Producer’s Notes 2 – Healing

Hi friends,

Today Kelly is sharing a beautiful and personal post about the production of Healing…

Producer’s Notes Vol. 2: Healing 

by Kelly Snook

Song: Healing (release date 3 March 2017)
Words: Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations
Key: E major / C# minor
Meter: 6/8

YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/wdxkeK3NOrk

We agonized over the song order on this album. Ultimately, we chose Healing to come second, so as to have the two prayers on the album coming first, followed by eight Hidden Words.

This prayer is one of the most well known and widely memorized prayers among Bahá’ís. As it is a prayer for healing, people are often looking for it to help them through sorrows, pain, tribulation, grief, illness, or other difficulties in their lives. The musical aim of this arrangement is to aid the words of the prayer in providing relief, hope, strength, inspiration, and a bit of additional faith. Somewhat contrary to expectation and temptation, and despite the intro and outro being in a minor key, the song finds its strongest, surest footing in E major, giving it a hopeful flavor without sacrificing the gravitas for which composers often use minor keys.

This is another song that we thought was nearly finished when, little did we know, we were just getting started! In November of 2015, I went on Pilgrimage to the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel. I took the mix of Healing with me to work on while traveling. By that time, Luke, Jason, Ian, Diane and I had recorded all the parts – vocals, electric guitars, bass, drums, and mandolin – and we were beginning work on the final mix. One sunny day on Pilgrimage, I put the mix in my ears and climbed all 19 terraces up the entire mountainside of Mt. Carmel, stepping in time to the rhythm of the song (in hindsight I wish I’d trained for this!). As I climbed I started to hear new parts that weren’t there – subtle clusters of sustained voices, piano voicings, and new harmonies. I listened on buses, in sheruts, and gardens, trying to dismiss what I was hearing because this was the time for finishing, not the time for creating!

Early the next year, when Luke and I were in the studio and REALLY meant to be in the final final mixing stage, we decided to trust our instincts and allow ourselves to experiment with bringing in the new parts. We added piano, and then more piano, and then even more piano – we used both of the untuned physical pianos in the studio and a few sampled pianos, too, using the instability and clashing of the piano notes to our symbolic musical advantage. Then clustered trumpet layers – 4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 18 trumpet layers and some new harmonies! At some point in there, we even re-recorded the lead vocal (not usually recommended in the final mixing stage)! So, instead of putting the finishing touches on the song, we were starting fresh, editing, layering, compositing, and evaluating the spiritual relevance and contribution of each new added thing. We can scarcely imagine the song now without these elements, teaching us that this willingness to jumble up traditionally separate stages in the production of an album can yield excellent results. This song is a good example of how hundreds of sounds – imperceptible individually – can magically work together to create feelings! But always, those hundreds of sounds must serve only to support the Words – like a gold band for a diamond. As a person in music technology, people always ask me what I think is the future of music. I think this is it.

For us, the target was our hair standing on end. We both felt that this song, perhaps more than any other on the record, must deliver goosebumps. Toward that end, the dissonant clusters of trumpets and out-of-tune piano come in early and often to represent difficulties. But each time Luke sings “Thy Name…” there is a solid, incontrovertible melodic and harmonic landing and strong resolution. This effect is deeply enhanced by the powerful, grounding fifths in the purer tuned piano’s low registers. The layers of mandolins towards the end, one of the first musical elements to be recorded, provide a sweet safety net of comfort, hardly noticed unless you’re listening for it. Throughout the whole song, the rhythmic pulsing of the guitar seems to represent the unrelenting passage of time through predictable patterns, but each chord creates a unique temporary mood that lingers just long enough for all the feels.

I wanted to take a moment to add a very personal note to this. Yesterday when the song was released, I put it on repeat and listened obsessively 15 times in a row on an early morning flight from Edinburgh to London. Even after sitting with it for more than 8 years and knowing every teeny tiny detail of it – after crafting every breath, every syllable, every note of every layer in each of the 120 tracks of this Pro Tools session, my heart still wants to feel this over and over and I am somehow able to zoom out and just enjoy it. For a producer/musician, this is a rare gift. Often, it is impossible to escape from the technical details and awareness of flaws, like standing naked in front of a mirror or revising one’s own writing for the 400th time. To this day, I have never returned to read any part of my PhD thesis, never wanting to see it again (to be fair, it’s exceedingly dull…). But this is not the case with any of the songs on this record. I cannot get enough of them! I sat in my airline seat bawling for the entire hour and a half flight. And then when I got in my car, I put the CD in and listened to the whole CD on repeat from Gatwick to Brighton, still bawling. What is this power of music? I can’t even put it into words, and, thankfully, I mostly don’t have to. There was a moment yesterday when I was reflecting on why I was bawling. I think it’s that I feel the desperate need for healing so deeply – inside myself and everywhere I look in the world – that when I hear the purity, depth, and complexity of the solution offered by Bahá’u’lláh through this song, it releases all that pent-up fear and longing in a way that is empowering and hopeful.

I know that music works in mysterious ways and that this song and its production will not provide such a feeling for everyone, nor should it be expected to. I have worked on many different musical settings of this prayer alone – each with its own unique interpretation! I’ve learned that what inspires one person can have entirely the opposite effect for someone else, maybe even annoying and distracting them. As an artist, sometimes it’s hard not to let this be discouraging or to let the pressure of doing justice to the Writings be overwhelming. But for me and for my family, whose healing I continually brought to mind when pushing through those daunting feelings, this one truly hits the spot. I’m forever grateful to Luke for bringing this song to me and for his spirit of learning, patience, and experimentation. The process of making it has, itself, been an epic, direct and manifest catalyst of healing and hope.

Full prayer:
“Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” – Bahá’u’lláh

“O Thou Whose face is the object of my adoration….” – Bahá’u’lláh

Direct YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/wdxkeK3NOrk

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