The Western Sun
"'Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat.' 'We smoked the last one an hour ago.' So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine."
- Simon and Garfunkel
I can pretend to be a writer, but the truth of the matter is I'm a rock star at heart. Last weekend, I recorded my first album with my band Misterwin. Just like I've always dreamed, I had the chance to be in a "real" studio, and play music with three other musicians, who happen to be dear friends of mine, in a way we could never have fathomed would have been as enlightening as it proved to be.
Within a few hours, a whole world of new vocabulary was exposed to us. Our engineer, Noah, kept us busily performing with warnings about ominous tasks called "punch-ins" and "level mixing." Though we had no idea what these things were, they sounded cool, and we felt very important to be using them.
However, we were on a time budget. As I'm a student, I obviously only had till the end of the weekend to record all 10 songs we had planned to have on our album. So we learned a little about what it's like to play music under a deadline. I feel it brought the best of the band to the surface, though, as during some intensely passionate moments, we truly communicated, maybe for the first time ever, through the meditative, cathartic language of music.
Everyone in the band has headphones for listening to each other, and every instrument, including each drum, is recorded through separate microphones. Each time we attempted to record a track, the headphones separated the real world from a new musical world, which we were constantly constructing and changing. I closed my eyes while we were recording a lot of songs, and every intricate sound, from the click of Corey's drumsticks accidentally hitting each other to the often eloquent mistakes of the lead singer, Matt, and the guitarist, Greg.
And what captivated me the most about my friends and fellow musicians were these mistakes, as every band can plan songs with relative ease, but each band has its own way to deal with the accidental miracles and catastrophes that naturally occur in music (keep in mind I'm still greatly impressed by the fact that the Slinky and other great scientific discoveries happened by accident.)
Surely, we had our share of complete disasters. During one take of a song, I hit a completely wrong note, which we only noticed later when we were reviewing the track in the sound booth. Like a big thorn in the song's foot, it detracted greatly from the piece, and so we endlessly re-recorded many tracks with similar mistakes. While some songs were done magically in one take, one song in particular took almost twenty attempts until we had all come to a musical agreement.
All the laughing and screwing around on some Beatles' albums passed through the headphones, as well. Rock musicians like myself have a tendency to be a little loopy at times, and I only wish we could have recorded all the fart sounds and swear words uttered. Nothing is quite as liberating as abandoning every trouble we had in the world just to be happy and creative, lost in our own trance.
With so much fear in the world, not at all limited to that of foreign terrorism, but extending into the way the world is being changed by computers, the amount of weaponry constantly being researched and funded, the rapidly evolving economy, and a slurry of other causes, the only thing young people like ourselves can and should do is turn towards creativity and expression.
Our cultural turmoil is so reminiscent of the chaos of the '60s, and certainly the retroactive expression of youth culture is bending back to the hippies' ideals. We look to the past for solutions to our problems today.
It's unfortunate that certain methods of escape are lost to us today. No one considers Simon and Garfunkel to be deviant, as during the '60s it was okay to hitchhike cross-country in a bus with an old acoustic guitar. Woodstock was and still is glorified as the pinnacle of the '60s' celebration of living, and certainly Jimmy Hendrix's indestructible guitar playing soared like the concert's logo, two doves.
If I could today, I would do the same. Our parents' generation puts great stress on responsibility and planning, and so rebellious ventures are a bit taboo. However, I believe few experiences would be as educational and utterly liberating than touring with a band, freely exploring America and its endless sublimity.
Music is the perfect topping for that dream. Nothing fills us with immediate understanding like it while inspiring us to sing out in every way we can. Even Beethoven had moments where he closed his eyes, just like I did the recording studio (though with an infinite genius I could only be so lucky to understand). Sitting alone at the piano in his dark studio apartment in Austria, something must have touched him deeply and cut him off from everything but the musical plane.
For that, I entice record labels to listen to my album! Carry me away from this editing gig and drive me away on some random road! With peace of mind and good friends with me, I'll gladly give it all up for a trip into the western sun in an old station wagon and some music rattling out of the cassette player.