Last month, I uploaded my first instrumental track. It was a challenge to let go of the sense of narrative that comes when you add vocals to a song. I also announced that I intended to make one song each month in 2015. And today, I’m keeping up with my goal and for February, uploading my first attempt at a rendition.
I have always been a big fan of cover songs. When I was in high school, I discovered “punk covers” (I’m pretty sure that’s not really New Found Glory, but that’s what it was called on Napster, too). There was something kind of amazing about taking a song that people otherwise derided (like boy bands and 80’s songs) and twist them until they sounded like something I ‘should’ like. Teenage logic, whatever. There was a better word for the music I was enjoying: renditions.
Musical renditions are like the difference between two photographs of the same person–and two photographs, one an approximate copy of the other. The photo up at the top is like a “cover” too. It’s a near exact recreation of Paul Simon’s photo from the cover of The Essentials album. Renditions, on the other hand, maintain some crucial soul of the original, but honor all the experiences and expressive intuitions of the new person interpreting it. They are also a way that creative people can honor their influences and idols. Or to just say, “yeah, I really listened to this song a lot, I need to do something with it.”
I don’t think my desire to produce a rendition of Paul Simon’s Kodachrome (don’t click that link, he really got it right the first time) was as lofty with integrity as all of that. It sprang from a distant conversation with my good friend and confidante, Felipe, that we should learn the song on the guitar and upload it to YouTube–you know, cause we’re photographers. Life was busy and that didn’t happen, but Felipe brought the inspiration back early this month when he learned the song on the guitar himself. In the end, I preferred the cleanliness of the digital sound and liked the contrast against the organic sound of the original, and decided not to include the guitar track. But Felipe deserves significant credit for the inspiration and encouragement.
In the process of recording Kodachrome, I began developing a process for translating existing music into midi very efficiently. As a result, another rendition is in the works for some day soon. It’s so much fun to rework other artist’s music, and to sing melodies I already know and love, getting back to writing my own is going to be an uphill battle. I can feel it.