Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

recording Christmas

Tonight I got inspired to record Gurdonark's Low Tech Kazoo-Driven Semi-Ambient Burning Jazz Cheap Cassette-Driven Christmas Album CD, on my 1 track analog GE Personal Portable Cassette Player [Model Number 3-5027], and the little clip mike I had gotten some time ago. I wanted to keep things simple, so I elected to choose the simplest two musical instruments in my arsenal: the kazoo and the PVC didge. I popped in a cassette, stuffed the microphone in the middle of the didjeridoo, and began a session of intense humming, spiced, after the 7th song, with a few vocal interludes. Although I thought my Sony High Fidelity Cassette Tape (normal bias) was 60 minutes total, the fact that I got 31 songs recorded suggests to me that the tape must have been 60 minutes a side. Incredibly, I finished tonight. Merry Christmas, or happy holidays, or my goodness, I'm back.

At first, the "swallowed kazoo" sound of running the kazoo through the didge gave the whole affair a
kind of grisly noise worthy of the microsound forum, except that I am not sure that anyone over in microsound uses a traditional song list like

1. Silent Night (Franz Gruber)
2. Excerpts from Finlandia (Jean Sibelius)
3. December nightstorm (Robert Nunnally)
4. Kum Ba Yah [wailing in the fields mix] (traditional spiritual)
5. It Came upon a Midnight Clear (Richard Willis)
6. What Child is this? (traditional: Greensleeves)
7. Go Tell it On the Mountain (traditional spiritual)
8. Amazing Grace (John Newton)
9. O Come All Ye Faithful (John Wade)
10. Away in a Manger (William J. Kirkpatrick)

Side B:

11. Angels from the Realms of Glory (words: James Montgomery, music: Henry T. Smart)
12. Up on the Housetop (Benjamin R. Hamby)
13. Joy to the World (from a piece by Handel)
14. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (traditional English tune)
15. Auld Lang Syne (traditional Scottish tune, words by Robert Burns)
16. Yule Heartbeat March (Robert Nunnally)
17. Christmas is Coming (English traditional with melody by Edith Nesbit Bland )
18. The Holly and the Ivy (English traditional)
19. We Three Kings (John H. Hopkins)
20. We Wish You a Merry Christmas (English traditional)
21. Christmas in Arkansas [south Arkansas jazz mix] (Robert Nunnally)
22. Bicycle Built for Two [Daisy Bell] (Harry Dacre)
23. Guadalajara Wandering (inspired by "Guadalajara", by Pepe Guizar)
24. Red River Valley (Canadian traditional)
25. Cedar Blue Seed Pods (Robert Nunnally)
26. I'll Come Home for Christmas (Robert Nunnally)
27. Christmas Family Party (Robert Nunnally)
28. Good King Wencelas (Engish Traditional)
29. Deck the Halls (English Traditional)
30. God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen (simple mix reprise) (traditional English tune)
31. Good Night, Good Cheer (Robert Nunnally, based on a traditional tune)

I decided to do the whole thing in one take, emphasis on hiss, buzz and pops, to give the sound a kind of accidental quality that would give the whole affair an amusing, sharing air. I did not want to record a real album, in some measure because I couldn't anyway, but instead wanted to send a sonic if weird homemade-construction-paper Holiday-on-melting-ice Christmas card to everyone who requested one. By the way, if you are the type who can't slog through all my interminable posts, and hence missed the sign-in sheet a while back, then feel free to send me an e mail that you want one, or scroll up and fill in the poll on this topic on 11/21, or just click on here.

I'll write off to, to see if they can meet their usual prompt time standards, and, if so, I'll get it copied this week and in the mail next weekend.

While it is fresh on my mind, a few observations about the recording process:

1. The use of a the wooden mallet with the superball head against the didge walls is the closest thing to a 3 dollar and 95 cent synth sound I've ever heard;

2. When I was a kid, we sang "Daisy Bell" when we took family drives. It's not really a holiday song, but I like it. Similarly, I know that doing a song that borrows from Guadalajara should await the Gurdonark Kazoo Mariachi Madness album, but heck, I liked the idea.

3. I thought I would do the whole album in kazoo and didge, but somehow at song 7 I found myself bursting (if burst is the word for my croaking voice,as opposed to "busting") into song. I think that I am glad that my supper does not depend on my vocals. I love being old enough that hearing how my voice sounds like a cross between William Hung and Robert Downey Jr. doesn't bother me.

4. The mike buried in a droning didge sound has a really cool German underground industrial band feel to it, but after about song 10, I felt the need for a little less background drone. Still, if ever a Berlin drone band wants to depart from anarchy and move into Christmas, I think I could produce their disk.

5. I love about traditionals that we all learn them a little differently. I learned tonight of a supposed refrain to "The holly and the ivy" that I had not known before.

6. Traditional Christmas songs have the advantage over other traditional folk songs, in that they are rarely about throwing a lover down a well.

7. I kinda prefer the less musical, more ambient pieces in the set. But I'm glad I tried to mix styles a lot. I love Christmas music, and mangled it here with reverential glee.

8. It's much easier to choose songs such as these to which I largely know the words already. It's much easier to kazoo a song to which you know the words.

9. I wish more Santa songs were in the public domain.

10. They say that "Joan Baez" was cut in one day and often in one take. I suspected before, but now know for sure, that I am no Joan Baez.

11. Rice in a plastic soda bottle is really hip percussion.

12. As a percusionist, I need work on not slowing down while I kazoo the melody.

13. Now on to finish the Christmas card.

14. Rock on.

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