Nestor:  I have done many big mixes in the past and quite a few lately that would definitely make my system go to its limits, using both scope and VST. The maximum length has been 71 minutes of uninterrupted music, and the maximum I have gone in track count was about 100 tracks. Now, they never play together, as Ken explains it is a natural flow with big orchestrations for most people.

My approaches, nevertheless, are unusual or even completely unexpected weird. I appreciate compositions techniques and agree with everything that could help achieving a good final piece, but for me personally EMOTION commands every operation when composing something authentic (meaning not commercial, and if it is commercial, it must be something I really love for me to actually feel a bound with that music).

The creative flow in my case it is not necessarily piloted by my mind, but by my heart. It might sound romantic but it is true, it is the way it happens by itself. I will explain myself the best I can: I start by feeling some sort of strong emotions that would lead me to instantly hear music in my head, the more compressed it is the emotion coming from within myself, the stronger is the drive what awakes from it. The stronger is the drive, the clearer is the number of instruments I know I will use, the timbre I want them to have, the length of the piece, etc. If I have the luck of having a very strong drive I can hear the full song within myself before even playing a single note, so it is eventually possible for me to record a complex full arrangement in a single day working about 10 to 12 hours.

Now, if I don’t start composition through this emotional process, I will end up with a total failure, that is, I will come up with really silly music that do not worth a penny that I will soon delete out of frustration. Failure happens to me, eventually, when the project is commercial and I don’t agree with the content because it contradicts the way I understand life, and it is something drained of interesting content, like an advert for a group of lawyers, for instance, and you know they are a bunch of abusers, thinks like that, I personally cannot detach from the content of what I do. I would eventually say “no” to projects that I know hide fraudulent intentions, like selling an organic product that I found out, it is not organic at all.

Apparently, I am not answering the questions of the thread, but I am. I achieve amazing results when I am strongly hooked with a piece of music I really, really love. I will not eat, will not talk to anybody, will not accept a phone call, anything at all when I am in that state of drive, my wife knows she must let me alone. Sometimes it has happened to me that I would open then window, and will not understand why it is dark, or why there is already light, and this is because I have been about 20 hours composing without stop, and would lose the sense of time. Nowadays this would happen less and less, because back pain will speak louder than my drive telling me: “Man, you have been too many hours there, get your ass out of the chair and have a rest”.

Imagine a place that demands respect like a temple or something like that, a place you cannot speak loud or use your cell phone, etc., well, if you were to speak loud or make noises while walking, you would brake the atmosphere… I experience this kind of recollection and thinking about anything would distract me, so I don’t think. This state of inner concentration brings something which is beyond intellect and its capabilities, it is sort of an intuition that allows you to use tools in a way you don’t actually need to be expert at, you only need to know beforehand how they work, that’s it, and the rest is pure creativity.

In this process there are no comparisons to other music, composers, thoughts, sound achieved by a particular band, or about how to write the music, or any technical concern or scholarship, it will be only the fluidity of emotions going from somewhere within myself to the scoring. When the piece is well defined after a few hours of creating, rehearsing, playing the parts and recording, it comes the mind with all sort of concerns and thoughts, and there I think about it and how it could sound better what I could add or take out, etc. The mix is the most technical moment of them all in the long run of a full arrangement, so the opposite to composing.

I may bounce several tracks sometimes to a single audio file, once I have a clear idea of how they may sound. Of course, this is not something I want, I would like instate having everything free and always be able to change any EQ or compression etc., but this is the price of big arrangements and not having a super computer... Nevertheless I do not complain, I can achieve even with this method pretty good final results. If I want to do something different after a while, as many tracks have been bounced to one, I would have a saved copy as a different project in Cubase already. So if I really need to modify something within it, I can go back and do the job, then bounce it again as a single track and include it with the changes I wanted, to the whole. The only problem with it is that you need a good memory of what you have heard and the timbers you want to modify, because you have not an instant access to the other parts of the song in which you are working. It is not the most comfortable way of working, but you can do what you need to do.

In some super huge and large arrangements of classical instruments, I may trick some conventional modern instruments to sound a bit like a background classical orchestra and make them part of the whole as if they were, for instance, strings or voices or woodings, etc., being in fact, distorted guitars, synths, or anything recorded as a sample through my microphone… Eventually, I may use some natural sounds to add texture to some of the string samples if I find them too cold, like a bite of apple or other fruits that I bite slowly and with care so I get a smooth sample from beginning to end. I use in an insane but subtle way some unusual VST chains of plug-ins that would give me unexpectedly silky, kind of glassy results for strings, solo instruments or wooding enhancing realism. Sometimes you look for like crazy for a reverb that would give you exactly what you want, but none will… so I use multiple nuances of delays and you would swear it is a special kind of reverb, who knows… so many solutions that are exclusively for such and such particular song. I do my job out of this particular state of drive, I if get to think instate of being impulsively creative, I would not achieve anything. I have to respect this energy that demands spontaneity and artlessness, so it becomes finally art by itself.

I studied composition, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, etc., for many years, but after studying so much I prefer forgetting everything and feel.

Something I have forgotten to mention here is about the training of listening at music in full attention. I did it (as I said it before in another thread in the Z), for many, many years, as an exercise to get into the music of the world and learn from other musicians. If studying composition is important, listening at the best classical composers and at the best bands is too an irreplaceable tool, nobody can teach to anybody else the experience of listening to music, or you take your time to sit down and pay absolute attention to music, or you lose it.

You may go through the heavy books of voicing a la Johann Sebastian Bach, but this will always be something pretty cold compared to listening to Bach absorbing his way of music directly thorough his own emotions.

For instance, I have listened at Stravinsky through the best directors in the world for years. I went to the extent of learning by heart every detail of his work, I would go instrument by instrument and piece by piece. So as you can guess I spent many thousands of hours of fly… (talking like a pilot), listening to records and going concerts. Listening to groups like Yes the whole day over and over and over again until I learned by heart every instrument, gave me a totally new vision of music and in a sense, instate of getting so theoretical about it, I was more and more inclined to compose what I felt without even making a check about how “right or wrong” my procedures were in terms of not contradicting the rules of harmony, voicing, timbre, position of the instrument within the orchestra, etc.

The only problem with this training, instrument by instrument and then the whole song, band, orchestra, etc., is TIME… You will need at least from 6 to 8 hours a day for several years to really learn every instrument in detail, if you want to be uncompromising about it. I am talking about a serious, professional approach; I am not talking about listening to one of the great masters like Aram Jachaturián or Maurice Ravel while you talk with a friend, read a book or are driving a car, no way, I am talking about detailed dedication, willpower, analysis and effort in scrutinizing and understanding the music you are interested at, with respect and even reverence.

This sole process would teach you more than anything you could study or even practice, it is the best way to absorb quickly the musical history of the peoples of the world, getting ready to carry on and be one of its chain links.

I did it with classical music, rock, jazz and folk music from many countries of the world. Many modern music and styles do not deserve my attention to the least (do not take it as an insult, I am talking about my personal experience, that’s all, we are all free to go wherever we want to go, just as I am free of doing so too. You cannot pretend to get this freedom yourself, and not giving it to the rest of the mortals)

About 16 years ago, when I started to master my own music, I decided to go through the same process as it gave me so much fulfillment with music composition, I thought it could give me the same realization in regard to mastering too, listening at how the best engineers out there do their job, so to learn and understand. Of course, in this case, I did it just a few hours per week only, as I started this second process as a grown up person already. The first process, the process of listening to so many hours of music for such a long time was possible while I was young of course because I did not need to work. I had only to study in the conservatory, play music with groups and go to concerts. I was living at my family home so I had all the time of the world for me, even like this, I would get up very early every morning to start my listening experience.

Listening at finished perfectly mastered songs does not guarantee for you to be a genius doing masters ( I definitely am not), but it will give you a deep inside of what it is and how it is made, it will help you much, I did it, and I can master for what is needed in my multimedia works.

I ended up listening to music today as a director watches a movie, I cannot separate myself from the process of scrutinizing how a particular piece of music have been conceived, how it was exactly build, the instruments that the song has, the mix and master quality and its details and differences, what the composer have favored in terms of frequency and amplitude instate of such and such voice or instrument, etc. Nevertheless, this way of listening to music has not bothered me at all, I mean, I can listen to music and enjoy it, and on top, enjoy also all the rest of the director perspective, so I have not lost the ingenuity of listening music just like anyone else because of these exercises.

As a conclusion, I would say I have found my way and decided to return to the original bases of music, the “raison d'être” of music itself. I believe in modernity to a certain extent only. By the way, I don’t believe music has progressed forward, but in some exceptional ways and through a few composers only (even if they amount to several hundred in all, against millions of really totally immaterial neither here nor there totally confused people out there). To me, firmly, music has degenerated and gone to a state of simplicity (using the word “simplicity” here in the worst possible way and meaning): square ideas, square harmonies, square wordings and eternally repeated chord progressions that for sure, you will get again and again next year, with a few sequences that come already cooked in a box, and some new drums, etc., that are farther and farther away from the real nature of what music is all about. To me, music moves between two realms: the first is within ourselves and the second is outside ourselves. The first is our “essence” and the second is “nature” (not the green of the countryside, but nature as the nature of existence, the nature of everything). Every essence resonates in a different way facing up nature, and this inner mood, this resonance with the whole, is what makes music such an incredible infinite horizon through which two different souls go through the same experience and come up with totally different songs that, nevertheless, brings you a single particular truth of life. I have, at the end of it all, simplified everything. I give up technology (as being the queen and the centre of the music composing process), techniques, do and don’ts in harmony and composition, perfection as a means to impress others in detriment of a great deal much more important things like the inner meaning of your music.

For me music is something extremely serious, and not only a toy to have fun, it is rather a process to find myself, to touch my own soul. I think of music as a sacred means to infinity.


Nestor 2015