Sunday, September 22, 2013

Townsend: Four Pieces for Violin and Guitar

I have a special set of posts all ready to celebrate my 1000th blog posting. In the last few months I have written four pieces for violin and guitar. One is a version for violin and guitar of a piece I wrote in 2011 for viola and guitar, the other three are new. Each one is a kind of reimagining of a particular genre and of traditional harmony. One thing I discover is that while Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven could end every piece with a perfect authentic cadence, if we do it now, it sounds hokey. So I have to invent a new kind of closure to every piece.

Here is the title page for the four pieces:

The first piece, "Strange Romance" is called that because, while my intention was to write a romance, it came out so differently from a traditional romance that I had to call it "strange". There is a bit of Asian influence, but mostly it is just a piece that came to me all at once--from where I don't really know...

We had a photographer, Chris Doolin, at the session so each recording will be accompanied by a photo essay. It seems that all music today needs to have a video. But I really suggest listening to the piece without looking at the video as well. Images can be distracting. Anyway, this is what the recording session looked like. My engineer was Ken Basman, who has great ears and did a super job. We had the loan of a unique recording space, a private home with a very large living room with a large boveda (vaulted brick ceiling). The sound is a lot like that of a chapel, which is ideal for classical music.

We recorded this a couple of weeks ago, all four tracks in one session with minimal takes. One piece was done in one take. A week later Ken and I had an editing session in which we put it together and tinkered with the sound a bit.

So here is that first piece, "Strange Romance" for violin and guitar played by myself and violinist Claudia Shiuh:


Rickard said...

A strange romance indeed but a good sounding one. By the way, how hard is it (in your experience) to record pieces without mistakes in the playing?

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Rickard. Making a recording can be either very easy or very difficult and everything in between. Both Claudia and I and our engineer are very experienced so we laid down all four tracks in about an hour and a half including tinkering with the baffles and levels and stuff. The Beatles recorded their whole first album in one day, in ten hours. But an album like Sergeant Pepper's took months.

If you have the right players and they are well-prepared you should be able to do everything in one, two or perhaps three takes. We did Cloudscape in one take, but took four takes for the second half of Strange Romance.

But if you have inexperienced or nervous or unprepared musicians, it can be very, very difficult to get an error-free recording. Even digital editing is time-consuming!