We did it. After two days, 17 1/2 hours, 22 songs, 16 singers, countless takes, and infinite caffeine, we recorded an album this weekend. You may recall that I was previously involved in a Kickstarter project to raise money for a new recording of Pete Seeger songs with choral group Counterpoint, and this weekend was the culmination of years of planning, months of rehearsing, and a lifetime of music.
For Counterpoint founder Robert De Cormier, this was the capstone on a glorious musical career that included collaborations and friendship with Pete Seeger, and we were so lucky to have him in the studio with us. Not only had he arranged many of the songs we were recording, but his insights into Pete and the members of the group were invaluable. After every take our indefatigable conductor would run to the booth to get Robert’s take. That is if Robert wasn’t already on his way out to let us know that we cut off too early in measure 23.
In a concert, it doesn’t always matter that you cut off too early in measure 23. There is energy in live performance that is forgiving and connecting. No one will recall the measure 23 cutoff at the end of the night. But in a recording, you have to create a mood and an energy without the actual benefit of being in the room with the listener. Not only that, but the listener will listen to that same take dozens, if not hundreds, of times! It has to be carefully crafted and perfectly executed. Of course perfection is impossible, and every recording I have ever made contains a myriad of tiny blips and quibbles that I desperately wish I could correct, but we get as close as we can and then we have to make our peace with it. We’re only human after all.
To add to the fun, we were being photographed and video recorded at all times, so at some point there will probably be some sort of blooper reel of all of us picking our noses and screaming curse words at the end of measure 23. You can look for that in theaters next Febcember.
If you have ever done any studio recording, then you know that it never goes as smoothly as planned, that it will take far longer than you ever expected, that the computer will crash in the middle of your best take, that right in the important spot someone will turn their page so loudly that it cannot be edited out, and that there is just no way you can get it all done. Unless, of course, you cheat. So we cheated. We added a little time on the ends of both days, and stayed in the studio a little longer than scheduled, allowing us to get everything we needed. We also added a percussion overdub day, since all of those tambourines and maracas were drowning out the singers, so we’re not quiiiiiiiiite done yet. But I am done. Now that the pool/pizza/after party is over, all that’s left is for me is to sit back and wait for the CD to arrive in the mail, in January if all goes well. Which is too bad. Because I can’t wait to hear it.