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:

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:



Direct YouTube Link:
Learn More at the Facebook Event:
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+ 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:

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:

Producer’s Notes 7 – Turn Thy Face

Year of the Nightingale Producer’s Notes Vol. 7

by Kelly Snook

Song: Turn Thy Face
Words: The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Part 1, No 5
Key: B minor
Meter: Various
YouTube Link:

Dear friends, I’m sorry for the slight delay in sending these notes out! I had typed up a nice set of notes and then Google docs seems to have eaten them. This is the modern equivalent of “the dog ate my homework.” So I will try again!

We are to the point in the album now where every song that comes on makes me think, “This one is my favourite!” Then the next one comes on and it’s my favourite. There is something about this one that is exactly what I need after Reckoning – it calms me down and gives me space to reflect in the pauses between invitations to turn my face. It is a simple directive and a gorgeously simple arrangement with stealth meter changes that make it feel like God is waiting just one extra beat for me to obey. The song does not groove. It does not tick along. It issues the call and waits for a silent responsive action. And then it calmly tells me that even if I were to search the entire universe for ever more for a better solution than simply turning my face, my quest would be in vain. It is very matter of fact – the guitar part exactly mimics the melody and all the musical elements are lined up in time and space, giving a sense of musical clarity and simplicity to the message.

The recording of this song, however, was truly rocket science. Often it’s the simplest, most stripped down arrangements that can prove the most difficult to mix because of how exposed each sound is. We had tried recording the guitars on this song four times in three different countries and on several different guitars and had given up on it, removing it from the record after the fourth failed attempt. If you try playing the chords of the song on a steel-stringed guitar, you will hear why. The shifting of fingers from one chord to next in this song produce unusually loud finger squeaks on the strings! There are many different techniques producers and engineers can use to reduce the squeaking sounds and we tried them all. None of them resulted in a sound we were satisfied with. So we moved “Turn Thy Face” into the discard pile.

On the VERY last day that we were in the barn in Lewes, we were preparing to pack up the last remaining bits of studio gear that had been left behind by the movers. The live room was completely empty and we couldn’t help but notice how beautiful it sounded. By this point we knew there would be a second album because of the generous contributions of people to our Kickstarter. I had a radical idea for an experimental technique to record the guitar for Turn Thy Face. I thought at least we should try to capture the sound of this new guitar in this space through this gorgeous mixing desk in these last precious moments. The idea I had was to play each chord in the song individually, without moving to the next one so there would be no squeaks, and then we would squirrel away the audio for revisiting in 2019. We were doubtful that it would work, but we thought it couldn’t hurt to try.

So, 8am on the last morning in the barn Luke went into the live room and we set up a single mic in the middle of the room. We then went through the song about 25 times, each time with Luke just playing one of the chords at precisely the time it should be played and with the precise duration, articulation, and release that it would have in context. I just have to say – I know VERY few musicians, including myself, who could execute this without practice – nonlinearly hitting every instance of one of any given chord of the song with almost no mistakes. Luke never ceases to amaze me with his talents! When we’d gotten through all the chords, without listening back or editing it together to check anything, we simply closed the file and loaded out. We didn’t expect to return to it for years.

I mentioned in the notes for Garden of Thy Heart that, at the last minute, two songs were pulled from the record and two new ones were added. Garden of Thy Heart was one of the new ones, and for the second one, we decided to resurrect Turn Thy Face from the discard pile and see if our last-ditch recording experiment had actually worked. By now, I was in the little garden “cabin,” without my usual arsenal of tools and ergonomic comforts of the barn, so Luke and I would find ourselves doing tasks seemingly unrelated to music, such as assembling the new office chair and trying to create sound baffling out of found items.

But we did science to the individually recorded guitar notes and if I hadn’t told you this secret of how it was recorded, it’s possible none of you would have noticed! We are so happy it worked! 🙂 Science FTW!

So if you are one of the lucky ones who is receiving Luke’s excellent songbook and you are playing this song and wondering why your guitar is squeaking so much, don’t feel bad! Just for fun, pick a chord in the song and try to play it each time it happens in the song, and you will develop even more admiration for Luke’s genius.

Thanks for your patience while I retyped these notes, and thanks again for giving us an excuse to record some of these anecdotes. I’m absolutely giddy with excitement for you all to hear Seek No Other!

Direct YouTube Link:

Click to Play

Seek No Other


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

The Transformation of Music

Hi friends,

I hope you are enjoying our slow-release journey through the songs of Year of the Nightingale. It has been incredibly heartwarming to receive your messages over the last two weeks and to know that you are enjoying the songs.

With 3 songs still to come, I wanted to invite you a little deeper into my musical collaboration with Kelly Snook by sharing with you an example of the transformation that a song can go through when in the hands of a producer with as much musical sensitivity and creativity as Kelly.

Below is a live acoustic rendition of a song called Seek No Other (recorded in a garden not far from Kelly’s studio).

This is the song as it was originally composed for voice and guitar.

Tomorrow the studio version of Seek No Other – produced by Kelly and featuring Diane, Ian, Adam and Anwar – will be released. It is one of our favorites on the album and we deeply hope that you enjoy it (and perhaps even learn to sing it yourself!)

Personally I find this transformative musical process absolutely thrilling. A great producer knows how to breathe new life into a song and that’s exactly what Kelly does.

Look out for the studio version of Seek No Other tomorrow at 6:15am, Tehran Time – on the Facebook Event.



Turn Thy Face


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

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