Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sanctum - Part II


While recording “Transcending Time,” I’d been playing with my new Duduk. It’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship handmade by a master somewhere in Turkey. (There is truly very little you can’t get your hands on via the internet.)

As a violinist, learning to play erhu, viola, and cello weren’t much of a stretch, but the Duduk was in interesting challenge. I fell in love with the sound of this instrument after hearing it on shows like Battlestar Galactica. Not long after, it became extremely popular in all kinds of movie scores. It’s a double-reed instrument which, unless you’re an oboe player, is something new. It requires you to purse your lips and apply pressure in an extremely non-string-player manner.

This instrument is a bit difficult to tame. Controlling the pitch was an interesting task, and its not a wonder it takes many years to play it well. What made it particularly tricky in this context was the fact that I intended to play it over some background chords, so the pitch had to be brought into line with these or the whole thing would sound truly awful.

Fortunately I had a little help from my friends at Autotune to keep things from getting out of control. Yes, instead of practicing for years, I cheated a bit. (Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.) The resulting track is OMN 179/11 “Empty Eons” http://bit.ly/di5zwB

As the title may indicate, just playing this felt like a trip back through time and space. The Duduk is considered one of the oldest instruments on the planet, and you can feel the history in its sound. I suppose there’s something slightly ironic about recording it digitally and altering the sound with computers in order to travel back through time, but I loved the end result.

As I mentioned previously, finishing “Sanctum” took almost exactly one year. Of course, part of this was that I had other projects to do, but another part of this was that the devil is in the details. As with any project, the first 95% is easy, but it’s that last 5% that’ll kill you. Since this was a labor of love, I gave it everything I had, and that meant driving myself insane with the last 5% to get it “just right.”

Anyone who’s done this knows the strange and frustrating places it can take you, but I figured if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it all the way. Do it right and it’s right forever. Do it wrong, and you’ll always be bothered by it.

So mixing, re-mixing, fixing, tweaking, tweaking some more, tweaking even more…you get the idea. Finally, however, I arrived at a finished product. Fourteen tracks born of the heart through freedom. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of having accomplished this. Along with it, though, comes the vow to never do it again. Joy, frustration, confusion, elation – all part of the mix.

But now at least I can say I did it.

-Dave Hab

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