🎉 Naw Ruz (New Year) Announcement 💿

Dear friends!

With the arrival of Naw Ruz (‘New Day’) the first copies of Year of the Nightingale are winging their way to all the Kickstarter Supporters (our patrons!) who helped us make the album.

On Saturday April 1st the album will be officially released for everybody on music.lukeslott.com

Below is a special Naw Ruz message about the public release of the album.

Happy Naw Ruz everyone! 🎉🕺🎉

Luke x

🎉Naw Ruz Announcement about the Official Album Release 🎉

Direct Video Link: facebook.com/lukeslott/videos/10154153320236148

Producer’s Postscript 🎧

Hi friends,

As part of her reflections on the making of Year of the Nightingale, Kelly has added this illuminating Postscript about Dominion.

I think you’ll find it brings the journey to a fitting close.

Thank you Kelly.

Luke

Producer’s Postscript on Dominion

by Kelly Snook

Dear Friends, I forgot that I had wanted to share another note about the musical symbolism in Dominion.

Two weeks ago when I was on one of my long flights, I listened to the whole album many times through. I was reflecting on the songwriting, song order, and various aspects of chord progressions and melodies employed to create different moods. As I said in my Dominion notes, we had known for a relatively long time that we wanted the song to be last. Intuitively, it seemed obvious, but I was reflecting on it so I could articulate why.

Then I noticed something incredible. There is a chord progression that is one of the most common ways to create tension and resolution in Western Music: the ii-V-I. I would be very surprised if it’s not the most widely used chord progression in all of western music, including pop, rock, jazz, and classical music. From Wikipedia:

“ii–V–I progressions are extremely common in jazz. They serve two primary functions, which are often intertwined: to temporarily imply passing tonalities, and to lead strongly toward a goal (the “I” chord).”

In this Hidden Word, the goal is clear: for us not to fear death, everyone’s final goal. Musically, the song teases the final chord of the ii-V-I progression from the beginning, never quite delivering it until the VERY end of the song. As I sat on the plane listening to the movement from major to minor in each moment of the song and reflecting on the differences in tone for each word in the Writing, that in itself was enough to bring me to tears, but then when I noticed the final ii-V-I and became conscious of the final resolution of the song, that was even more profound.

I then got curious about the songs leading up to it. First mentally and then in my headphones I went backwards through all of the songs to check the chord progressions and didn’t find a single ii-V-I resolution until track 4! That means that for the entire second half of the record, we don’t hear or feel this strong resolution until the last notes of the last song on the album. The choice to end a song about death with a ii-V-I to a major chord is, I think, songwriting genius! But I’m not sure Luke was even consciously aware of this, showing how truth and beauty can be expressed through music in mysterious, deeply profound ways.

So final does this ending feel that it never occurred to Luke or me, when agonizing over song order, that anything would ever come after Dominion until the CD started repeating in my car and the first notes of Beauty came in. That was the one transition we never thought to check, and thank Goodness it works – the first notes of Beauty ever so gently pull one back down to Earth after that otherworldly transport of Dominion.

Direct YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/pVCkc3n9DOA

Producer’s Notes 10 – Dominion

Dear friends,

Happy Naw Ruz! While I’m looking forward to the year ahead, I’m a little sad that today’s post is Kelly’s final installment of her Producer’s Notes from Year of the Nightingale. It’s been a very special time sharing these songs and their stories with you. Thank you for reading, listening, supporting! Luke x

Year of the Nightingale Producer’s Notes Vol. 10

by Kelly Snook

Song: Dominion (release date 19 March, 2017)
Words: The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Part 1, No 14
Key: E major / C# minor
Meter: 4/4
YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/pVCkc3n9DOA

The sun rose without fanfare this morning over the east coast of Tasmania, starting this New Year off with quiet confidence. I sat on the beach and reflected on Dominion, wondering how I could possibly fit everything there is to say about this song into a blog post. We have known for a long time that we wanted to end the album with this song – we can’t imagine what could come after it.

Nearly every moment of the recording of this song, which spanned eight years, was imbued with an indescribable sense of potency and magic. The original piano and vocals were recorded live at 3am in the atrium of the MIT Media Lab on the historic Bosendorfer piano, with mics placed several stories up inside the huge space to capture the reverb. Luke did several takes – each different and each at its own tempo, free from any kind of metronome or click track. This live-recording technique combined with subtle differences in mics, room noise, and other variables, meant that we knew from the outset that it would be very difficult and time consuming to try to edit different takes together. So I was listening extra carefully during the recording process. I remember so clearly the moment he played this take! All my hair stood on end and every synapse in my brain seemed to fire at once. I knew instantly that this was the one!
It wasn’t perfect – there were extraneous piano noises caused by the very MediaLab-esque machinery that had been added onto the piano – the first every MIDI-controllable piano. There were giant air compressors just behind a thin door there in the basement. There were people walking through the space. Nevertheless, this was the take that we had to use, and the one that all other instruments were recorded to.

The Atrium at the MIT Lab

A year or two later there was an epic snowstorm in Washington DC. People still refer to that storm as Snowmageddon. What it meant for us is the most blissful possible recording environment in my second story urban loft that usually suffered from inescapable city noise pollution, the worst of which was the McDonald’s trash trolley that rumbled down the alley under my windows every couple of hours. But not on this magical day! It was on this day (if memory serves me correctly) that we recorded, among other things, Jason Rafalak’s gorgeous detuned bowed bass and all of the experimental, fragile bridgework that was only possible in such silence.

Towards the end of last summer, Luke and I decided we needed more of a build in the middle of Dominion. We added 23 layers of trumpets for just one moment in the song! I captured a bit of this during a fit of present-moment-nostalgia, knowing this would be his last trumpet notes recorded in the barn.

23 Layers of Trumpets

The recording complete and mostly mixed, but a huge problem still plagued this song. There was so much noise in the original MIT piano, vocal, and reverb mics that we realized we wouldn’t be able to use it unless we were able to clean up the noise. However, there were 6 mics with variable phasing issues and multiple edit points that made any sort of automated noise reduction, such as what you’d normally use with audio editing software, impossible. I realized that cleaning up this audio was far beyond anything I’d ever attempted, and I had little confidence or hope. I sent Luke home one evening and kept at it, but each time, if i was able to remove the noise, too many other artifacts were introduced and the piano/vocal sounded terrible. Broken-hearted and panicked, I briefly had a go at re-recording Luke’s piano part note for note, because the vocal mic wasn’t as noisy as the piano. If I could just get a clean piano track, all would be well in my world. Several hours later, even though I’d played the notes exactly the same as Luke, the magic wasn’t there – something intangible that was absolutely impossible to recapture or recreate. When Luke came back the next morning, the problem still wasn’t solved. I remember there being many tears. We consulted about what to do – we even, in our desperation, considered starting from scratch, but it would have been impossible to time it with all the other instruments, and even more impossible to reach the perfection of that original take. We consulted about leaving it off the record.

But I couldn’t let it go. I HAD to fix it. I’d created the problem with my way-too-fancy experimental recording techniques, and I couldn’t bear the responsibility of killing it. Even though we were ridiculously pressed for time, I asked Luke to give me just a bit more time.

So then I summoned ALL of my rocket science powers – all of my prayers and hope. In the studio there were photos of two women, always looking over us: Martha Root and my grandmother, Wilma Lowell. Luke and I often called on them, with our own special nicknames for them, to assist us in moments of tests. Across the room was a famous photo of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá holding a young girl. I literally, out loud in the studio, begged them all for help, and then I leaned in to the science. Track by track, moment by moment, I manually lined up all of the phasing problems. I bypassed all the noise software settings, delved into the intricate details of the physics and tried several trillion different combinations of parameters. I don’t know how many hours it took, but the next morning when Luke came back, our tears were of joy and relief!

The irony of our utter fear and panic at the possible premature death of this song (“wherefore fearest thou thy perishing?”) wasn’t lost on us. But, science wins again! This song literally takes my breath away every time.

Thank-you again to all of you for following along in our process. I am forever grateful to have worked on it.    I will miss these reflections! I can’t wait for the next record.

YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/pVCkc3n9DOA

Dominion

Dear friends, today’s song

– the final song from Year of the Nightingale –

is dedicated to

John Vincent Rafalak (1951-2017),

Beloved father of Jason, Ian, Lua and Joe

dominion-thumbnail

Direct YouTube Link:
https://youtu.be/pVCkc3n9DOA
Learn More at the Facebook Event:
🎉 Year of the Nightingale – Album Release 🎉
+ One New Song, Every Other Day, Mar 1-19 +

Producer’s Notes 9 – Paradise

Hi friends,

While the CDs of Year of the Nightingale are flying around the world into the mailboxes of the Kickstarter Supporters, Kelly is also on a journey around the world – She is currently on a multi-stop music trip to Tasmania via Boston and Qatar but she is still kindly sharing with us her Producer’s Notes while in transit. This post has some really lovely insights into both the recording process and the spirit of Year of the Nightingale. Thanks Kelly! Luke

Year of the Nightingale Producer’s Notes Vol. 9
by Kelly Snook

Song: Paradise (release date 17 March, 2017)
Words: The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Part 1, No 6
Key: G major
Meter: 4/4
YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/ZmUAg0sQ5gA

I’m writing these notes into my phone as I sit so near the original Garden of Ridván (Paradise) that my heart aches for the fact that this is the closest I will probably ever get. As we flew down between Iran and Iraq, I watched as all the familiar cities from the history of the Bahá’í Faith appeared below me. Tehran and Shiraz, the cities of the Births of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb, the Twin Founders of the Bahá’í Faith, off to the east. Baghdad and its Garden of Ridván to the west. I wonder if I will ever be permitted to visit these sacred places. So close – just 41,000 feet! But so far away.

Luckily we have another Garden of Paradise to visit – this song! It is lush and deep and full of beautiful sounds to explore, from the beautiful clusters and voicings in the Rhodes to the intricately layered cellos, the music reminds me of the way the gardens around Bahjí encircle it and the vocals stand so beautifully at the center like the Mansion and the Shrine side by side.

Recording with cellist Vyvienne Long

This song is one that features quite a lot of layering using a technique that I love, which involves a musician recording many individual lines, either improvised or coached, that are then sculpted, edited, and mixed to create complex textures and movement. In this song this layering technique was used with the Rhodes, the cellos, the trumpets, and a bit with the guitars. It is a lot of work to mix, but almost always worth the effort, we think! Some of the other songs to which you can listen for this technique are Seek No Other – saxes; Beauty – vocals and saxes; Healing – trumpets, pianos, and mandolin; Sign of Love – mbira and guitar harmonics; and Reckoning – saxes, guitar harmonics and violins.

Back in Paradise, I always imagined Diane’s voice surrounding Luke’s on both sides in this song. When she was able to go into a studio in LA and re-record the vocals on gorgeous microphones, we went a bit Diane-crazy and started doubling her voice everywhere on all the songs! We called this the “butter sandwich.” At one point we also tried doubling Luke’s voice, as well, which then created the “double butter sandwich.” However, in the end, we decided that we would keep just Diane’s butter sandwich special for this one song, so this is the only time it is featured. You hear it the second time through the Hidden Word, and it is especially buttery in headphones.

One more little note: this song was originally only half as long, and I found that to be unnecessarily cruel. So we doubled the length and added a wee breakdown in the middle, so now it’s one of the longest songs on the record. I think this is appropriate because of the importance of this Hidden Word in Luke’s process of investigating the Bahá’í Faith. Better to pay it a bit more attention and adorn it as beautifully as possible!

OK – I leave you now as I continue my journey on to Tasmania. Only one song remains! Thanks again for following along in this release process.

Direct YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/ZmUAg0sQ5gA

Paradise

paradise-thumbnail

Direct YouTube Link:
https://youtu.be/ZmUAg0sQ5gA
Learn More at the Facebook Event:
🎉 Year of the Nightingale – Album Release 🎉
+ One New Song, Every Other Day, Mar 1-19 +

Producer’s Notes 8 – Seek No Other

Hi friends,

Today Kelly is sharing her Producer’s Notes on Seek No Other – a song which was especially enjoyable to work on and features exquisite instrumental contributions such as Ian’s rippling bass patterns and Adam’s multiple saxophone lines.

Year of the Nightingale Producer’s Notes Vol. 8

by Kelly Snook

Song: Seek No Other (release date 15 March 2017)
Words: The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Part 1, No 17
Key: A major
Meter: 3/4
YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/YKpyDm2Hk1w

This song is a meditation.

In the context of the album’s song order, this Hidden Word follows on perfectly from the one in the previous song, which has a similar theme and message. Musically, though, they take very different approaches. Whereas the previous song is filled with spaces, as if waiting patiently for the listener to turn their face, this arrangement provides such consistency that it can actually be used as an active exercise in focused meditation. The song consists of just two chords alternating with only a couple of breaks in the two-chord pattern. The slow pace is perfect for very slow inhales and exhales every four measures, so breathing can be matched to listening.

Astonishingly, there is one note – the root note A – that the guitar plays on the 3rd beat of every single measure throughout the entire song without fail. If you focus your attention on that note coming in every time, you will notice it never changes, never diminishes, never increases! It arrives reliably and unfailingly with absolute regularity and constancy. To me this note represents the covenant of God with man, that guidance is always there, no matter what may happen that seems to obscure it. And that even if attention is diverted elsewhere sometimes, it can be instantly refocused on that presence.

The song opens so gently and calmly that the brushes on the snare drum feel like someone lovingly and slowly stroking my hair or scratching my head. This is, of course, one of my favourite songs for this moment. There is nothing to challenge, nothing to upset – just one hundred percent comfort!

As the song moves along and more instruments enter, each comes in with a sweetness and an innocence that invites attention in new directions. The bass chords are marvelous, and the sax movements are particularly sparkly and alluring at first, and then increasingly confusing. I view the saxes in this song as the things of this world that demand our attention. As they become more insistent and cacophonous one starts to feel tensions and stress. Where is that calm from before? Oh…there it is…there’s that guitar note in there – everything’s still OK!

When all of the chaos of the world clears away, everything relaxes back to that one magical horn line at the end. The horn sounds like a trumpet, but it is actually still Adam’s sax, almost finding a new identity in the clarity. And that persistent A that had been so buried by the world becomes absolutely obvious again.

Direct YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/YKpyDm2Hk1w


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