26 April 2007

[bits] Mancini 1975–Audacity Is Priceless

787 So, I've been working on my latest obsession, hinted at twice; I am editing a piece of music. I didn't know I'd go that direction, but passion leads you to strange places sometimes.

My rediscover of the 1976 KATU-produced short film This is Oregon at the For Portlanders Only website revealed a serendipitous discovery; the name of the tune the images are synched to. As noted one or two entries back, that tune is a Mancini tune, "Symphonic Soul", the title track from his 1975 album Symphonic Soul (I repeat that because I love the look of an italicized title with such interestingly shaped letters. Especially the S. Mmmm, S...anyway!).

Thanks to Everyday Music (the only damn' music store you'll ever need) we were able to obtain a copy of Symphonic Soul, and was surprised by more than merely how unlike my perceptions of your average Mancini the piece was. Credited to "Henry Mancini and his Concert Orchestra", the album (re-released on CD in 2005 by BMG) is a brief one, containing merely 9 tracks of music, the longest one (a tune called "Butterfly") clocking in at a brief 4' 35". The rest of the album (with a seductively updated "Peter Gunn") is low key but feels very experimental, at least for the day, with tunes titled "Soul Saga (Song of the Buffalo Soldier)" and "African Symphony". Amongst the credited soloists are the mononomial "Mayuto", credited with the African finger piano.

This is a really interesting album, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Two-Thirds of a Song

The most surprising thing about the title tune is that it's shorter than the version KATU's film used. If you've seen the short or listened to it (here's the link again) you know the pattern; it scans rather like a pop tune, with an intro, what I call a "first verse", a crescendo (what I think of as the "chorus"), a reiteration of the verse and chorus, a "bridgey" leading into another "crescendoey" section bringing the whole piece home.

But that middle section–the one that repeats the first verse and chorus–don't seem to be on the original piece, if the re-release is faithful to the original. The duration of the song on the album is a mere 2'27"; the version in This is Oregon is closer to 4'.

I was a little startled but not dismayed. After all, it is a fine piece of music. Anyway, for some reason, instead of thinking that I'd just have to like it as is I got it in my head that I could somehow import the music and edit it into the way I remembered it. And this is how I got to Audacity.

How Audacious And Free

I'd like to introduce everybody to Audacity. It's a sound file editor that's surprisingly complete and nimble. And, it's free–free as in you don't pay for it, and free as in Open Source. With the addtion of a plugin (also found on the site) you can export MP3s. It reads AIFF, WAV, AU, and Ogg Vorbis (which is a fun format just to say) files and exports as same, and will import MP2 and MP3 files with another plugin. For the tyro and basic self-producer, it's just the thing to kludge together your own sound files.

Once the interface is learnt it's amazingly easy to do basic editing. Highlight the area you want copied or cut, cut out, place the selection point somewhere else in the file, paste. Done. I have an almost passable version (what I call the KATU edit) of "Symphonic Soul"...it needs a little more work, mostly getting the selection timing right (I'm just off by a fraction of a second or two on either end). It's a learning process.

Another nice thing I found out was that in the extensive HTML help system, there are a lot of terms and concepts your average sound engineer and sound geek should know about–reverb, lambda calculus, &c &c. This program could help a professional get their job done. Now, I'm no Ben Burtt, but I'm more smart on acoustics now than I used to be, which can't be a bad thing.

Anywhoozle, you'll want to download Audacity if you want to bash around with sound files for play or for serious. Windows and Mac. No cost, no obligation, no salesman will call. And it's all right here.

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Iv said...

Yes, you're absolutelly right about Audacity, I use it, well... for a long time and it's great.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

It's amazing what you can do with it-its a powerful application for being free (naturally) and small (well, I was expecting a huge honking binary, much bigger than this anyway).

It's also very approachable for the amateur.