At the end of a hectic animation session on too little sleep Thursday, ignoring a couple of the fathers, who were waiting to pick up their kids after the workshop, I assembled the wild little animators around me on the carpet to do the soundtrack. Loopy, a wonderful multi-track looper app was open on the iPad, a five-way headphone splitter plugged in. Four kids and I put on the headphones.
I pointed to the clock, it was 4:55. Not enough time, I noted, we really needed the 25 minutes I was trying to get while they were ignoring my attempts to get the room cleaned up and ready, but anyway…
I had them listen to the beat, which Amza had tapped in to set the tempo for the metronome. My only instruction: do something along with the beat when I point at you. I realized quickly it was best to give each a track of their own, to be able to fade things in and out and get rid of any noise, while preserving anything that might be great on its own track. It also kept the rest of them quiet and allowed the one making the track to hear him or herself think. It is crucial to be able to hear yourself when making music with others.
“When I point to you, say how old you are” and I pointed to Amza who rapped out, “I am eight eight eight eight”, and then to Natalie who sang “I am Te-ehn!” and around the circle it went, Kazu, who deadpanned “I am ten” then Auden, “I am eight eight eight eight” and so forth. Amza then sang a ditty right out of the history of Afghanistan, where his mother is from. Natalie sang a wild and melodic loop that sounded like “Magical Purpose” sung three times, but which I realized, after 1,000 listenings during overdubs, was probably “Magical Puppies.” The others all kicked in manic parts, I said goodbye, and they were off. I stayed behind to finish cleaning up and then took my assistant for a burger.
When I got home and began mixing it down I was struck by the variety, the creativity, the fact that they were all singing in the same key, and none of them did anything that conflicted with the beat. I was amazed as I began to dub a bass track and some more percussion to go with the metronome that was on the track. I added an electric piano playing a simple pop chord change. It was rocking.
Then the devil got into me. I couldn’t stop. There’s a piano playing the theme, then a bluesy riff that goes against the beat and the bass line. It was impossible to resist adding a guitar part, inspired by Stochelo Rosenberg by way of Eric Clapton, then another, then a tenor ukulele. Every time I listened to the finished track I thought of something else that needed to be added. And I went back and added it.
Played back against the already frenetic animation, it’s useless as a soundtrack. Very good to listen to while walking a few miles, as I intend to do presently, but relentlessly hectic, preventing the mind from focusing on what it is watching, turning the animation into a nightmare of over-amped wildness, instead of a cool melange of new and groovy ideas.
Oh, well. The technique works beautifully, and augurs well going forward, even if not the hopped up use I put this first experiment to. As I told a kid, who sounded truly shocked to hear it, we learn the most by trying something and failing– and then trying it again.
I know whereof I speak.