Creating Blood and Water
Many people have asked me how I compose, or how a recording is created. For me, each composition has its own story and its own process. It is beautiful to observe how each song unfolds and reveals itself. Here is the story of Blood and Water.
It always begins with a quickening. I feel compelled toward something, sometimes to write words, sometimes to compose music. I like very much working with the concept of channeling when I create. That way I don’t get caught up in overanalyzing or intellectually constructing a melody.
The Back Story
I composed the first version of Blood and Water in NYC, probably 30 years ago. I never felt satisfied with the song, but always liked the words for the chorus. “My heart’s made of blood and water, my bones are of sticks and of stones”. A few months ago, I felt compelled to rework these lyrics. So, I went to Ian.
A bit of background about my co-composer, Ian: Ian is extremely creative and capable of coming up with an interesting musical idea at any given moment. He seems to just pull awesome ideas out of the air on demand.
I asked Ian for a melody for the lyrics. He was working at his computer at the time. He picked up his guitar and out came what is now the melody for the chorus. This process took about five minutes.
I was also particularly drawn to the melody we used in Blood and Water, played by Ian on the EWI in the introduction of the song, then again by Ian on guitar in the middle of the song, and finally hummed by Annie at the end of the song. Ian came up with that idea one evening, also in no time at all, and I recorded it, as I do, on my phone. (I have countless musical ideas recorded on my phone; my musical notebook).
What is it about that Melody?
This particular melody captivated me. What is it about that melody? It sounds ancient, poignant, haunting somehow, yet it is so simple. I needed to transcribe it. So, I sat at my piano and began working. What time signature was it in? How to count it?
I was wrapped up in it when, suddenly, as I tried to rewind it to listen again, to my horror I mistakenly deleted the file. I don’t wish to melodramatize, but I panicked! This beautiful music, which spoke to me so deeply, which I loved, gone forever before I could write it down, vanished into thin air, from one second to the next, with one swipe of my finger?! I was in shock and on the verge of distress. It was nowhere on my phone. I checked everywhere, Ian checked everywhere. But, thankfully, not only is Ian creative musically, he also knows his way around computers. Ian and $75 were able to retrieve the deleted file! Thank all involved!!
Once I transcribed the melody, I began to envision the song in its entirety. But I needed more lyrics, so I texted my girlfriend, Ronda. “Send me some words”, I said. I didn’t tell her anything about the theme. I didn’t share the lyrics of the chorus with her, nothing.
And Ronda sent back the lyrics which are now the verses:
“I can’t possess you or make you my own,
together we are yet alone
My gift made of flesh and bone”
“With you I’ve learned how Love’s meant to be,
unspoken, unbroken, and free
Pure and Wild are we”
How perfect is that?!?!? Synchronicity!!!!
It All Starts to Come Together
Another file in my audio notebook contained the chord progression for the verses, albeit in a completely different setting than they exist now in Blood and Water. I then wrote the melody to the verses, created the form of the song, and it was time to record a work version on GarageBand.
I recorded the music we had so far and put down the vocals. I always love adding vocal harmonies to the songs. I stand in front of our livingroom windows overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. And the harmonies come. I love that.
Ian came up with an outline for the bass part, I recorded it, and sent the song off to Amit.
Now it must be said, Amit is a master. He can groove with a power few can rival.
I mean in the entire world.
He is a musician who has a natural feel for rhythm and groove, an innate sense of melody and harmony, as well as an in-depth knowledge of western music, jazz theory, and Hindustani music. I mean, Amit is heavy.
So, needless to say, working with Amit is definitely a blessing! As arranger, Amit comes up with a rhythmic structure which not only complements the music but enriches it.
Since Amit was in Europe at this time, we decided to ask his friend, Walter Sitz, to record the drumset part. Walter is on fire – which you will immediately hear in the recording! Amit recorded the bass part and the guitar solo at the end of the song. He and Walter recorded the tracks outside of Vienna, Austria.
Then it was Annie’s turn. Annie had to finish her part in time for her preparation for the big concert weekend celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Strawbs. So we sent her the bare bones and she recorded her parts at Studio X with Renaissance keyboardist, Rave Tesar.
Next, Ian and I were up. We took the electronic files from Amit and Annie and recorded our parts at SI Studios in NEPA.
When all that was completed, we sent all those files to Randy at Kaleidescope Sound. And early one Sunday morning in April, Amit, Randy, Ian, and I met at Kaleidescope to finish the song. Randy recorded the percussion tracks and the final mix began.
The entire composing and recording process has taken about three full months, maybe more. It has been quite a journey and I am extremely grateful for the high level of creativity and musicianship from everyone involved. I love the way the song came out and feel eveyone’s voice who contributed is present and heard – a true collaboration.
Would I want to record our next album that way, sending files from studio to studio? Well, suffice it to say that next time, given the choice, I would prefer all musicians in one room playing together, smiling at one another, and collaborating in real time!!
On another subject, heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign and also privately! Would you like to be a part of our project, Blood and Water? The Indiegogo campaign ends in just 5 days! Here is the link if you are interested:
We are also accepting checks/money orders for those of you
who would prefer to make a private donation.
Please send to: Dyanne Voegtlin, PO Box 102, Bentonville VA 22610
Thank you all again! Looking forward!!!!