Producer’s Notes 5 – The Sign of Love

Year of the Nightingale Producer’s notes Vol. 5

by Kelly Snook

Song: The Sign of Love (release date 9 March 2017)
Words: The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Part 1, No 48
Key: B minor
Meter: 3/4
YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/jrbk1RztX4w

I almost don’t know what to write about this one. This most gentle and patient of songs seems to embody perfectly the dark but encouraging message of this Hidden Word: “For everything, there is a sign. The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials.” This sentiment was real and present for everyone during the making of this song, as all of us experienced significant trials in our lives at some point(s) during the process. The slow, steady tempo with the brushed snare and harmonic plucks of the guitars and mbira could be thought of as representing how slowly time can move during difficulties. Like “Garden of Thy Heart,” the oscillation between three chords, this time the VI, VII, and i, creates a floating sensation, but this one feels more like floating on an undulating, deep, dark ocean rather than in air. Also like “Garden of Thy Heart,” this one is in two parts, with the first part introducing the idea that for everything there is a sign, and the second describing the signs of love. The signs themselves are also split into male and female echoes, drawing attention to the idea of balance of masculine and feminine.

Patience is rewarded in this song. The first time through the passage, attention is focused on the two vocals with only guitars, pizzicato upright bass and snare for apparent support. The second time through, the rich, low strings, layered mbiras, and more rhythmic snare and cymbals enter as if they had secretly been there all along but we just weren’t able to hear them yet. It’s almost as if they come in to say there’s much going on around you in your patience and fortitude if you are able to trust it’s there, and eventually it will become clear and manifest.

This song has a sense of dark torment and struggle without crossing the line into hopelessness. It has a certain “sprezzatura” – that quality that makes something difficult look easy. One almost forgets, in this song, how challenging it is to set the Bahá’í Writings, or indeed any prose text, to music effectively and artistically. Or if one has never tried to do this, one simply wouldn’t be able to tell from listening to this the level of painstaking detail that went into it. Luke’s songwriting hits complex emotional and spiritual marks quietly and simply, without being overwrought. His and Diane’s voices are absolutely perfect, “like butter.” Luke’s string arrangement here makes me feel that it is OK to plead longingly for patience and fortitude knowing that I will almost always fall short, but knowing that wherever I find those, I find love. The hanging 4ths and 9ths in the melodies and harmonies, as well as the long notes interspersed with rapid ones represent to me fits and starts in the face of uncertainty.

Production-wise, this was another elusive mix because of the number of layers at the end and all of the voices and instruments that needed to be balanced without being distracting. I love recording with Luke because he has complete mastery of his music. He can record an entire take on the guitar with very few mistakes, then record it again another ten times almost exactly the same. This makes it possible to use two separate, almost identical guitar tracks in the left and right ears, creating a dynamic stereo field and a feeling of being hug-patted and enveloped by guitars.

I guess this producer’s note is a bit of a love note about this song and everyone who contributed to it, which seems appropriate. It’s a bit mushy, I’ll admit. But The Sign of Love makes me feel that way about everything and everyone until it’s over and time to hit repeat. Posting these on the off days gives me a chance to read a bit of peoples’ reactions and I’m happy to see I’m no longer so alone in my obsession with its beauty.

Direct Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/jrbk1RztX4w

Flint Barn, former home of It’s Not Rocket Science Studios, Lewes, UK [BEFORE]

Flint Barn, former home of It’s Not Rocket Science Studios, Lewes, UK [AFTER]

YouTube Video

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