Hand Eye premiere and recording

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We headed to Great Lakes a few weeks ago to finally premiere the full acoustic version of Hand Eye on the closing concert of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. Ted Hearne, Jacob Cooper, Andrew Norman, and Christopher Cerrone were able to be there with us and offer valuable feedback (and last-minute changes) during our rehearsals. After playing it through at home in our studio, we decided that it needed an intermission, and that intermission perhaps necessitated a slight change in the order of the pieces. If you ever wondered how the six of us in eighth blackbird ever make decisions, try the six of us plus the six composers of Sleeping Giant. Everyone has a different opinion on everything, especially the order of pieces, which is really crucial to the flow of the entire evening. So, we tried it one way at Great Lakes and got many differing opinions, and I’m sure we’ll be trying it another in subsequent performances. Maybe the addition of Deborah Johnson’s video projections will demand yet another switcharoo. In any case, the audience, including our commissioners Stuart and Maxine Frankel, seemed to love it.

We flew back on the Sunday morning after the premiere and showed up at IV Lab recording studio Monday morning bright and early to sound check. We were joined by the incomparable Elaine Martone as producer and Michael Bishop as engineer, a true dynamic duo. We worked hard and as fast as we could, laying down 75 minutes of music in three days. It was grueling, frustrating, and also great fun. It was my first studio recording experience with eighth blackbird, and as such, a really good experience, thanks to the efficiency and morale-boosting dynamic duo in the booth. It’s a very different animal to play in a small room for a giant microphone hanging above your head instead of an audience. You get no feedback, no interaction – just your own sound disappearing into silence and the thoughts in your head about whether what you just played was horrible or not. It’s easy to lose morale when asked to play something over and over again without hearing it, but listening back is also a tricky thing. It’s hard to listen back just enough – too much and it’s a waste of time and breaks the physical flow of playing, too little and you have no idea what you’re working with. Again, thanks, Elaine, for managing all of this for us!

The staff at IV Lab were also fantastic, and the building itself is a hoot. The hallways were lined with dozens of vintage amplifiers and a harmonium. The lounge is painted floor to ceiling with a surrealistic, post-apocalyptic (if audio equipment were to be the only survivors of a nuclear blast) mural, which I spent every free minute examining. After we wrapped up, we officially started our summer hiatus. It was easy to think that we just finished something huge, but I had to remember, this is just the start of our Hand Eye journey.


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