Songs against the undertow

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Hi! My name is Elena Stalnaker and this is the wiki page for my 220C project. It's an album I was originally going to make as a Chappell Lougee project, but then the pandemic hit, so I'm very glad I get to work on it now!

I'm hoping to learn more about music composition/recording in general as I work on this project throughout the class, but especially mixing, song structure, and percussion, since those are the areas I feel least comfortable with.

Here are the links to the final versions of the 3 songs I ended up completing during the course of the class:


No Pain:

Spring! (Finally):

I may still change them after the class is over, but I want to get drafts going of other songs for the album first.

Progress Updates

Week 2:

~ Touched up "Orange" for presentation in class, accumulated feedback

~ Inventories all ~50-60 voice memos (~23 songs and fragments) and lyrics relevant to the project, selecting which songs to finish writing and producing during the class

~ Finished writing and learning on 2 most incomplete songs (brought together 2 old fragments I’d almost forgotten about for 1, and brought together 2 separate lyrics on a similar theme only one of which had a melody for the other)

Week 3:

~ Recorded and began mixing "Spring! (Finally)"

~ Finished writing "No Pain"

~ Requested classical guitar from Julius for "O Sleep"

~ Got tips on how to work faster in Logic - using templates and making time to watch more workflow videos than I already do, potentially read the manual

Week 4:

~ Collected field recordings for "Spring" and other projects

~ Watched a bunch of logic tutorials on templates

~ Started mapping out ideas for "O Sleep," played around with tempo and key

~ Listened to Julius’s version of O sleep

~ Created first Logic template

Week 5:

~ Recorded vocals for O sleep in both octaves, played with cutting and pasting low take to align differently with the high take at different times

~ Made another kind of template

~ Recorded lead vocals for "No Pain"

~ Started on harmonies and doubling for "No Pain"

~ Recorded lower doubling for O Sleep, spent a lot of time getting it in sync with higher vocals only to decide I liked what I made on Tuesday better

Week 6:

~ Created a production plan for "No Pain," with all the voices and notes for each section drawn out on paper similar to how Eoin Callery taught us in Music 101. Brainstormed how I wanted to make sections contrast each other, and what I wanted the overall arc of the song to be.

~ Kept working on "No Pain" til it was about half done - added a primary beat to the verses and chorus and some more fleshed out percussion to the bridge, added some field recordings and background vocals.

Week 7:

~ Got "No Pain" up to the point of being a draft I want to share with the class and get general and/or detailed feedback on. It isn't polished, but I have worked on it long enough that I now need to either step back for a while or get a second opinion because I am getting lost in it.

Week 8:

~ Put into practice a lot of general advice from classmates and professors about artistic process and making sure a song flows well as a whole

~ Listened to "Orange" in a lot of different contexts, journaled about the significance of the different sections lyrically to see if that could help inform the musical arc of the piece, tried to restrain myself from tweaking it and getting sucked into the micro details too soon

~ Listened to songs I like and drew diagrams of what voices came in when do get a better feel for song structure that works well

~ Made changes based on my written diagram of what I felt "Orange" needed, and on how the changes actually sounded in practice - cut out a full minute of the song and made the instrumentation less constant, added guitar ghost notes at the beginning based on my own interpretation of some advice from Lloyd

~ Presented "Orange" for class and got feedback

Week 9:

~ Implemented feedback on "No Pain"

~ Wrote a bass line for the final chorus of "Orange"; recorded my roommate Gaby Li playing cello as the bass, both bowed and plucked

~ Shared updated versions of "Orange" and "No Pain" with class, got feedback on "Orange" and approval of "No Pain"

~ Was referred to Klaus Scheuermann for mastering help and advice

Week 10:

~ Reached out to Klaus for help with mastering

~ Put finishing touches on "Orange" and "Spring! (Finally)" based on feedback, and left "No Pain" as it was

~ Decided to order the songs as follows: 1. "Orange" ; 2. "No Pain" ; 3. "Spring! (Finally)" since that is how they would appear in the context of the larger album. I am not sure where exactly in the album I would like "Orange" and "No Pain" to be, but I think I want "Orange" early in the album or even first, and "No Pain" somewhere in the middle, and I know I want "Spring" to be the last track.

~ Did not end up performing "O Sleep" live since Professor Smith was too busy to perform on guitar with me, and I was too busy to finish mixing a fourth song for a recorded version.