Halcyon


A few months back a storm was coming in and I wanted to capture some sounds from it to add to my collection of foley material. The birds were calling and the crickets were chirping even though thunder was in the background. It’s kind of odd to see this being that it was daylight and usually the crickets start at night and birds normally flee when a storm is approaching. None the less… I thought it would make for a great texture to manipulate in the background of one of my compositions.

The title halcyon fits this piece with the meaning calm; peaceful; tranquil. It’s also a mythical bird, usually identified with the kingfisher, said to breed about the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea, and to have the power of charming winds and waves into calmness. 

The actual composition came about one Friday night while hanging with my Friends Austin McPherson and Jarrod Cox who I’ve played in bands with over the years. We hadn’t gotten together in years to play music and with Jarrod recently moving back we wanted to make this happen. Of course we had to grill one inch thick Ribeye steaks from a local butcher and catch up before any “playing” happened…

The premise was to write a song and capture it in the moment. Of course we laid out a chord structure to follow but the idea was to just feel and play off of each other, kind of like improvising in a simplistic manner. I played keys and kept the foundation of chords while Jarrod played an etherial guitar lead accompanied by Austin’s ambient chords and swells. This song is dynamic starting very low and calm at the beginning with sounds of thunder symbolizing changes from verse to chorus. The sounds from the birds and the crickets give off a rhythm that’s separate from the tempo of the song but consistent. Finally building to the end I decided to add a string section to thicken up the sound which almost brighten’s the mood for the finish.

halcyon was recorded live minus the foley sounds and string section, which were overdubs. I played through a nord electro 2 sixty one that came through my computer monitors for the guys to hear but the “line in” was what was being recorded through my M-Audio fast track ultra. For the guitars I had the amps placed across the room angled as a “V” and placed an M-Audio Luna large diaphragm condenser mic about six feet away and two feet from the ground. To be honest… there was no real science as to how I was going to mic the amps. I just threw the mic up and listened to a few sound checks and it sounded good so….. “there ya go”. All of the tracking and mixing was done in Ableton intro on my Mac mini.

The most important part about this piece for me is that it’s a moment in time captured with two of my good friends. There wasn’t a long drawn out process for creating… it just happened naturally and we kept the finished product… mistakes and all. We can always look back to that night that we came together to reconnect with music and each other. That’s priceless.

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