Nightbirds

First track is DONE!! This one uses recordings I made of the night-singing birds we have round our way. Apparently robins and other dawn-singing birds get confused by streetlights and end up singing all night. Ours usually start up about 1am so there’ve been a few late nights trying to capture the little beasts on tape. Not to mention a bevy of tech problems, partly to do with recording sounds that are clear but not loud and partly because it seems that my Mbox 2 is USB2 while my laptop is USB3 and they don’t play well together so when I try to play things back through the Mbox I get this nasty crackling sound that pretty quickly overwhelms the music. Working on that. For the moment I’m just monitoring what I’m doing via the laptop’s headphone socket…

Anyway, NIGHTBIRDS! Here they are (best listened to with headphones, BTW):

A bit about composing this piece: This was originally going to be the tape part for a piece for Heather Roche, Carla Rees and Xenia Pestova for the Bangor Music Festival’s William Mathias Composition Prize but I had difficulties recording the birds and my first set of recordings were unusable, then by the time I’d managed to get clearer recordings, I only had two days to create the entire piece in, which clearly wasn’t going to happen. I did start out trying to make this a tape part, and what is here draws heavily on that, but I reached a point where even trying was just silly so I decided to repurpose what I had. At first I started adding more stuff in, but then I realised that the only bit I was really excited about was the very quiet stuff at the end, so I chopped off all the rest and played around to see how far I could draw out those bits. The answer is “about 3 minutes”. In keeping with the simplification, I quite liked the idea of having just silence here and there in the piece, as I would if it were to have an instrumental part too – and also because the birds tend to sing short gestures then hush up for a little.

The heavy processing on the sounds was partly dictated by the levels problems I’d had with recording the birds. While the sounds were clear, the high levels I’d had to use meant a quite high noise floor in the recordings which proved pretty much impossible (for me) to eliminate entirely. Noise Reduction made the birds sound digital; other methods left the hiss in. I ended up using EQ on the original recordings to take out the lowest noise frequencies, then messed about with a Spectral Gate filter (which modified the bird sounds as it removed the noise, but in a nicer and more interesting way than the Noise Reduction), and some chorus-type effects as well as time-stretching.

May I just say? Logic’s Flex? OMG. SOOOOOO much fun. Really just a barrel of monkeys and so much better than other methods I’ve used to stretch out things. Plus you can mess with the stretching within your sound file! Without chopping it up! So basically everything used in this piece has had some measure of Flex applied. Sometimes twice 😀

I was really glad I was able to use these recordings for something. The level of noise in them was really disappointing so it was great to find a way to process them where I could still make use of them in a piece. I have about 10 minutes of cleanish recordings and I think this piece uses about 4 seconds of that, so I think at some point I should go through the whole thing and pull out other fragments and just store them away for future use.

And now it’s time to think about track 2. Washing machine? Or maybe the goats? Not sure yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.