Listening to Yourself

The past week has been incredibly busy. The past month, really! My last post was more than one month ago. Since I last updated, I've taken (AND PASSED!!!) my final doctoral exams, and played all sorts of weird and wacky concerts, culminating with the past week:

1. My last 'Great Britten! The Suites for Cello' recital of the spring
2. The semi-annual Hodgson String Quartet concert on the UGA campus
3. My final doctoral degree recital with pianist Greg Hankins (clips on the Listen page)
4. A weekend of recording with Meredith Mecum

And really, that last little thing is what this blog is about: listening to yourself play. 

Meredith dropped in to town last week to prepare for our recording session with Brian Kelly in the Dancz Center for New Music here at UGA. We set out on Saturday on a sixteen hour adventure to record the four works that we commissioned for the second part of my Queering the Pitch recital project.

This was my first real adventure with chamber music recording. I've always known that recording was difficult, but thought it would be easier than live performance. I mean, how can you go wrong when you're just splicing everything together?! IT WILL ALL BE PERFECT!


Recording is hard. You walk in to the room with your music learned and a plan. You begin with whatever you've scheduled first and do a run through. Then, you go back and fix some of the problems by re-recording sections and splicing together. Except you can't splice EVERYTHING! There are limitations. Sometimes you have to live with those few out-of-tune notes. Oh, and you hear every one of those notes. (at least, we did, as we were privy to every take of each run through and splice.)

As you go on, things get worse. Inherently, the first take will be the best, and as the engineer or producer tries to improve things by recording more takes, you start to play like poo because your brain has forgotten how to read music and your fine motor skills are gone. By the end of the day, you just want to crawl in to a hole and die. After two days, you're completely shot. May as well just give up your career at this point. To deal with the feelings of inadequacy, I bought cookies and beer. There are pictures on Twitter. Go look.

You have to hope that the session has been productive, that all mistakes have been caught and fixed. While perfection isn't always possible, doing justice to the music is the ultimate goal. But listening to yourself is the worst. I was lucky enough to hear every mistake that I made on every take we made, for sixteen hours.

It was torture, that I paid for, using my own cello playing as the weapon.