Monday, April 20, 2015

And Yet More Crayonisms: "Bag of Nothing"

It's time for me to rectify an opinion that I put forth in my youth that turned out to be wrong. Well, not 100% wrong. But wrong enough to issue this retraction.

It's in regard to the act of creative collaboration. While I've been in many bands and collaborated with many musicians on the creation of original musical content, I was generally of the opinion that true creative output is an individual task. Using music as the example (since that's what I do), one person wrote music, and another lyrics. Or perhaps one person did the verses and chorus, and another did the bridge. My point at the time was that while people could work together to make a unified musical creation... a song, an album, whatever... even then, it was the work of individual musicians/composers each working on discrete aspects of the piece that then got glued together. I felt strongly enough about this at the time that in college, I actually did a thesis paper on the role of the individual in creative output.

It was an interesting and seemingly sound concept that I backed up with many specific examples, citing the work methods of famous songwriting tandems and so on. There was just one problem: it was wrong. My current way of working with Christina and Bunny in They Stole My Crayon disproves the entire premise. What we do in the Crayon may be unique, but I doubt it. Take a look at our upcoming song "Bag Of Nothing" as a great example. I came up with the song's title and did the basic progression; Bunny wrote its lyrics and created its melody; Christina chipped in invaluable ideas on the vocal and instrument arrangements. We're all now throwing ideas around regarding the song's production details. And here's the point: not one of us "wrote" the song. We all did. Remove any one of our specific contributions, and the song is less good than it is otherwise.

So, for the record, true creative collaboration on an artistic project is not only possible, but even preferable as long as you have the right combination of people who know how to leave space for the others to add their special contributions. I'm feeling more and more lucky to be in such a band, and I'm glad I clarified that. I'll be even more glad when the album is done and I can let you hear all of these songs instead of just reading about them. Getting closer every day.

Some Geeky-Ass Music and Recording Notes
A couple of things about "Bag Of Nothing". A week ago, I mentioned that it had been a bit of a challenge translating all of this song's wacky time signature changes when it came time to move beyond the original demo. It certainly took a little longer than my usual process, but I can say now in retrospect that it was completely worth the effort. Christina and I were saying last night that now the weird timing of the song feels totally natural to us at this stage, and would seem odd any other way.

Another note, this one as much for my own benefit as for any of my readers. When we started the They Stole My Crayon project, both Bunny and I were long-time users of the ubiquitous recording software called Pro Tools. For a variety of reasons, both Bunny and I have now switched over to our choice of Apple's Logic as our primary DAW software. I won't get into all of the reasons (which are likely different for both Bunny and I), but I will say that my last version of Pro Tools was getting pretty old, and I was using an outdated audio interface as well. I needed to make the choice for a long-term commitment toward a primary DAW, but while making that decision, I had to go through an intermediary position of having to use Apple's lower-end Garageband software as a stopgap measure until yesterday, when I finally purchased the full version of Logic Pro X. Here's what I will say:

1. For being a free piece of software that came with my latest Mac, Garageband was super impressive. Yes, it certainly had limitations that made it not at all the ideal choice for professional-quality recording. But I'm not sure why anyone would expect pro quality for free. In any case, it allowed me to continue working and creating music easily while I waited to choose what path I was taking in new recording software.

2. Speaking of which, Apple is pretty brilliant (which should come as no shock to anyone who recognizes their success). The workflow differences between Garageband and Logic Pro X are minimal, so my familiarity with one allowed me to immediately start working on the other with no interruption. The higher-end features I needed from Logic Pro X that I've used so far were intuitive to find and use.

3. And, at the end of the day, Logic Pro X costs $199 for software that a decade ago would have cost way over $1000. Way, way over, especially once you start to consider the quality of the reams of virtual instruments and plug-in effects that come along with the software.

This is Apple's Logic Pro X. This actually isn't my first go-around with Logic; I used it (along with a number of other DAWs) going back to when creating music via digital audio software first became a thing back in the late 80s/early 90s.

Logic remote on the iPad. It's little things like this that make me happy.

So, the cool news is that everything that I'd started in Garageband easily opened in Logic Pro X, and now I can continue working on the detailed stuff that I couldn't have done previously. Oh, and one other thing: if you're a user of Logic (or even Garageband, as it turns out) and have an iPad, go immediately to the App Store and grab the free Logic Remote. As the name implies, you can control nearly all of the functions of your DAW via your iPad, which really comes in handy when you've had just about enough of leaning around microphones or having to put down a guitar to press record, or to tweak a track level.

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