Zombie Cowgirl

Hey! I just thought of a competition for the Halloween Olympics! The Decapithon! I think only zombies and skeletons could compete. So don’t sign up unless you are one of those. And no, being tired or not eating enough doesn’t count.

I almost qualified as a zombie these past two weeks. Well, kind of a cowgirl-zombie-thing. I’ll explain. It starts with a “HEE-YAW!!!” That’s the sound of my trying to make my pipe organ software work for me. I have been a metaphorical whip-wielder.

See, authentic pipe organ sounds are not the most demanded digital samples in the world. Strings, yes. Drums, yes. Even non-pipe organ sounds like Hammonds, yes. But no, not so much demand for true-form cathedral pipe organ sounds. More programs are appearing (thank goodness) with options to pull each stop separately, as an organist would while sitting at a console (not just pre-programmed combinations of stops). I bought a promising company’s pipe organ software last year, but it is still not available as a plug-in for Logic or Pro Tools. So, I’ve had to be a creative wrangler to get this RAM-sucking software to work for me. H’yawwwwwww!!!!!!! But, oh, how it has exhausted me. Rrrrrrrrrrrrr. (That’s a zombie sound.) (And it doesn’t help that my cat, Molly Macabre the Halloween Cat, wakes me up before 6 every morning, demanding both her wet food and to be let out.)

I’m grateful to my engineer, Gaynor Brunson, for helping me figure out this software last year. And to my friend Tracy Taylor for helping me get it going again for this year. These last two weeks I’ve been recording organ audio tracks at Tracy’s, using his big desktop to run the organ software and my laptop as the MIDI controller. Quick tech lesson: MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and can be thought of like the little knobs in a music box. The knobs are created to strum in just the right sequence. They will strum whatever set of chimes is placed against them. MIDI makes those little knobs in digitized form. And they will play whatever digital sounds are run through them. For those of whom I’m fooling, I am not the most computer-savvy catwoman out there. I am finding, however, that when computer things go wrong, I learn computer workings better and better.

So, it’s fun to get smarter and smarter with computers, because a lot of things have gone wrong. MIDI is old technology and I’m baffled that it still has bugs. It gets stuck … a lot … and I have to hit “stop” and “record” in quick succession more than I’d like to. Also, because this organ software is relatively primitive for my recording needs, I’ve had to do a lot of experimenting and back-and-forths with recording audio tracks on my own and dumping them into Gaynor’s Pro Tools. But I’ll wrap up this paragraph by saying, All Hail the Flash Drive!!!

I’m sorry to shatter the illusion for anyone who thought that I record in a cathedral. I would, indeed, love to do this. Maybe someday I will, if I have the money for such a feat of mic-ing. What is great about recording pipe organ through MIDI, though, is that I can be a total control freak about the sound, and produce it more like a rock CD (classical organ CDs tend to sound distant; I like it a little more in-your-face). One foot in the classical world. One foot in the rock world. One hand in the folk world. One hand in the cookie jar.

The software I own was recorded dry (right up against each pipe with no hall sound), so when I work with Gaynor, we can control how much reverb to slap on. I also love to watch how he does EQ. He’s so good with all of those “tweaky” things. I call his studio “Gaynor’s School of Rock” because I learn so much as I sit next to him at the controls, day after day, observing and asking questions. He’s so kind and patient to explain things to me. Now and then he lets me take over the controls to try it out. I record on my own through Logic on my laptop, but my use of it is light and limited, so to sit next to an expert at work on a humungous system is so enlightening. I’m a control freak with every detail of my music, so it’s nice to receive this training day by day so my control freak-ism can deepen. Yes! Plus, Gaynor’s hair is long and curly. How can one not feel in good hands with a long-haired music dude? Ok, ok, there are plenty of long-haired fakes out there, but Gaynor is the real thing, so his hair only helps his case.

What I’d like to know is … how was Davy Jones’ pipe organ recorded? When I first saw Pirates 2 in the theater and his first pipe organ scene came onscreen, I can’t tell you how my eyelids half dropped in dreaminess and how my smile stretched and shone. I thought, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh yeeeeaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.” What a great sound! It was fierce but alluring, really catching the character, the essence of his particular pipes. Are these among the secrets at Skywalker Ranch? Can anyone out there tell me? Please? I’ve tried some networking connections to contact these people, but to no avail so far.

Either way, I am the hee-yaw-ing cowgirl and I will keep on driving my herd of pipes forward (or should I say “heard” of pipes … bah harrr). Sometimes I’m a tired zombie, but sometimes I’m a T-I-double-guh-RRRRRRRR! When Gaynor and I get a good mix of a song going, I often yelp, howl, giggle, smack some ledge, and bounce in my chair next to him because it’s so thrilling for the sounds in my head to become translated into reality. (I’ve tried to be cool and chill … but I’m just not. I’ve accepted it. I’m just not cool. I’m a puppy dog, complete with wagging tail, lolling tongue, and rapid panting … and I love to give friends nose kissies.)

I’m excited to be getting closer to delivering this CD to you. The song topics cover ghosts, witches, cats, bats, vampires, centuries-old traditions, reverencing the dead, and a sort of Halloween-in-space song. I’m really hoping that it will add an enchanting, quality spirit of celebrating to your autumn.