a sound

The Ghostnote

The Ghostnote. The in-betweens. The absolutely essential, yet uncelebrated means to the end. I have always felt more comfortable working in a behind the scenes role. I feel that I am a bit of a ghostnote myself. I have been working on what is now Ghostnote for the last 20 years – I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s clear to me now. I’ve always felt drawn to helping improve the creative experience for my friends. In 2020 when everything shut down, my musician friends suffered the most. Digital platforms thrived, and some of my friends saw success. But we all missed that real-world connection. I dabbled in interesting new technologies, like immersive audio and digital collectibles, but never felt really strongly about those mediums. That dabbling made it clear to me what was missing – something tangible you could hold in your hands while experiencing a moment. This is exactly what has made the vinyl medium a classic, and still relevant today. I’ve loved being there. Those recording sessions when the music comes together – that sticky mojo. I’ve never been able to fully describe or manufacture that mojo, it just happens when people get together, and make things matter. Lyric sheets, broken drumsticks and music video props – I’ve discarded so many things we’ve taken for granted – something tangible, unique and personal, tied to that mojo moment. The Ghostnote hat is me drinking my own kool-aid. It’s me looking back at all of the hard work my friends and I have put into this creative life. The messy means we experienced are surely something else, when you hold them in your hands, realizing what they collectively became.

Closer To The Heart

If there is anything I’ve learned over the last 20 years of sound-smithing, it is that we are just trying to get to the core of the art – that art which is determined to get closer to the heart. Whether or not we are using yesterday’s instruments, or tomorrow’s, the goal is the same. This realization has taken me longer to arrive at than any other learned skill, regardless of modern technological advancements. Long-winded and overtly analytical experiments, or what we studio rats simply call ‘tweaking’, helped me to see and HEAR, and return to the real meaning of my work – the heart. The irony. This is the kind of perspective that only time grants.

The Experience Of Humans Being

Music has the ability to get humans to circle around a fire – its sounds stoke the aural, leading to the visual, and still more, the emotional. The relationship between humans and sound is wonderfully complex – especially when we find ways to emulate, manipulate and enhance the soundtrack of our lives with musical instruments. Music is the experience of humans being.

The Fundamentals

Getting back to work with The SnowGhost Six in the studio was long overdue. After spending so much time in the control room , it was really nice to get back to good songwriting and and live-off-the-floor studio playing with good friends. Band camp!

The Endless Sonic Adventure

Everything and nothing changed with the birth of my son. What hasn’t changed: the concept of the endless sonic adventure, which seems to occupy my mind most days, while my son and I find ways to relate to each other. The idea that we create sonic vibrations, followed by an often more complex and dynamic reaction, is magical. Blowing bubbles in the bathtub and barking nonsensical words and tones into plastic cups – my son and I play every day. The funny thing is, I never stop being a kid in a sonic candy store. Every seemingly insignificant sound catches my attention, often to the chagrin of the company I keep. Feel free to diagnose the struggle for my focused attention – certainly don’t mistake it for being uninterested or unaware. As sound flies like a baby bird from its proverbial nest into a world of complex harmonic, and spatial, ebb and flow – the baby bird’s flight plan requires real-time, calculated actions and reactions, requiring further actions and reactions, etc… the walkabout of a single sound is an endless story, should you choose to listen.

New Music? New Instruments.

There has been so much music over the course of human history – I am positive that every rhythm and every melody has been explored in one way or another. So what makes music original? Think about how many times we have heard the plagal cadence, or blues and rock chord progressions, and said to ourselves, “wow, this is really original”. The answer is, all of the time! The truth is that it has nothing to do with the notes, and everything to do with the way those notes are being played and captured. Played and captured? What plays, and what captures? People, and sometimes machines play, instruments capture – and they all have a remarkably unique way of doing that. They all sound different, and all have different ways of conducting themselves. Whether it be a human voice, or a violin, or a totally new form, like sampling and granular synthesis, what is so cool about this concept, that all of these instruments require a different mindset and approach. This is what promotes and manifests new musical ideas. That is why I am always looking for new ways to play and capture the melodies I hear in my head.

Fall Foliage and Mixing

As I work in the studio, and watch the leaves change colors here in Montana, I realize that there are obvious parallels in music production and changing surroundings. I know that the art we produce is directly influenced by our surroundings – but I’ve never actually thought about the seasons affecting mixes. Montana is gearing up for that annual white winter blanket, and I wonder if my approach changes at all. Getting ready for those SnowGhosts!