Spring 2005


“The River” Coffeehouse

Once again, in March, I performed for Bristol Christian Fellowship’s “The River” coffeehouse in Bristol, Vermont. Daniel Hamilton, who is also a great painter, opened with a set of his original songs. My set included dulcimer pieces and some songs with guitar, including “Eve’s Song” which I’d finished just in time. Several years before I’d started working on a song about what it might have been like to experience the Fall — particularly exploring separation not only from God, but from self and others as well. I’m somewhat more articulate in prose than in lyrics, so it was difficult to put these ideas into something that would work as a song. I think it’s done, now, though.

In the cool of the day, we would walk together
In the garden, by the river: the Lord, and Adam and me
In the cool of the day

His voice came to me from across a great gulf
Distorted and strange, though familiar
He said, “Where are you?”
I answered: my eyes are opened, I see that I am a stranger

To myself, to my lover, to my Lord
I’m ashamed, ’cause I’m naked; I’m afraid, so I’m hiding
From myself, from my lover, from you, my Lord

In the cool of the day… in the cool of the day

I’m still fleeing, withdrawn and defensive
Still keeping my distance from everyone, but
I’m so lonely

I’m still fleeing from the garden where I walked with God
But in his grace, I know he’s leading my steps
And I’ll walk with him again —
In the cool of the day

© 2005 Marcy Prochaska, all rights reserved

Thanks to the Hamiltons, for having me back; to the Orvises, for their gracious hospitality.


Film Scoring

In March, I also started working on my first film score. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Plantations were working on a joint production of several short nature films, to feature narration, natural sound, and music.

The film I worked on is about the Wildflower Gardens, one of many natural areas on campus. The piece takes the viewer through the seasons of the gardens, with great footage of plants, birds, and other wildlife. Scenes with water punctuate the film and provide natural transitions from season to season.

I chose pieces that would fit the mood of each season’s footage. Spring begins with Praeludium I (Bach), then summer features Hewlett (O’Carolan), Easter Thursday, an old English D minor tune, carries the piece from fall into winter, and my original upbeat Third Street Market welcomes the return to spring. For the credits, I chose Menuet (Quantz), arranged by Carrie Crompton.

The next step was to arrange the music to fit the film — adding a little bit to the Praeludium and Third Street Market, and cutting Easter Thursday and the Menuet a bit short. Then I met with the director and one of the sound engineers to see if they liked what I’d come up with.

In May we recorded all five pieces in one long session, I think from noon or 1:00 to 5:00 or so. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to record that much in so short a time, considering how long I’ve spent on my own recording projects. Pyramid was a lovely studio to work in, despite its unappealing exterior and complete lack of parking. I thought the mic they used was particularly cool — a wooden ball, about the size of a person’s head, with the mics where the ears would be.

What I especially love about being in a studio is the amazing sound. Recordings never sound as good at home as they do on good studio equipment. I guess that’s why some people spend so much money on good home systems.

The Lab is not sure yet if they will offer this film for sale to individuals or not, but if you’re in the area, stop by and you can see it in their theatre.

Two Firsts

This morning, I attended the debut screening of the film I scored. This afternoon, I made my first experiment in editing and mixing tracks all by myself.

Instead of the usual Cornell Plantations luncheon, this year they had a mystery presentation followed by a lunch reception. The husband of a particular lady who has been very involved with both Cornell Plantations and the Lab of Ornithology made a donation to make this film project — a collaboration between the two entities — possible. Everyone managed to keep the project a secret from her until the presentation today.

A variety of folks associated with the two groups assembled in a campus theatre to see the two films in high definition. First was the one I scored, “The Wildflower Garden,” followed by the one Laurie Hart scored, “The Sanctuary.” Both are short nature films focusing on particular areas around campus. Natural sound is the primary score, with a narrative and an underlying bed of music.

It was pretty exciting to see my name in the credits.

The lunch afterwards was quite nice, too. Cornell makes good food. I didn’t get to speak with Laurie or the videographer David Brown who had hired me, but I sat with the woman who was next to me at the screening and another woman I knew from our old church, and I got to talk with yet another woman I knew from a local jam session.

(It feels odd to refer to people as “woman” — seems so old. “Lady” would be worse, “girl” doesn’t seem to fit, and “gal” is just silly…)

Not long after I got home, I started experimenting with The Hanshaw Trio’s recordings of a medley of “Star of Munster” and “Old Copper Plate.” Take 8 was my favorite, but I had a bum note in the middle, so I wanted to see if I could replace that section with the same section from another take. For my first attempt at editing, I thought I did a pretty good job, although I need more practice to really understand what I’m doing and how to do it better. I’ll also need to do the edit differently; the tempos between the two takes were different enough that the edit isn’t smooth. I could try taking the section from another take with a more similar tempo, or make the section longer (going to a natural transition point) or shorter (just the bum note) in order to make the tempo change less significant.

I also learned how to draw an envelope to control the volume faders automatically, and I learned how to mix down the three tracks to a stereo track.


Film Scoring

I’ve been hired to provide music for a short nature film that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is putting together. The video is mostly plants, with some birds and animals and water, running through the seasons from summer to spring.

The first stage was negotiating a fee — I have no experience in film scoring whatsoever, so I had no idea how much time it would take or how else to decide on a fee. I ended up asking other musicians and researching a bit online, then deciding what seemed reasonable given my standard performance fees, the estimated time involved, the kind and length of the project, and the kind of organization the lab is. Whew.

Once the lab accepted my fees, I met with the person I’d been in contact with, David Brown, who did the camera work for the film. He showed me a draft of the film and introduced me to other folks working on it. A week or so later I got a copy of the film to work with.

One day I watched it, looking for the water scenes that would mark musical and seasonal transitions, and paying attention to the moods of each section. Another day I brainstormed ideas of tunes for each section, and started trying them out along with the video. A few more days of this, and I was ready to show the team what I’d come up with. I was excited because I thought the music I’d chosen worked well with the film, but since I’ve never done this before I was also a little nervous, uncertain what the lab folks would think.

This afternoon, I set up the dulcimer in David’s “Cave” (a small office full of audio-visual equipment), David got the film running, and he and Bob (one of the engineers) listened while I played the two options for the first section: “Praeludium I” (Bach) and “Winter East and Kensington” (an original). David immediately liked the original piece, which was gratifying, but Bob suggested the Praeludium would be easier to work with. They want to include natural sound, and it’s still up in the air whether the music will be simply lowered in volume during the natural sounds, or turned off altogether. I suggested that while the Praeludium has a nicely repetitive rhythmic pattern, it has more drastic modulations, whereas the original piece follows a repeating chord progression and only has one key change. We decided why not record both and then see which works better with the natural sound.

What a relief! They liked it. In fact, at one point David said he was having a hard time not jumping up and down, he was so excited. Very nice.

The rest of the session went similarly. I’d chosen “Hewlett” (O’Carolan) for the summer-to-fall section and my own “Third Street Market” for the final spring section (fun because David had first heard me playing at that market). For the fall-to-winter section, I had two options again: “Easter Thursday” or “Menuet” (Quantz). Both guys liked “Easter Thursday” for that section, and we decided to use “Menuet” for the credits. Carrie Crompton, whose version of “Menuet” I play, will be pleased; when I asked her permission to use the arrangement in this project, she mentioned she was a birder and a fan of the Cornell Lab.

Well — a good meeting! Made my day.