Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sound in Seance

Here's an idea for music Producers and Engineers to consider:

Mixing down a song requires repeated playbacks. As you are listening and mixing, take the posture that you are in seance with the music.

We commonly think of a seance as an attempt to communicate with the dead. However, the word seance derives from an Old French word, seoir which simply means "to sit."

A seance has become associated with special conditions, darkened lights, people sitting in a circle holding hands, etc. These conditions are intended to set a particular mood to aid spirit contact. I'm not suggesting replicating the conditions of a traditional seance. Nor is it relevant whether seances actually work to contact the dead.

The idea here is to model a mixing session after the form of a seance.

A special room is set aside and set-up a particular way, in our case, the studio control room.

Special conditions are applied to the seance space to aid an intended result. Broadly speaking, this refers to the particular music we're working on. It can also refer to art objects, or other paraphenalia arranged in the space to help create a mood.

Yothu Yindi, an Australian band, mostly Aboriginal with some Anglo members, brought all kinds of tribal artifacts into the control room and the live recording area. They had banners of traditional artwork and shamanic imagery raised up and running the length of each side of the large control room. By the end of a 10 hour session, these images, very definitely and somewhat uncomfortably, looked alive. It was if a portal to a world of strange, non-human critters opened up. A foreign intelligence was also sensed with this feeling of sentience that was engendered by the art.

Another time, my friend Wylie Woods arrived with a live chicken in a cage that looked like it had been wrung through an old-fashioned washing machine more than once - one of the scraggliest specimens of poultry to ever grace God's green earth. We were mixing his band, Stiff Dead Cat out in the remote hills of Northern California. I called their music outlaw bluegrass - they were a string band fronted by Wylie on mandolin and Dave Luxrezo on dobro but they covered James Brown, Frank Zappa, and punk rock with great irreverence. The chicken fit right in. Last I heard, Wylie was trying to teach it to play the washboard.

So special conditions are produced to create a mood or atmosphere for the seance.
The participants then enter, focused, concentrated and mindful of partaking in a specialized ritual intended to bring about non-human communication. This could take the form of contact with your dead Aunt Mimi in a traditional seance, or an incredible mix of a piece of music that can change people's lives.

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