Power and Light: A soundtrack from Kansas City

About a month ago I visited Kansas City, MO and, as I always do, recorded some sounds while I was there.

 

I finally got to mixing this track in early January, and I wanted to get it done before I headed out of town again, so in my haste, I put it together, assured myself that I applied enough EQ, mixed it down, posted it on soundcloud, and called it complete.

That was a mistake.

When I got back to town, I sat down with Cubase again and figured out relatively quickly that the whole thing would be vastly improved by fiddling with the bass EQ in just about every channel. This took a lot of the background noise out of the track without sacrificing any of the richness of the sounds that I wanted to feature in the track.

In field recording, the bass range is often rife with useless noise (rumbles, wind) and wasted speaker power. A hi-pass filter will do a lot of the work for you, but often you have to go a step or two further. And, as I now know, you can’t do this right when you’re in a hurry. Ears don’t hear as well when they’re on the clock.

The above clip is the new and improved version. It features crosswalk signals and the streetcar from Kansas City’s Power and Light District. The building pictured above is the Power and Light Building. The track also features footage from the December 10 matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. I hope you enjoy it.

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Recent Cubase Soundtracks

I’ve made a series of soundtracks recently from field recordings I’ve taken here and there. These are not always the easiest to put together, but it’s always a lot of fun.

Anyone who knows me knows that I drink entirely too much coffee. I consider it to be one of the four food groups. I’d sooner give up alcohol–I think. I love the fact that Bach wrote a Coffee Cantata, at a time, according to Victor Borge, when coffee was considered a vice more akin to illegal drugs today. I decided I wanted to make my own coffee cantata, but instead of stringed instruments and singers, I decided to use the percolator that’s in my kitchen.

 

Another recording I made was of Philly’s famous Trolley Poet, Mike Fuller, who’s been featured in a number of stories. First I recorded him, then I mixed the soundtrack, then I got his permission. Perfectly backwards process, but it worked. I didn’t do much manipulating with this one, as I wanted to preserve the deliberate rhythm of his speech and the long pauses he employs, several of which allowed other sounds to come out of the texture and make music along with him.

 

(That’s my picture in the soundcloud link, not the Trolley Poet’s, alas.)

I’ve been using Cubase for my soundtracks. I’m now in the process of learning Reaper, a program with lots of potential. Hopefully I’ll have some results from that experiment soon.

I truly believe that music is everywhere, and I listen for it constantly in the most random things. If I didn’t, I’d go crazy from the oppressive prosaic character of day to day life.

New Projects

I haven’t been here in a while, but I’ve been keeping myself busy. In the past year, I’ve been putting together a lot of soundtracks that make use of field recordings–musique concrete, in essence. Music is everywhere, really, in everything from machines to the melody of the speaking voice, and even in the creaks and groans of equipment that isn’t working properly. My goal is to bring it out of the texture of everyday noise and synthesize it into something cohesive.

Here is my first effort in this genre. The material was collected from a series of protests held in Philadelphia during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It not only makes use of human speech, but also a recorded heartbeat, and a Gregorian chant. This will be the first track of the album I’m currently finishing up.

 

Commissions

If you would like to commission me to write a piece, please contact me at hocket [at] gmail.com. We can discuss details and negotiate a fee depending on the circumstances. I’m adventurous in terms of genre, so please don’t be afraid to throw your wildest ideas at me!

 

Jeffrey Tucker: The Day That O Sacrum is Published

This article originally ran on the New Liturgical Movement on February 14, 2008, and concerns the publication of my motet O Sacrum Convivium by CanticaNova.

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I’ve waited for this day for two years, and every day that has passed, I’ve regretted that the piece about which I’m writing couldn’t be sung and heard in every parish in this country (or world for that matter).

And here it is St. Valentine’s Day. And at last–thank you, blessed forward motion of time–the day has arrived when a wonderful choral work, accessible to all and as gorgeous as the great works of the Renaissance, is finally available to all: O Sacrum Convivium, by Michael Lawrence.

Yes, that Michael Lawrence who writes for the NLM. He is more than an author, organist, choir master, and theologian. He a marvelous and truly gifted composer as well, and this piece is his a prime example. It is modern, ancient, and timeless all at once, and bears all the marks of music that is truly sacred (beautiful, holy, universal). For all the genius of the composer that it bears, it is also an archetype of what new sacred music can be, and increasingly is, thanks to the independent publishers who are working to restore ideals in Catholic liturgy.

Our schola has been so fortunate to have a draft copy of this for two years. It might surprise people who know us but the truth is that out of all the music we sing–and our repertoire is vast–members would choose this piece as their favorite. Of all things, it is new piece.

I’ve wondered why, precisely, it works so well. It is not long, it has a orderly shape, its dynamics are inevitable, and it sets a text that remains somewhat familiar to Catholics. A reason that our schola loves it is that it flatters the ensemble. The voicing is about as perfect as one can imagine. Nothing is strained or awkward. When you sing it you feel like you are part of something rich and beautiful, and every singer feels good about that. There are no moments in the piece that almost fall apart. The piece always works to create a sound that is simple but always pointing heavenward.

I’m also drawn to how this piece demands a kind of timelessness when conducting. Essentially you can take it as slow as you want to. You don’t have to force it this way or that way. You just breath deep, start it, and it moves as if by a hidden hand. I must say, too, that my own ear is drawn to the way he handles the relationship between chords and text: clarity without triviality, innovation without experiment, and always deferential to the highest purpose of art, which is not to please us but to worship God.

Recently we conducted a workshop in another town and we took this piece with us, and tried out it on singers with far less experience. And this is true story: we sight read it before Mass and sang it for communion. Can you imagine? This is with a very inexperienced choir. It was just marvelous. After Mass, everyone wanted to know about this piece, where it came from, how they can hear it again. Though I have no interest in joining the copyright police squads, I didn’t photocopy ours because I knew that CanticaNova was coming out with this soon.

Now, that it is here, I am thrilled to be able to recommend it to all scholas everywhere. It might be that very piece you have been looking for, something that can be sung at nearly all Masses outside of Lent, and something you can put in even at the last minute. So many times we have found ourselves without a piece of music following communion, because the lines were longer than we expected, and we look around at each other wondering what to do. Then the whispers are next: “O Sacrum, O Sacrum,” and the pages of our schola books turn right to Mr. Lawrence’s piece.

It is written in D major for SATB, and the entire motet lasts only a few minutes. It can be sung by the most beginning choir or the most advanced. It is also a great way of showing that sacred music doesn’t have to be 500 years old. Great sacred music is being written today, and Canticanova is a excellent publisher. While you are there, look at other high quality work by Richard Rice and the many other composers who are writing today.

Finally a special congratulations to our dear friend Michael. We look forward to many more such compositions by you, ideally an entire collection for the whole of the liturgical year. In this work you are doing, as a composer of music, you are a servant of the faith. We thank you for helping all of us contribute to beautiful sounds on earth so that our minds and hearts can be drawn to eternity and the true source of all that is beautiful.

Coda: here is page 1 of Michael’s original manuscript, suitable for framing.