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Structures from Silence - recording methods
Old 25th August 2016
  #1
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D_Davis's Avatar
 

Structures from Silence - recording methods

Hello, Steve.

First of all, Structures from Silence is my favorite ambient album. It's the bellweather for which I strive.

Can you talk a little bit about the recording process? How much post-production was used? Was it all done on the OB-8?

Also, can you talk a little bit about the metaphysical / spiritual / non-technical side of your process. There is a quality to Structures that is quite moving on a deeper level. The sounds seem to breathe and live within an organic space. Do you practice any kind of meditation before / after / during the recording process?

Thanks.
Old 28th August 2016
  #2
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Steve Roach's Avatar
 

Quote:
Can you talk a little bit about the recording process? How much post-production was used? Was it all done on the OB-8?
The first track Reflections in Suspension was recorded live to 2 track, Quiet Friend was recorded using a Teac 4 track.
These pieces used Arp Solina, Roland Jupiter 4, Arp 2600 and Arp Seq, OB8 and DSX, Effects were minimal, the Roland Space Echo was in there as well. This was around 1982-3

Since this was the early 80s the recording gear I was using at the home studio in the early Timeroom was the Teac line, I used a model 5 mixer, 12 channels maybe, and the classic Teac 4 track.
The pieces were recorded over the course a year and without the idea these would become the album Structures From Silence.
Once I created the title track, it was clear these all fit together emotionally.
To create a congruent sound I added some spacial enhancements in the final stage – Lexicon 224 reverb and Eventide 949 Harmonizer on the Reflection piece to open the stereo field up a bit. I mixed Quiet Friend in the same way. These mixes were performed at Michael Stearns studio who lived near by in Culver City at the time.

The title track Structure From Silence was different story. This was originally created with the Oberheim System, I used the OB8 and the DSX sequencer to record (midi) my performance in one pass.
As I mention in the liner notes I would then let this play (The DSX sequencer and OB8) in loop mode day and night over the course of a few months. After living with the music in this way I was fully saturated by the form and was drawn towards making these micro subtle changes in the the sound and tempo as its was playing back live.

Eventually I set up a recording session in Santa Monica with Kevin Braheny as the engineer. This was film composer Gary Chang's studio, equipped with a selection of high end pro analog recording gear of the day. I borrowed a second OB8, loaded my same sounds and added this to the final session. In the control room I set up the main OB8 with the DSX and its sequence I was living with for a few months. Along its side was the second OB8. The 30 min piece was then created in one pass as I was interacting with the main OB8-DSX, breathing life into the sound mantra, shaping with the micro subtle changes I spoke of and also adding some distant harmonies on the second OB8. The Lexicon 224, the holy grail at the time was the only processing.
The piece was recorded just as you hear it, direct to 2 track - 30 ips Studer machine.

Quote:
Also, can you talk a little bit about the metaphysical / spiritual / non-technical side of your process. There is a quality to Structures that is quite moving on a deeper level. The sounds seem to breathe and live within an organic space. Do you practice any kind of meditation before / after / during the recording process?
Early on it became clear to me that breath awareness was important for the spaces I wanted to create. I was thinking of how wind instrument players must connect to their sound and instrument through the breath and how essential this is. I applied this sense to my approach to working with synths,

For me the entire experience of creating in the studio is about focused awareness, meditation is one word to describe this but it goes beyond what one might think of as meditation.
When building soundworlds and pieces, carving on modular zones over hours and programming my sounds into the synths, an expanded state of deeper listening is fully alive.

The infusion of this kind focus into the sounds I create is what its all about, opening up pathways of perception and pulling you in deeper to find something new. This is what keeps me returning to the well of possibilities, that’s been the attraction to electronic music since my early days.
Hear now...
Steve Roach: Structures From Silence
Old 28th August 2016
  #3
Gear Guru
 
lucey's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Roach View Post
Early on it became clear to me that breath awareness was important for the spaces I wanted to create. I was thinking of how wind instrument players must connect to their sound and instrument through the breath and how essential this is. I applied this sense to my approach to working with synths,

For me the entire experience of creating in the studio is about focused awareness, meditation is one word to describe this but it goes beyond what one might think of as meditation.
When building soundworlds and pieces, carving on modular zones over hours and programming my sounds into the synths, an expanded state of deeper listening is fully alive.

The infusion of this kind focus into the sounds I create is what its all about, opening up pathways of perception and pulling you in deeper to find something new. This is what keeps me returning to the well of possibilities, that’s been the attraction to electronic music since my early days.
Hear now...
Steve Roach: Structures From Silence
Great reply, thank you.

Intention ... listening ... discovery .... process creativity
Old 29th August 2016
  #4
Gear Nut
Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Roach View Post
The title track Structure From Silence was different story. This was originally created with the Oberheim System, I used the OB8 and the DSX sequencer to record (midi) my performance in one pass.
As I mention in the liner notes I would then let this play (The DSX sequencer and OB8) in loop mode day and night over the course of a few months. After living with the music in this way I was fully saturated by the form and was drawn towards making these micro subtle changes in the the sound and tempo as its was playing back live.

Eventually I set up a recording session in Santa Monica with Kevin Braheny as the engineer. This was film composer Gary Chang's studio, equipped with a selection of high end pro analog recording gear of the day. I borrowed a second OB8, loaded my same sounds and added this to the final session. In the control room I set up the main OB8 with the DSX and its sequence I was living with for a few months. Along its side was the second OB8. The 30 min piece was then created in one pass as I was interacting with the main OB8-DSX, breathing life into the sound mantra, shaping with the micro subtle changes I spoke of and also adding some distant harmonies on the second OB8. The Lexicon 224, the holy grail at the time was the only processing.
The piece was recorded just as you hear it, direct to 2 track - 30 ips Studer machine. Steve Roach: Structures From Silence
I've spent many hours with this track, and hearing you tell the story of its genesis, especially the part about looping it day and night, almost makes me want to dedicate a room in the house to it on endless loop.

It feels a little cheesy, but I really want to thank you for giving it to us.
It is such a calming and rich work. My whole nervous system reacts to it in a manner no other music causes.
Old 30th August 2016
  #5
Gear Addict
 
Blackdog128's Avatar
Very inspiring to get a glimpse of your view of the process! Fascinating. Over the years i've often wondered if you thought at all in terms of traditional compositional criteria like form, structure, motives, etc. (i would guess no)

Btw your Early Man is one of my favorite albums in any genre. Very powerful!
Old 2nd September 2016
  #6
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D_Davis's Avatar
 

Thank so much for the thoughtful response!
Old 5th September 2016
  #7
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robert82's Avatar
Can't tell you how many times my kids fell asleep to Structures, '87 to about '92. Thank you.
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