The vast majority of music that I hear is recorded, and if you’re reading this the same is probably true of you. Most people don’t have a clear idea what the recording process is like, especially using computers. Here are my adventures in recording.
I grew up in the eighties. Cassette recorders were just starting to be ordinary household gear. My sister and I made a bunch of random tapes as kids, not knowing what we were doing or why, just that it was fun. We also taped songs we liked off the radio. We waited until the song we wanted came on, and then held up the tape recorder to the radio speaker. Go ahead and laugh, millenials, but this was such a widespread practice among my generation that there’s a whole Facebook group devoted to it.
Why are the Beatles still so cool? By which I mean the late Beatles, Revolver onwards. I like Please Please Me as much as the next guy, but it isn’t why the Beatles are cool now. No, I mean the last few records, especially Sgt Pepper, the White Album and Abbey Road. If any of these albums were released next week, Pitchfork would go ballistic over them. Three quarters of the indie rock of the past ten years descends directly from Abbey Road. Why do we all still care so much?
One of the greatest weirdnesses of electronic music is the sampling keyboard. You press a key and any sound recording you want pops out, at whatever pitch. The recent passing of John Hughes made me think of the scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris samples his coughing and puking on an E-mu Emulator II, and plays them back to the tune of the Blue Danube waltz. The exact same technology is used on the soundtrack by Yello for their song “Oh Yeah.”
Vocalist Dieter Meier recorded the words “oh oh, chicka chicka” and “oh yeah” at a relatively normal pitch into the sampler, and keyboardist Boris Blank played them back lower and slowed down. There are also some cool sampled Tarzan yells and Lord Of The Rings synthesized men’s chorus. This track could have been recorded last week.