La Semana + vision 2020

Not many people know that La Semana is very much like vision 2020 in that both albums really only feature the performances of Jon Gagan and myself.

I felt rather introspective when I recorded La Semana and it was going to be the first album I was going to engineer by myself. I decided that I wanted to work by myself and only bring in Jon to record the bass guitar. So all of the drumming you hear are loops and edits I created using drums that had been recorded for The Santa Fe Sessions a year or two before.

I also didn’t want to use any keyboards and so the un-guitar sounds on the album are actually guitar sounds that had been manipulated with the Eventide H949, a truly classic piece of gear.

I think this will be the cover for the remastered version that I will upload to Bandcamp. I am still working on a PDF booklet to go with the package.
La Semana  Remastered

There is a bit of a history of songs that are performed by only Jon and me. The track 3 Women Walking, on NF, is just the two of us, for example. I didn’t like what the percussionist wanted to play to the music, which is in 6/8. So I pulled out a little Roland drum machine I was using at the time, and programmed all of the drums for that song right there in the studio. Half an hour later the drums were done and recorded.

Shadow

La Semana

Last week I remastered the 2004 album La Semana and am listening to it as I am writing this. It was an important album for me, an album of a lot of firsts:

– the first time I engineered an entire album my myself, including the mastering
– the first time recorded with the Negra Flamenco guitar made by Lester DeVoe
– the first time Jon used his brand new black Lakland fretless bass
– the first time I recorded my guitar playing by myself
– the first (and last) time I created a Limited Edition package

La Semana 1
The design of the Limited Edition box won a couple of packaging awards. I don’t remember which associations gave out the awards… they might be in a box in my garage somewhere… The La Semana box turned out to be expensive to make and was released at a time when everyone seemed to have decided that music should be free. The demand simply wasn’t there and, instead of putting the boxes on sale, I packed them up and, you guessed it, they are also in my garage somewhere.

I hadn’t listened to the album in a long time and enjoyed reacquainting myself with the music. While La Luna is the most popular song on the album, I discovered I really enjoyed some of the other tunes, like Spring Rain, Cave In My Heart, and Evening (Languid Pace).

Cocteau remains one of my favorite pieces and it was also a first. La Semana was recorded before I acquired a wireless remote control to operate the computer from the room where I play guitar. I had to set up the software to start about twenty bars before the music began to give me enough time to open and close four doors, sit down, put on headphones, take the guitar and check the tuning, get ready… Because this was so cumbersome I set up the recording to keep looping the section I wanted to play on. Cocteau was the song where I did this for the first time and the song kept looping and I kept playing. After a while I forgot what I was doing and just had fun. The room fell away, the studio no longer mattered, the recording process was forgotten… I was just playing. There was no other person in the studio whose presence I might have been aware of. I was playing guitar by myself somewhere, and it felt like painting or drawing by myself. I loved it and knew this was the way I wanted to work from then on.

Check out Obo Cocteau, a story by Lawrence Russell based on the song Cocteau. It’s a pure fictional evocation of the composition’s moody Moorish atmosphere… and associations made from the title.

I will live with the remaster for a few more days and then I will upload the album to Bandcamp. It will be the first time that the album will be available as a lossless download, instead of mp3s.

NF

Regarding my post about Guitar History JaneParhamKatz commented:

I liked the sound of the very first NF!

I have, of course, heard comments like that one a lot of times. A lot, a lot, a lot.

First I have to unpack the statement. What is meant by the sound of that album? Is the statement about the overall sonic quality of the recording? About the sound of the guitar? Or is it, perhaps, about the arrangements, the interplay of bass and guitar, the compositions?

Beauty is absolutely in the ear of the beholder. A sound creates a feeling and we cannot argue with feelings. I suggest that most of us also can’t separate the sound from the experience that accompanies it. If we experience something we like while listening to a piece of music, that music becomes a memory aid to return to that experience. In addition I believe that something that sounds unique, which is what NF was at the time, it will create a positive experience that is stamped into memory.

Here is the story of the sound of NF. The guitar sounded okay, passable. The studio wasn’t great. The microphone was pretty good. The chair squeaked. The reverb box was a cheap unit that didn’t sound great, but was the only thing available.

The mastering was done by the record label, Higher Octave, in the beginning of 1990. The label had found a lab that promised to make the CD louder than anything else, and their hope was that this would make the music stand out and be noticed. I often heard from Radio DJs who played NF in 1990 that the album was so loud that they had to manually turn down the output on their console each time they played a song from it, or the radio signal would become distorted. Wow! Many radio stations kept a sticky note on the album cover that reminded the DJ to turn down the volume!

Perhaps the loudness of NF did contribute to the popularity, but I imagine it wasn’t a big part of it. But, then again, I know next to nothing about marketing. It doesn’t interest me much and I am not good at it.

Tree Upon Tree

Very cool.

Daisugi: Creating a Tree Platform for Other Trees:

Sometime in 15th century Japan, a horticulture technique called daisugi was developed in Kyoto. Written as 台杉 and literally meaning platform cedar, the technique resulted in a tree that resembled an open palm with multiple trees growing out if it, perfectly vertical.

Aging is an Art

1. A lovely post on aging can be found here.

Then, the face smiled, and I recognized it as my own. Laughter lines can change the way we look as well as the way we feel and how others see us. Laughter doesn’t recognize age. I think that my first impression of shock at looking into the mirror was because I was wearing the eyes of a young woman. Deep within my subliminal, is a perpetually young girl. It was me at 17 looking at me at 77 and not recognizing myself.

2. The Age-Well Project has a lot of great posts about aging. It’s been in my RSS reader for a long time.

PS:
Jon told me that the great pianist Keith Jarrett revealed that he’s had a series of strokes since 2018 and that his left hand is pretty much out of the game permanently. Here is an article about it that I found in the NYT.

The Köln Concert happened while I was in high school. In 1994 I got to experience Keith Jarret at the Blue Note in New York, with his trio… It was an amazing experience that I still cherish.

Jon then reminded me that I once told him about a Japanese master calligrapher who was in his 90s and said he’d like to live a little longer because he was starting to get it.

We agreed that we could both identify with that statement. I do think that Jon is at the top of his game at present, playing better than ever. I also like how my work is progressing. The last two records sound great… my hands may hurt occasionally and my hearing may not be quite as good as it used to be but I am making up for that with my understanding and with my imagination. And we still have a way to go until our Nineties!

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