Getting yesterday’s Dollop out was a little mayhemic. I conceived the idea for the George Formby When I’m Cleaning Windows parody upon waking up late morning. I then had to go out for a couple of hours. Upon returning, I started writing the song at 230, and had it finished at 430. I had a bus to catch at 6pm to get me to Sean’s house where I was going for a homemmade curry, which was very nice indeed, incidentally. I would recommend being friends with Sean purely on the basis of the curry alone. I think it’s certainly worth the effort, , in spite of everything else that you have to put up with.
So time was of the essence, and writing the song was only the first stage. I still had to record it and upload it, and I had just over an hour. But it wasn’t quite as simple as just sitting at a microphone and hitting record. Not having a ukulele to hand, and not knowing how to play the instrument even if there was one in the vicinity, I searched Youtube for the instrumental of the song. It was at this moment that I realised that, if I couldn’t find an instrumental version then I would have to try and formulate a plan B. As I launched the YouTube app on my phone, I racked my brain for alternative sulutions if an instrumental could not be found. There wasn’t enough time to write an entire blog post on a completely different subject; that would be ludicrous. I could get my housemate Ben to play it on the guitar; he could probably busk the chords. Or I could load a ukulele sample and play the part on the keyboard. All this would add extra time to proceedings, and time was something that I didn’t really have.
Fortunately I found a Ukulele instrumental of the song on Youtube, courtesy of someone called John Worsfold. The recording quality seemed decent enough, although you can hear him humming along at times, but I didn’t have time to prevaricate, and in such scenarios it’s very much a case of bloggers can’t be choosers, so I recorded the audio straight from Youtube into a new multitrack audio project on my computer.
So now the instrumental track was down, I had about fifty minutes to record, edit and then upload the thing, before sprinting for the 6 O’clock bus. However, it wasn’t quite that simple. When I’d written the song, I’d not followed the actual song structure, I’d just written verses and middle sections as they came to me, therefore the chords didn’t always fit with what I’d written. Consequently, I had to move parts of the ukulele instrumental around. I’ve been using ProTools on the mac for the last 18 months, and it’s only very recently that I’ve come back to Windows and started using reaper, the point essentially being that I wasn’t massively familiar with how to quickly cut bits out of the audio and move them around, whilst getting the audio to align itself with what I was doing. It took much longer than the time I had to get it all aligned properly. This now only left me with twenty minutes to record the vocal, edit and upload.
As listeners to the podcast version of these dollops will know, I record inside a clothes cupboard, as it is acoustically better than recording in an open space. The cupboard is full of clothes, and there is also some bed sheets which hang down behind the cupboard. My room is only small, and the bed is only a a few centre metres away from the cupboard, making entering it quite difficult. The difficulty is further compounded by the fact that there are wires all over the place. This means that I have to get into the cupboard in the correct way, or risk becoming strangled by wires. I am also wearing headphones, so it’s very easy for the headphone wires to get caught around any of the other wires. I can’t afford to let this happen because I’m in a precarious enough position as it is, given that I’m trying to carefully get into the cupboard while carrying my laptop computer and electronic Braille display which is connected by a USB wire. There is a chair just inside the tiny clothes cupboard.
You can’t really walk into the cupboard, because the space is so small; there is a chair, and then a microphone stand with a microphone straight in front of it, with just enough room between to sit. So I have to sort of swing myself into the cupboard and on to the chair, while still holding onto the laptop and USB connected Braille display whilst being careful not to choke myself or hang myself on the many protruding wires.
There isn’t enough room to have the audio computer’s keyboard in the cupboard with me, so if I make a mistake and need to go back and record again, I have to lean right out of the cupboard, and hang off the chair, lying on my front in order to access the keyboard which is outside the cupboard on my bed. This gives the recording process an extra level of jeopardy, as if I make a mistake, I’m going to have to flip onto my front and hang from the chair as I stretch out of the cupboard, then start over again.
Given that I’d only just hastily written this song and I’d never read it before, this rigmarole happened quite a lot. Eventually I got two decent takes, which was a pretty good achievement baring in mind I was rather dizzy during much of the recording, given that I’d been frequently flipping onto my front and hanging off a chair, which arguably doesn’t provide the best mindset for a performance.
By now it was 545. I had about ten minutes to edit the two takes together,, upload it to the server, publish the blog and update the Rss feed for Itunes and the other podcast providers. I knew that this was an impossible task. Even someone as gifted as me couldn’t pull this off. I’d have to quickly edit the file, then save it to a hard drive, bundle my laptop into a bag and do the uploading and publishing on the bus, relying on tethering my laptop to my phone’s Internet connection.
Again, not being familiar with this new audio programme, I found the process of cutting and pasting between the two decent takes very awkward and cumbersome. I’d got 50 % of the song right in each of the two takes, and fortunately they combined to make a fairly well delivered complete take. But as soon as I pasted one bit of audio from one take on top of the incorrect take, the two takes would blend together rather than the new audio replacing the old audio.
It was at this moment that Ben came into my room, all ready to go out. It was time to leave for the bus. If I set off now then I would have failed the challenge, and my 365 consecutive daily Dollops project would have ended after just sixteen days. The doubters would take off their boots and put on their dancing shoes. I told Ben that he could get the bus if he liked, but that I had to finish this. I would get a taxi to Sean’s as soon as I’d finished. Fortunately I am blessed with very understanding friends, and rather than being angry that I’d held up his and everyone else’s plans, checked the time table for the next bus which was leaving in forty-five minutes.
I had been thrown a lifeline. I did feel quite guilty though. I hadn’t actually shouted at Ben, but I was shouting at the computer, and so when I told him that I wasn’t going to get on the bus I probably did sound quite angry. Would this challenge result in the dismantling of all my friendships? But I didn’t have time to ponder such points.
I think my brain had sort of seized up under the pressure of trying to edit in zero minutes. Fortunately, this new grace period seemed to calm my nerves and I remembered how to get the computer to do what I wanted it to do, well sort of. I managed to crudely splice the two takes together. It wasn’t the perfect take and the edits weren’t particularly slick, but at least I’d made a complete take.
I then had to record a very quick spoken introduction to the song. I didn’t even get in the cupboard as there wasn’t time to take on that precarious task, so I just leaned into the cupboard and delivered the introduction as close to the mic as I could get from outside the cupboard. I then rendered the audio to MP3, put it on a USB hard drive, threw my laptop into a bag and joined a harassed housemate at the door ready to run for the bus.
We just made the bus, and I spent the journey writing up the introduction for the blog post and published it to the website. But I couldn’t get FTP working over my mobile internet connection in order to upload the file. I would have to wait until we got to Sean’s house before I could do that bit. I’d already kept everyone waiting an hour, and now I was going to have to be anti-social for the first ten minutes of the evening as I tried to upload the audio to the server. And what if it didn’t work? Surely then I’d have to just give up? I couldn’t get a taxi home so that I could upload it? This project realy had the potential to test my friendships to their limit.
Then I realised I hadn’t even had a chance to listen to the song in its entirety. I’d just cobbled a load of edits together and just had to assume that it had worked, having not had time to check. I nervously listened to the file on the bus, and fortunately it had worked. The clumsy edits weren’t too bad, all things considered.
When we arrived at Sean’s I apologised for our lateness and then for my anti-social behaviour as I used Sean’s WIFI to upload the audio and code the RSS feed to get the podcast updated for Itunes. And then I had lots of beer and delicious homemade curry in the company of friends who’d been kind enough to support and tolerate my ridiculous analness. And that, along with the ability to make great curry and provide beer, are the qualities I most value in a friend; especially the curry and beer.
I Hope this Dollop wasn’t too geeky
for you. I thought it might be interesting to give you a glimpse into what happens as a result of taking on such a challenge, but now I’ve written all these words I am not so sure it will be particularly interesting for you to read. I think that this might be my longest Dollop yet, but it’s certainly not the best. But that is kind of the beauty of doing these daily digital Dollops. There is no knowing what each day will bring. One day it will be a George Formby parody, and the next it will be a lengthy geeky ramble.
If you missed the George Formby parody then you can download it here.
Back tomorrow, hopefully whilst managing to still keep all my friends. Thanks for reading. You made it to the end, and that means I officially love you.