Audio Engineering

My all-time favorite album to mix was Sol Horizon’s first album: First Light.

Below, I share some highlights from recording that album, and then a few of my own songs and a video.

Enjoy!


LIVE & LEARN
Written by Michael Litwin & Sol Horizon
Mixed and Master by Peter van Gorder

This Song, Live And Learn, begins with a clip of dialog from “I Heart Huckabees” from an “Existential Detective” who can be hired to investigate the meaning of your life. I wanted something that both set the tone of the song, as well as the entire album, while alluding to something much larger than either – which is what “living and learning” is all about:

Favorite moments

  • 4:39 – I took a section of the end of the guitar riff duplicated it a few times (manual echo), added loads of effects, and then slowly panned it off to the right. I repeat it again at 4:49 (even though there was no guitar originally there) to emphasize and echo Michael’s phrase: “So I ask you”.
  • 5:06 – On the final chorus, every time Michael sings “Rise!” I punch an entire rack of chimes with my fist. It’s not an angry fist, but the kind of fist you’d make and raise up to the sky to signify you really, truly, wholeheartedly believe in something. The kind of fist Martin Luther King would have raised to punctuate his oratories. I wanted to punctuate “That’s why you must RISE!” with high frequencies that both shimmered and were a bit wild and unpredictable – as living and learning generally is.
  • To add extra emphasis to each chorus I sang/shouted along with Michael and Alexei. Yes, I had my fist raised. I tucked it far back in the mix so you mostly hear it subconsciously, but it’s there.

Regrets: Some of the drum fills could have been louder and had more “punch” to them.


MUSIC
Written by Michael Litwin & Sol Horizon
Mixed and Master by Peter van Gorder

Stowaway? Message in a bottle?
When played live, we always just started with Clayton’s guitar. But for the recording and for a song that talks about being a “stowaway”, I wanted to set more of a mystical “lost at sea” tone to it. So, I started with wind and… morse code.

The morse code not only added mystery and a sense of urgency, but also it hopefully gets you to subconsciously ask yourself: What is message in the morse code? What is the message in the proverbial bottle that has traveled across miles of open sea to reach us? Well, I’m glad you asked! Because, there actually is a message in this proverbial bottle.

I asked Jeremy Cooper (keyboards) to execute the actual morse code, and essentially it says: “Play this track in Mono”.

Now, you might think that’s a bunch of “wtf”, until you actually do play it in mono. And you’ll have to turn the volume up a bit to hear it.

Playing it in mono is not the same as plying just one right or left channel, you need to actually collapse both channels to play out both speakers at the same time. The problem is that there are audio player that have a “mono” button anymore – as my home audio system did when I recorded this track. But! You can almost achieve the same results by putting your stereo speakers far apart and standing right the very center of the stereo field. The farther apart they are the less margin of error there will be for standing in the center. Try putting one ear towards the very center for best results.

When you finally hear the first 20 seconds of the song in mono all of the “wind” (aka, the white noise) will magically (i.e. with science) end up phase-canceling out and you’ll be able to hear the next clue, to take the next action, to unravel the mystery I’ve tucked very very deep inside this proverbial bottle.

Yes, I went to those lengths. Oh, and before you get too disappointed, the web page you would have finally ended up at no longer exists – as Sol Horizon didn’t pay their “hosting renewal fee” after I left the band and all the data was lost – lost at sea. Lost forever. I guess some mysteries are meant to remain mysteries forever!

UPDATE!

  1. I just learned how you can collapse a stereo file to mono on a mac!
    Go to > System Preferences > Accessibility > Audio > “Play stereo audio as mono”
    Incredibly easy.
  2. And, I have all that data of the original web page right here.
    Ok, so I moved it to this server – so all the clues and the URL is the same, but the root domain has just changed to petervangorder.com/…..
  3. Of course you’ll have to do the previous step to unravel the rest of the URL, but I saved you from having learn morse code!
    ; )

UPDATE!

I just tested this webpage on my iphone, as I always do, and found that when I play the song on my iPhone through the (mono) speaker… well, you get the idea! No need to go through all those other steps. Don’t forget to turn the volume up. And don’t forget the root domain has change to this one.

So whereas technological advancements removed the old-school “mono” button, the great technological advancement of the singl speaker on an iphone is the same result. Funny how history repeats itself.


RIVER OF RESPECT
Written by Michael Litwin & Sol Horizon
Mixed and Master by Peter van Gorder

On one of the evenings that I was mixing this song at my home studio I took a break noticed that the mocking birds were just going crazy outside. So, needing fresh air, I went out and recorded their song and added it to ours – a perfect addition to this song about respecting nature.


Stirring The Cauldron
Performed, Mixed and Master by Peter van Gorder

I made this track simply because there are just not enough songs to get you in the mood for Samhain, Halloween, All Saints Day, etc. Name a song. Name one. Yeah, so, I recorded this for those times when I’m getting in the mood to carve a pumpkin and remember by ancestors.
Feel free to download this track for free.


LULLABY FOR DUCKS & GEESE
Written, Performed, Mixed and Master by Beware The Banjo! (aka: Peter van Gorder)


Some of the background Studio photos were taken at Studi-E while working on “First Light” by Sol Horizon.
Preliminary Mixing done at Studio E, operated by Jeff Martin.
Final Mixing and Master completed at GrooveFarm Studios, operated by Peter van Gorder.

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