Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Making of Bach 'n' Roll

Like all good ideas, this one started out as a seed
and had just the right kind of nourishment from the sun, wind and rain to blossom into something people can enjoy.
I was running in the park on a beautiful late winter day and I thought to myself, "gosh I wish I could just come out here and make music in all of this beauty!" Then I saw other musicians in the park, who apparently had the same inclinations. :)
I realized that a bassoon isn't something you see everyday just playing in the park, and that if I did this, it would attract attention. Then I thought, "hey wouldn't it be cool to film people's reactions and post it online?"
I made mention of this to my amazingly multi-talented roommate, Kamryn Armstrong, who had already made "music videos" of her own. However, her videos were not just recorded from an iphone.. she had a tripod and fancy camera, not to mention expertise. Click here to check out her work. She VERY kindly said she would help me make this video and was true to her word. With her input the idea just took off. She suggested multiple Austin iconic locations, outfits, even times of day. She was absolutely pivotal to this video, helping me do everything, even down to the types of cosmetics I chose to use. I got really lucky that she was there!!
Learning the Prelude from the 1st Bach Cello Suite was a challenge unlike any other piece I had memorized, because it was not intended for the bassoon. This posed a challenge because there are only two real places to breathe during this piece.. one is at the very end (lol) and the other is smack dab in the middle of the piece. Because bassoonists don't play this piece it did two things for me; it presented a challenge of creativity (finding places to breathe), a challenge of endurance (try not to pass out), and made me feel more at liberty to play without fear. After all, I have never heard another bassoonist play this, so that radically decreased pressure. During MQVC, I had been working on the Prelude from Bach's first Cello Suite as something I let myself do in order to keep sane during competition preparation... almost as an antidote towards playing music that 9 other people were going to play and be judged/compared on based on an unknown set of standards. Playing this piece meant freedom from comparison. After practicing for this competition, (which felt like forever)  it had gotten to a point where I had played the Prelude soooo much, that I started quizzing myself, seeing if I could do the whole thing from memory. It took about a week at that point, but I memorized it and solidified it.
When it came to shooting the film we did it in 4 locations and and 3 separate trips. One by a building that shall remain nameless so that I don't get sued... The other 3 were out on Congress near 7th, the Lamar Bridge, and The Wall of Hope. The latter two took place on the last day of SXSW. We made several full takes but there were other takes where I was just supposed to play a section of the piece and Kamryn would do a special close up of my fingers.. or shoot from a slightly different angle. I probably only had to play the piece from beginning to end 12 times while filming.
Once we had our clips, it was time to edit. I spent the entirety of ONE day editing and creating a patchwork of clips that followed the general meter of the piece. It was a little rugged sounding to the ear, switching locations where background noise always changed depending on the clip used, but you could tell it was the Prelude and it had overall flow. Because we shot film from 12 different live performances, there were multiple tempos. This meant that the background noise wasn't the only variable in sound when playing back these clips and posed a challenge sometime while trying to find suitable pieces to put together. I have to say again, I got very lucky that I was able to get all these live performances to line up well enough for the video-patchwork-skeleton.
Recording the track that we laid over the video-patchwork-skeleton was much easier and faster than filming. We got our take on the 3rd run through. Parker Johnson was a beast and used some very expensive equipment that he set up in his UT dorm room to get the sound we were looking for. That's right, no studio required, just the dorm room of a college kid. We used only two microphones.. which was interesting. I have never used less than 3 to get a good recording. Here is Parker's email if you need to contact him about his awesome bassoon recording set up:
Lining up the track with the video was just plain fun. The idea was to watch myself (on patchwork skeleton video) played on a small device (in this case, Parker's phone), and listen to that recording through headphones (attached to phone) while playing the Prelude in such a way that it fit with what I was watching and hearing. Parker would hit record and cue me and I would hit play on the video and play along with what I saw and heard in the headphones as best as possible. This was tricky because there are a lot of close ups on my fingers. Close ups mean I had to try extra hard to replicate (be) my exact self from a previous clip.. but since there were so many clips and different me(s), it meant guestimating as best as possible how and when I should play it. Then there was the actual music to take into account. I needed to make the musical performance that would be entertaining and clean... and make sense with the footage. I am proud to say that we did not edit the music at all. It is a full complete take from a live "studio" performance... annnnd it lines up pretty well. Did I mention we got it on the 3rd take? :)

Shot taken by Jacob James Garcia

Public reaction to the bassoon was very exciting. Some people lined up to listen, others stopped to take photo and video. According to Kamryn (who is a saint/trooper and wearing the cream sweater to the right) people were taking video or photos from the side walk, or even their cars, with phones, cameras or ipads as they passed by on Congress. I got asked to do a podcast by one of the more stationary audience members who took an interest in project Extra Orchestral Uploads and we ended up meeting a LOT of really cool people. More on the podcast later.

As a cool side note
, we released the video on Bach's birthday in homage. Happy birthday you philandering scoundrel. Soli Deo Gloria. ;)

Don't forget to Like, Share, & Subscribe to my channel so that I can feed mahsef! Click HERE to go to video!

Annnnnnd if you haven't already, hit me up for a lesson! Can't be here in person? Try my awesome LessonFace platform and have me over for a lesson in your living room.

Thanks for reading and supporting y'all :)

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