I started working on it weeks ago, a limited-edition Jazz-Harp Release that started as a personal Jazz Valentine for Peter.
I chose the tunes and practiced them. Then I started recording them every morning, putting them on my iPod and listening to them on my daily run.
My goal was to start the process of developing my studio, learning to record direct from my harp into my computer, and to create an audio Valentine for a beloved friend.
And I wanted to do it fast so I wouldn’t be able to obsess over it too much.
I also wanted to develop a process that I can use over and over again to create and release. So this is Experiment #1.
The first time I recorded them, I used my computer mic. It sounded like this:[audio: https://hipharp.com/audio/blog-audio/Peters-Valentine-sound-quality-1.mp3]
Then I graduated to going direct from my harp into the computer. It sounded like this:[audio: https://hipharp.com/audio/blog-audio/Peters-Valentine-sound-quality-2.mp3]
Finally, I asked Jonathan Wyner, my incredible-eared audio-mastering husband, to help me adjust the levels on the harp and tell me the best way to get him the files. From then on, I started recording on two channels: Treble/Mid and Bass (using direct outs from my harp) so he could do a quick mix of the project.
Once he mixed it, it sounded like this:[audio: https://hipharp.com/audio/blog-audio/Peters-Valentine-sound-quality-3.mp3]
Once I stopped obsessing about the sound quality – I accepted I had the best sound quality for the equipment I currently have (direct in from harp to computer via a USP pre-amp), I could start obsessing about the quality of the performances. That was last Sunday.
My goal wasn’t perfect renditions – but capturing emotion and accepting imperfection.
To practice hearing the cuts as others might, James, my operations manager, set up a private listening laboratory for my recording experiments so listeners could hear the cuts and tell me what they heard – and in reading their descriptions of their own listening experience, I could get out of my own head a little bit.
You can read another blog about how this quest for private listeners – or creative listening collaborators – and how it led to the creation of this new private online Laboratory.
So … the Jazz Valentine
I originally started working on 8 love songs, actually convinced myself I could get them all done … then realized what was realistic was a 4-song album-Valentine …
… because it has to get in the mail today by 2pm, and that means it has to exist in physical form, and look like a Valentine by then.
And yesterday afternoon it looked like this:
Last night Jonathan burned it onto a disc for me, so this morning it looked like this:
Not pretty. My job today is to turn it into a Valentine:
8:30 AM: This is what the project looks like right now: an unattractive blue CD disc, two different sizes of CD cases, and a box of self-stick CD labels.
I have to decide which kind of CD case to use. I could use either of these …
… and I think the bigger one looks more like a Valentine. So I choose it.
I find a nice photo that Robert Stegmaier took at my 2012 “Lose Your Blues” show that looks “Valentine-y” to me and I have a template left over from when we had to make DVD covers for a PBS project, so I open that up, mess around with InDesign for a few hours…
11:00 AM: I’ve created a front & back cover and a spine …
11:03. Done admiring that. Now I have to make the CD label.
11:39 AM – Done!
11:44 AM: Both the insert-cover and the CD label look good pretty good on the computer. But now I have to print them. I almost never use my color printer, so I have to remember how to use it.
11:50: Argj!!! It’s not working! I get a green version, a striped version, a black-and-white version and the one time it prints well I accidentally put the paper in backwards. This is no good! I need to go find my travel printer to see if it’ll do better.
You can see my laptop, the office desktop and my trusty travel printer on the right.
12:35: The travel printer works!!!!! Way-ta-go travel-printer!!!! The insert prints beautifully, I cut it down and fit it into the case, and then grab a silk rose I have because I think it’ll look perfect – and it does! Here it is , with all the reject prints on the floor underneath it.
12:45 – Now I have to get it in the mail. Yesterday, my assistant Beatriz set up the Express Mail envelope for me and made sure that if I get it to the P.O. by 2:00 today, Express Mail will get it to Peter tomorrow.
She also wrote out directions for how to use the !@#*!!$! postage meter. (I had to actually practice the postage meter with Bea looking over my shoulder yesterday. I wish I were joking about that. This fancy-schmancy postage meter doesn’t let you stop to read directions between tasks)
You can see her step-by-step directions in red … and the normal directions pasted all over the postage meter. I miss my old, simple, postage meter. But that’s another story.
1:30 PM: The Jazz-Valentine is ready to go to the Post Office! And Catharine, my bookkeeper, took this picture of me just before I left for the P.O..
1:45: I asked to take another photo at the Post Office, but apparently it’s illegal to take photos in government buildings. So you’ll have to trust me that it got in the mail.
Tada!!! Valentinality has been achieved!
Or is that “Valentinitude?”
And tomorrow morning Beatriz and I will buy the licenses to sell a limited number of digital copies (Peter’s is the only physical copy that exists – aside from a backup I made for myself).
Thank you to everyone who helped me create this Valentine, who joined my Laboratory, and gave their comments – to Jonathan, Beatriz, James & Catharine who lent their technical support.
What a fabulous story!!! It has gotten me thinking about maybe making a recording of some sort for my husband, who is my valentine…What a lovely, lovely idea! And I loved reading about all the little challenges in presenting it and posting it.
Oh, please give her a big hug for me – you are both such huge inspirations. I wish I was with you both.
Deborah, what a great story, I like being able to hear the different qualities of sound and you have also inspired me to start on the path to recording another CD of my own. Kim in Florida
Thanks so very much for your story and adventure!! You have the best ideas and you always make them come to fruition with no fear!! Thank you for your example and inspriration!!