ABOUT MIXING AND RECORDING, IN GENERAL
Electronic needles and hearing are almost never synonymous in recording my instruments. The needles frequently lie.
For example, my Bass Marimba or Quad, played even mezzo piano, can throw needles into the red frequently (and engineers -- tyrannized by needles -- turn the volume down), whereas a running string passage on the Blue Rainbow, played mezzo piano, will not push the needles anywhere near the red.
The hearing of these instruments in a room, is not correctly interpreted by needles in a booth. The percussion passage is soft when it is meant to be loud, and the string passage sound like a herd of thundering buffalo when it is meant to sound like a zephyr.
And it is pointless to talk about microphones being level throughout. Placement of mikes must be determined correctly, on the basis of comparative hearing in the room. Ditto level.
A dead monotony of sound volume is not to be endured by any musical mind, on 16 mm. film or anywhere else.
I found this note amongst Partch's original reel-to-reel tapes, as I was preparing to do the analog-to-digital transfers for the CRI "Harry Partch Collection". If nothing else, it shows how much Partch cared about the manner in which his recorded music was experienced. Acknowledging, as he did, that recordings were at best "an unhappy compromise", Partch took great pains, as far back as his own first long-playing record issues in the early 1950's, to ensure that the listener got as close to the magic as was possible
The note was a photocopy, the back of which was used by Partch to jot down notes about levels during the mixdown sessions of The Dreamer That Remains. Amazingly enough, another piece of 'scrap' paper used for the same purpose turned out to be a blank invoice for the Pioneer Hatchery, the building in Petaluma that Partch occupied in the 1960's. The hatchery, besides formerly birthing baby chicks, was also the birthplace of Partch's And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma.
The tape box itself, not connected with these notes, contained a tape with a collection of instrumental demonstrations that Partch taped for the film "Music Studio", along with a portion of "Windsong", which was featured in the film. The tape dates from sometime early in 1958. Which is a long time ago.
By the way, if you've got your RealPlayer in place, click on the tape box to hear demonstrations No. 3 and 4 from this reel -- Bass Marimba (played first with mallets and then with hands) and the Boo. Apologies to Harry for propagating his sounds with admittedly inferior fidelity; I guess, like him in the early 50's, I'm coping with the beginnings of a technology that may (some day) work.
As for the examples, Partch had a way of playing the eighth--two-16th patterns (as in the second Bass Marimba excerpt) that gave a lilting quality to the rhythm. And as for nice ballsy Boo playing, I couldn't have had a better role model. Take no prisoners...
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