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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Song order

Having grown up musically when record albums were considered art, the order of songs is important to me. I remember June 1, 1967, the world release of Sergeant Pepper's. My buddy Steve Lambert and I rushed to the record shop, got a copy and went home and listened reverently. As the songs unfolded, one to the next without spaces, it felt like entering a mystical trance or an exotic journey. The order was significant—and still is—as the Beatles introduced the listener to people, stories, feelings, and ideas about life and society.

I approached the song order for "At Home" with the same idea. I did an initial list that made sense theoretically. Then Jane and I hooked up my laptop to the stereo and proceeded to listen—and feel—the transitions of one song into another.

It was amazing how things I thought would work simply didn't. The transition was either too much of a stylistic leap, too abrupt a sonic shift—or too much the same. Sometimes we would notice a discordant feeling because the new song was in a slightly different key.

We attended to stylistic movement, tempo shifts, mood changes, and subject matter. There are very quiet, sensitive songs and also very light-hearted, raucous songs. We discovered that rather than bounce between these moods, we had to have the courage to stick with an atmosphere for a number of songs in a row and give the listener time to fully experience that.

It took us about four hours to get something that felt right. By that time our brains were so tired we had to leave it to the next day!

Yesterday we had a final listen and approved the order. I burned a CD with that order and listened to it in the car today (Tuesday), as I drove to Toronto to pick up Jesse at the airport. He just came back from two weeks with his musical cousins Virgil Muir in Halifax and Ashley Condon in PEI.

As I listened to the rough mixes of the songs in order, I started to feel happier and happier. It's working, and I can't wait to share that journey with you.

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