Sunday, March 14, 2010
You are nose to nose with Thomas Jefferson. But his nose is 20 feet long. If he inhaled, you would disappear. From your perspective, not only can you not tell that you’re looking at the face of Thomas Jefferson, you can’t even recognize that it’s a face at all. You probably can’t even tell that it’s a nose. And if you’re Gutzon Borglum, you’ve lived with this project, this face, this nose for over 14 years. You’ve lived with it, slept with it, tasted it, and let it live inside of you. You must take several steps back from it to see it at all. You must travel far, far away, many miles, to see it as a whole.
And even then, your perspective is skewed. You’re too intimate with it. You see things that others don’t, that others can’t. And every time you look at it you see something different. An eye, that one day looked like the most perfect eye you’d ever seen, somehow now looks like Oedipus after the fact. That beautifully curved lip now drools. And so it goes, every day, every minute that you’re working on it, and even after.
And yet, you are responsible for putting the most perfect product out there. This is what will define you for millions of people for generations to come.
This is what recording is like.
Recording music in a recording studio feels much like what I imagine Gutzon Borglum must have felt as he sculpted the busts on Mount Rushmore. He (and his crew) had to become intimate with the granite. Every square inch had to have been surveyed up close, touched and caressed by human hands, breathed on. The scale of the project becomes completely skewed at that range. It was necessary to know the molecules in order to birth the monument.
You are intimate with your songs. They live inside of you, you birthed them and then you live inside of them. You know every note, every micro beat, every breath, every nuance. You listen to the same passage over and over, to hear if your pitch is precise, if the cymbal has the right tone, if the piano solo has one too many notes, if your breathing is true, if you formed the correct shape with your mouth. It is a skewed perspective.
There are so many ways to go wrong during the process of songwriting and recording. I’m amazed that people actually do get it right. But when it’s not right, it can be hard to listen to, even embarrassing.
And yet, year after year, people put out phenomenal products – recordings that move you, and recordings that make you want to move. Artists (and their crews) bring music into the world that is powerful, gentle, evocative, transformative.
Get nose to nose with your recording. Then step away. Stop listening for a while. Then come back to it. Listen to it from different angles. And always have more than just your ears on it. You need a safety net and a fresh set of ears can be that.
Give me your best possible product because I deserve it, and I will do the same for you. I promise.