in hearing those little dots and lines come to life in front of you. When they fill the air, and you hear it all come together for the first time, just as you'd imagined it, it's such an incredible, uplifting feeling. At one point, after we'd overdubbed the brass on Handsome Models In Love, and heard the playback, I was laughing so hard I was in tears. It took me a few minutes to compose myself. Part of the reason I was laughing was because the music I'd written was so cheezy that we were making jokes about my indie-cred card being revoked. When I say cheezy, I mean it sounded so much like the soundtrack to Shaft, or like a Barry White album, that I had to laugh. Joe pointed out that In the context of the song, it was so MacGyver, so A-Team soundtrack, that it was perfect. But the other reason I was laughing was out of sheer giddiness that it came together so well. After playback had stopped, I felt like the floor had dropped out from under me. Like I was on a thrill ride that, after slowly climbing a steep incline, with a quick lurch sends you plummeting to the floor. It was a giddy buzz like you only feel when you skip home from a lovely first date. I can't describe it no matter how much I attempt to. You can't get that feeling from drugs. It's better than drugs. I abhor drugs thanks to that feeling.

My advice, if you want to know what it feels like: go write some music and get your friends to play it. More later!