The _____ Experiment is a Michigan-based chamber trio that I've worked with for some time now. Ever since their professional debut around a year ago, the forefront of their goals concentrated on commissioning composers to write new works for their unique instrumentation - clarinet, saxophone, and harp. While duets exist for the combinations of this group, not many trios do. The culmination of these efforts over the past year can be best summed up in their biggest project to date - an upcoming debut album highlighting works written by some of the composers they've collaborated with.
I've been fortunate to have contributed three new pieces to The _____ Experiment's fast-growing repertoire. When they approached me about including these works in their album project, I was just as equally thrilled as the day we first began to collaborate. Although I had previously mixed an EP of entirely electronic music with a recording engineer a few years ago, this was truly my first-ever professional recording experience with live musicians [not including the recording sessions I've had with professional musicians in an academic setting at New York University]. Hence, during one weekend in August, I returned back to Michigan for two intense, but rewarding, days of recording the three pieces I've written for The _____ Experiment - INFERNO 7.0, Conversations, and Antikythera.
Before recording began, there was a quick rehearsal the prior evening to spot-check a few places in each of the works that will be on the album.
Recording commenced the following day in the Wolfe Center at Bowling Green State University in Ohio with the fantastic people of Sly Pup Productions running sound. Lots of mic-checks and other tests happened this weekend.
There was also lots of bass saxophone shenanigans.
Conversations [for clarinet and harp] was the first piece to be recorded. I've worked extensively with Michelle Myers and Natalie Pate (the clarinetist and harpist, respectively) throughout the past year and a half on fulfilling this piece's ambitions. With every rehearsal and performance of it, however, I came to realize that Conversations was simply saying too much about its concepts. It didn't need to be the three movements long that it originally was - the first of these movements had accomplished that goal already! So, after extensive revisions [and a few other minor edits], the version of Conversations which will appear on the album is the final version of the piece. The music will be published for performance the day of the album's debut, which is currently set to occur sometime this year.
Antikythera [for my favorite instrumentation of the three pieces, bass clarinet and bass saxophone - yes, BASS saxophone!!] was up next. This took the longest to record of the three pieces - there's lots of detail and nuances in this one that we explored throughout the recording process.
The occasional breaks [and meal breaks] were also full of shenanigans too, including post-recording beer and maybe one too many McDonald's runs [some would disagree with me on that last one]. Natalie was excited to have a Cinnamon Melt during one break.
The final piece to be recorded was INFERNO 7.0. This piece has open instrumentation for the clarinet and saxophone parts, but for this album, we recorded the version that The _____ Experiment was most familiar with [which consists of B-flat clarinet and tenor saxophone].
The nature of this piece gave all of us an opportunity to record multiple takes with different interpretations of the second part, a section of music completely robbed of any sense of meter. There's lots of aleatoric moments happening here, and all of them wild.
All in all, as with the other two pieces, it was fun to be able to record them with the trio and literally experiment with a couple of ideas in the process.
The _____ Experiment's attention to detail, their artistry, and their craft was unparalleled. Usually, my experiences with recording have been stressful and high in tension for one reason or another. This is the first time I've had a recording session experience where it was quite the opposite. Sure, there were definitely moments when there was stress, but it was a good kind of stress, if you can believe it. It was all about the music-making experience, and the passion behind it, and the joy of coming together to bring this music (and the other pieces that will be included) to life in a new medium. It was certainly a wonderful experience overall, and I'm very much looking forward to starting work on the postproduction process soon.