Tales From The Town-Ender

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Tales From The Town-Ender - notes

This recording was made on 14th February, Valentine's Day at just after 9.00 a.m. It was released at 1.10 a.m. on February 21st, just as I was, fifty years ago.

On the scheduled day of the recording, both my children were ill with 'flu, but, lying in my bed in the loft room of my house in front of a James Bond movie, drinking iced water, they were quite happy to let me have an hour in which to record in my kitchen. Here is the first problem with this record - it wasn't made privately or anonymously, but as I always say, things are never ideal and I believe that my skill as an artist is tested by being able to work in difficult and less-than-ideal conditions. That said, the recording situation was wholly representative of my present-life circumstances, that particular morning. I do try to live in the moment, in the here-and-now, even if it means that I couldn't find out how to turn off the damned freezer, which burped and farted throughout the whole recording.

The week before the recording day, I had placed 50 A4-sized photographs on my kitchen wall in chronological order, the images depicting my birth to the present-day. I then played to each photograph for one minute only but not with pauses between pieces. Here is the second problem with this recording: I had to keep looking at my computer to monitor the time spent on each piece. This was especially difficult to manage. Therefore, although there are fifty pieces, the music is one fifty-minute piece in itself. These fifty images are shown in the slideshow which can accompany the recording. One of the images is shown as a blank, because I want to protect the privacy of the person to whose picture I played.

Just before I started playing, the photo of the car-crash fell off the wall. You can hear it on the record. I might believe that it was the ghost of my mother who swept it off the wall, not wanting me to play about an incident which could so easily have killed her, and of which I still think of daily.

I used six microphones to record the Eden guitar - two Neumann KM86s in omni as a spaced-stereo pair in front of the guitar, a Coles 4050 stereo microphone placed over my head and looking down onto the soundports on the upper-bout side, an AKG C60 with Telefunken M7 (cardioid) capsule looking straight at the guitar and at the height of the front soundhole, and another AKG C60 with a CK26 omni capsule for a room mic pointing up and to the left-side of the recording area. I also used the internal DPA 4060 omni mic within the Eden guitar (The Neumann KM86s are wonderful microphones. If I had to choose just one microphone, then this would be it).

The ambient noise on the recording is unavoidable, as it was recorded in a large domestic kitchen, therefore the best I can hope for is that it gives you, the listener, a sense of place. However, as I've said before, the lo-fi approach/aesthetic of recording free music is certainly not for me. (The idea that lo-fi recordings are more 'democratic' and less bourgeois is simply nonsense).

This recording was many months in the planning and preparation but took exactly fifty minutes to record - a little like Christmas shopping, which takes months and then the opening of the presents, which takes minutes. The presents never look as good in the front room as they did in the shop because the anticipation has gone and one is left with the bare reality of the goods. Only then is the cost regretted. But it does feel like I have waited all my life to make this record. The collection of world-class microphones, the design of my ultimate guitar, my life-experience (or world-weariness) with all its joy and pain, love and not-love and money or none, the vision and the hearing of my own music and its execution - it all came together on this morning, or so it felt. Three hours after I had played the last note, I wanted to try again, but, wise man that I am, I had broken down all the equipment and taken it back to my studio, knowing that I would indeed want to do another take, but knowing also of my hatred of setting up recording sessions! You live and learn. Mixing the record was easy - I didn't - I put all the faders up to unity gain and mixed straight down to two-track stereo. No compression, eq, limiting, plug-ins ... nothing. I didn't even master to my old Revox A77. What you hear is what I heard through my headphones when I played. Watch your ears, mind - those dynamic peaks haven't been tamed. The other reason for this approach is that by the time I came to mix, I'd developed the 'flu bug from which the children were suffering. As a consequence, my ears were blocked and I didn't dare make sonic judgements in such a condition. Engineers please note: I DID check the phase of my mics!

The phrase, "The first thought is the best thought", is often used in Improvised music, but there are times when I feel that I need time to get used to "something", so that my conscious mind may rest and be distracted or become lazy. Or that I can dream. This is the third reason that this particular recording fails - I was under so many pressures of one kind or another that I was unable to dream. However, as mentioned above, having unlimited time was against the brief and I had hoped that these time constraints might help the whirlwind musical journey that I had in mind, but I'm not sure that my brief allowed me to inhabit the music as I usually do.

However, this record now exists. If I hadn't recorded it, it wouldn't. So, however I now regard it, it is done. And so, for the time being, am I.