Revisiting the past can be enlightening, or at least educational. Twenty years ago, when synthesizers were hardware and the most advanced music computer around was an Atari ST (which had a whole meg of RAM), I wrote and recorded a bunch of instrumental pieces in my living room. The recordings were on DAT — remember DAT?
Today, while cleaning out the garage, I found the box that had my DAT master tapes in it. I haven’t yet been able to listen to any of them yet (if indeed they haven’t deteriorated), as I no longer own a DAT deck. But finding them reminded me that last year I tried re-recording, from scratch, one of the more complex and interesting tunes from that era, “Clarion at Dawn.” The original version was on my CD Light’s Broken Speech Revived. For some reason I never quite finished the re-recording, so tonight I loaded it into FL Studio, did about a dozen little tweaks, and now I think it’s approximately as good as it’s going to get.
Here’s the original version:
…and here’s the brand new shiny sparkly version:
This is not quite a note-for-note transcription of the original. It’s close, but I couldn’t resist making a few improvements. Detecting precisely what was going on in those backing tracks was a bit of a puzzler here and there, there never having been, of course, a written-out score. But you can manage the details if you load the original recording into an audio track in the sequencer, A/B a couple of bars at a time, and if necessary scribble down a few rhythms or chord voicings.
I did add a counterpoint flute line in one section and a few little frills here and there. In addition, it occurred to me that the harmonic structure, though it’s very obvious to me, might not be as evident to listeners. The piece begins and ends on the V chord (the dominant), not the tonic. To try to guide the listener’s ear a bit, I added a brief drone on the tonic at the very start of the piece.
When I started the re-recording, I wasn’t sure but what I might want to do major surgery on the arrangement, but I quickly decided it was just fine. The tricky bit was matching some of the sounds using different instruments. The “oboe” in the original was a Casio, and the muted trumpet was a Korg M1 factory patch. In order to match the muted trumpet, I had to resort to a hardware synth, my Yamaha Motif, as none of the software instruments I have would do that particular tone. The Motif is also playing the Clavinet rhythm, for much the same reason.
I don’t think I’m going to redo anything else on the CD. Writing new music is more fun. But I’m glad I did this one. I think maybe I had a more active imagination 20 years ago, but I definitely have a better recording setup today!