No such thing as objective

This fourth day we began with “The Wexford Carol,” the second half of the medley beginning with “Noel Nouvelet.” I’ve been practicing these parts a lot, and all that hard work at home translated into less difficulty in the studio. The arrangement begins with both hands playing melody an octave apart, followed by an ornamented version. Next is a section with echoes, and the final section has a mostly sixths harmony and a bass part.

All that was done before lunch. So the next question was whether to go home really early or to try “He Shall Feed His Flock,” which until this week I hadn’t played since last Christmas season. I did work pretty hard on it Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, making arrangement decisions and practicing them, but I wasn’t entirely sure it was ready to record. Still, I decided to stay and give it a try.

I like the intro, using my yarn-wrapped hammers for a soft, mellow effect. At the closing chord, I repeat the intro part as a conclusion. In between, I did the main part with separated hands; the left plays melody while the right plays three-note chords. The form is AAB twice through, and I vary the ornamentation a bit on the repeated sections. Still, I’m not sure there’s enough difference between the first AAB and the second, and I’m not convinced I played the right-hand chords as well as I’d have liked… I’d prefer them to be less heavy on the downbeats.

As we listened to the whole thing, after recording that last section, both of us seemed unconvinced. Matt said he was still too much “in” it, thinking of all the editing and the various short sections. I felt that it didn’t seem to flow, and it didn’t even seem very pretty. Maybe that’s because I’d had to record sections too short to feel natural and expressive, and maybe also because I hadn’t practiced enough to play both accurately and expressively.

It’s hard to listen objectively right after recording. It’s hard to listen objectively when you’re feeling uncertain and discouraged to begin with.

Actually I think it’s impossible to listen objectively at all.

There’s so much to influence how something will sound to you, from external or physical factors like recent events, temperature, or your state of health, to internal factors like your current self-image or level of anxiety. So I think I’ll plan to listen to “He Shall Feed His Flock” several times over the next week or two before making a final evaluation of it. Meanwhile, I can also be thinking of alternatives: practice more; add guitar, psaltery, or recorder to part(s) of it; record the left and right hands separately, maybe even with a softer hammer in the right hand…

My next session is scheduled for July 29 and 30; besides finalizing “He Shall Feed His Flock,” I’d like to prepare two or three other pieces. My trio, newly renamed the Hanshaw Trio and featuring Jerry Drumheller on fiddle and Craig Higgins on guitar, is also preparing two medleys; we plan to record them late in August.