Archive for May, 2009

Bill Porter – Recording Engineer

May 19, 2009
Bill Porter

Bill Porter

I have been reading a three-part series by John Rumble on Bill Porter, the engineer for a number of the Everly’s recordings [“Behind the Board: Talking with Studio Engineer Bill Porter,” Journal of Country Music, vol 18., no. 1 (1996): 27-40; vol. 18, no. 2 (1996): 20-30; vol. 19, no. 1 (1997): 24-31]. Since those articles are not available online, I will suggest Michael Fremer’s interview with Porter to get a sense of the expertise and value that he brought to the recording sessions. You can also see pictures of Porter with the Everlys. Porter first worked with the Everlys on “(Til) I Kissed You” at the RCA studio in 1959, shortly after he joined the studio. He describes that session as rather stressful, the result of new equipment, incorrect levels, exhaustion, and fiery personalities. In spite of his inauspicious beginning as a recording engineer, he went on to work on hundreds of top pop and country hits, including Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. As a faculty member at various institutions, he was responsible for designing a college-level curriculum in audio engineering.

This is a test

May 12, 2009

I just downloaded the WordPress application for the iPhone. This is just a test. In a way I can’t imagine I will use it very much since writing, for me, is a process that involves a lot of typing followed by a lot of the backspace key followed by some more writing and so on. A hard way to go on a tiny keyboard using one finger.

You can add an existing picture or take a new one. You don’t have control of its placement in the post, though. The picture is attached to the bottom of the post.

There doesn’t appear to be a way to add links or any other media. That, to me, is part of the beauty of blogging is the connections.

It’s also not obvious at first how to publish. If you are in the editor, hit save then click on the name of the post then choose status. Select published. I would have preferred a Publish Now kind of button.

I think the WordPress folks have some work to do here.

A New Force

May 5, 2009

I grew up in North Carolina and heard dulcimer playing most of my life. I even took it up for a time. All the players I ever saw/heard play placed the dulcimer on their laps. They often used a pick to strum and a small flat piece of word to fret the melody strings. The primary model for this style, of course, is Jean Ritchie, as seen below.

Today I encountered an entirely different style of playing and I feel like a whole new world opened up to me. It started when I heard a recording this morning by Quintin Stephens called “Event Horizon” from his CD Under the Porch Light. I’m not even sure how it ended up in my iTunes library, but when it came up on shuffle, I was intrigued. I listened to a few 30-second clips on iTunes then went off to Google to learn more. Here’s a video of him playing a tune he wrote called “Thunder Walk.”

Notice how the dulcimer is hanging from his neck and he is standing to play. The instrument also has a pickup mic and he may even have effects pedals because he reaches forward with his foot in that signature way that guitarists do when pressing one. He also strums hard and fast, not in the gentle way of Jean Ritchie. The dulcimer also appears to have six strings rather than the standard four. But what really caught my attention was the way that he frets. His hand looks stretched and awkward, but he is certainly achieving some very interesting melodic and chordal sounds. Gone is the constant drone from the old-style fiddle and folk tunes that typically follow this instrument everywhere.

I did a bit more searching and discovered Robert Force. He seems to be one of the earlier players to experiment with new ways of playing the lap dulcimer. Here he demonstrates how to play a tune he wrote called “Wellyn.”

In particular I am intrigued by his barre chords and how he plays a melody from that position. Though he is sitting in this video, he does not lay the instrument flat, and in fact, other videos show him standing to play with the dulcimer hanging from the strap around his neck.

I just might have to pull out my dulcimer and give it a try.

Worst Slide Story

May 1, 2009

Totally off-topic but thoroughly amusing: Worst Slide Story.