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I have been recording some sound files for one of my choirs over the past couple of days, accompaniments in one ear, individual lines in the other, in an attempt to make things easier to learn outside rehearsal time.  I have been using Audacity software, which is superb, free, and recording directly from my keyboard to the laptop.

Audacity is great, easy to use and free.  Ticks all my software boxes.

Audacity is powerful, easy to use and free. Ticks all my software boxes.

As I have become more familiar with Audacity, which I use from time to time, I have been exploring more of its features, and it is fascinating to muse over how easy recording has come even in the past twenty years.  I can cut, paste, edit, add effects, adjust timings, tunings and hundreds of other things in a fraction of a second and make out of tune, out of time things sound spot on, which sheds all sorts of light onto the pop and rock industries, and also some nooks and crannies of the Classical one.

When I were a lad I saved up my pennies to buy a four-track tape recorder (you’ll need to look this up if you are under thirty) which enabled my band to record songs using the four tracks available on a standard cassette (left and right channels on sides A and B).  It meant that you could only use the cassette one way, but it was good enough for the Beatles on their early albums, and I still have those songs on a CD put together a few years ago by one of my bandmates.

The Fostex X-30.  Happy days.

The Fostex X-30. Happy days.

With the last JEBO album we went back to recording onto reel to reel tape, although the rest of the work was done on the computer, and the kind of detail work one can do is staggering, down to the smallest fractions of timing, pitch and all sorts of other details.

I’ve never done any electro-acoustic work, but it is something I would like to explore if and when I have time and capability, but I am aware that it takes quite something to build a work of quality, such as Harvey’s Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco.  For now it is handy enough to be able to get these sound files ready for the choir, but I still think of Stockhausen, deep in the bowels of Radio Cologne in the 50s, cutting and splicing magnetic tape by hand in order to come up with his first Electronic Studies over the course of months and months, work you could now rattle off in a few days.  How things have changed.

Stockhausen.  Boundaries?  What boundaries?

Stockhausen. Boundaries? What boundaries?

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