Friday, September 11, 2009


I just finished my first completed solo song in quite a while. I haven't stopped working on music, but I've been focusing more on making things that could be backing tracks for music I make with Chris than on my solo project (the things I "release" under the name Brain and Brain). So here it is.

Brain and Brain - Katra

A little bit about my process. I started with, of all things, the instrumental break from Leonard Nimoy's version of "Abraham, Martin & John", which had some rhythms and timbres that struck me as potentially interesting. I separated it into the left and right channels, which made one be primarily the horns and lead guitar, and the other primarily the rhythm section, though they weren't entirely separated so there was some bleed. Then I duplicated the rhythm track...well, I experimented a lot, but it ended up being twenty-four times, and staggered them so a new one started on every beat, and then set them to alternate between the left and right channels to create a kind of pulsing effect. I looped these tracks and then mixed them down into three tracks, each with eight of the original track layered over itself.

Then I made the other track mono, so it'd be centered in both speakers, and looped it a bunch of times and messed around with slicing it up and reversing it (most of it as you hear it is backwards, but some of it is forwards, too). I got it to a point where I liked it, but felt something was missing, so I consulted the Oblique Strategies, which told me to "remember those quiet evenings at home". So I quieted it down for a bit at the end by extending one of the rhythm tracks, so that at the end most of it dies out except for one (i.e., the original rhythm layered only eight times, rather than twenty-four). This little change gave the whole thing whatever extra it was that I needed, so thank you, Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, once again.

The very end still seemed pretty sudden to me, and I liked the way the very last drum beat sounded, so I made it repeat a few times and fade out. Somewhat cheesy, but I like it. And there you have it. Oh, and then I named it Katra, after the Vulcan word for the soul (as a literal thing that truly exists; the mental essence of a person). Seemed appropriate both for the sound and for the source of the sample.

Here's the original song I sampled. Leonard Nimoy's an inept performer, but very charming (it helps that I love him as an actor and a person), and I pretty much love everything he's recorded. The part I took was from 1:12 to 1:30, which actually features no Leonard at all. Sometime, maybe, I'll sample his voice, but not today.

Leonard Nimoy - Abraham, Martin and John
Bonus, because it's charming: Leonard Nimoy - Put a Little Love in Your Heart

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