New Track: The Pianos Were Burning featuring Casi Reg

Photo of an abandoned piano. For "The Pianos Were Burning" blog post.

A few months back, I was inspired by a CNN news article to write some lyrics down that I felt would make a good ambient electronic/downtempo track. Things started falling into place — as they usually will — once the lyrics were captured. I figured a good approach would be to simply record a vocalist speaking the lyrics like a poem, and then construct the music AFTERWARDS by piecing the vocals together line by line. I didn’t even have to look far for a performer.

Finding a Vocalist

One difficult thing about an open office floor plan is: you’ll hear your officemates on sales calls all the time, and are inundated by their voices everyday. But this makes it easy to hear and single out expressive voices. So I broached the topic and the concept to one of my officemates, Regina Cassens, who willingly agreed to give it a try — without even knowing what the music would sound like! And she eventually decided to do it under the artist name Casi Reg.

Recording With What You Have

On the day of recording itself, we commandeered a conference room and I brought out my recording gear only to realize I was missing an old school USB cord to connect my laptop to my Lexicon Alpha portable soundcard. Super frustrating, as I had the microphone and mic stand all ready. We had to then settle for recording the vocals using nothing more than the onboard microphone on a MacBook Air. Do-It-Yourself to the rescue! Make do with what you have! Make art with what you have!

Constructing the Music

So I took the vocals and tried to find a good tempo for the beat — one that would more or less match the cadence of the words being spoken.

After that, it was my standard music arrangement process using Reason: find some ethnic percussions (djembe), create a basic trip-hop/worldfusion/ambient drum loop, make it phat (who still uses that term, I wonder?), add some ethnic electronica flourishes here and there. Create and fill out two distinct song sections: a verse and a chorus. Play with arrangements and create a rising pattern. In the end, it sounded fine even as an instrumental. Next step: layout the vocal parts. Mix. Master. Render.

Here then is the final track in all its homemade glory:

IMAGE CREDITS: Lee Plaza [3] by Rick Harris on Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/6Cd2aH

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