"Watershed"

Today’s Creation for NaCreSoMo: an extempore a cappella cover excerpt of Vienna Teng’s “Watershed”.

Everything in this piece was sung by me (recorded by my poor laptop microphone). The only editing I did was to reuse certain loops and to raise and lower the volume of some tracks—no pitch bending.

Why “Watershed”? Well, it’s funny: originally (two weekends ago) I set out to record an a cappella version of “Radio”—in my opinion, Vienna Teng’s most technically ambitious song so far. “Radio” deliberately sets you on edge, and so I can’t really listen to it over and over again, but it still blows me away. I had ideas to fit in a lot of the incidental sounds and harmony lines as a cappella voices, but unfortunately, the chorus of “Radio” is in something like 7/4—possibly multiple time signatures; I’m still not sure1—and I just couldn’t get a recording I was satisfied with. The repeated recording of singing and percussion was starting to blow out my voice, and I called it quits and did something else instead.

I didn’t really have an immediate solution to the “Radio” problem, but during the last week “Watershed” has put itself in my head instead. “Watershed” is one of the songs I know fairly well from memory, and one that actually fits fairly well in my vocal range. It’s not one of my “favorites”, in that it’s neither a song that I listen to over and over nor a song that’s acquired some personal meaning, but it is atypical and therefore interesting. I like the ideas in it: we are not really prepared for large-scale natural disasters, and though humans may be messing up the Earth in a lot of ways, Earth will go on; it’s humankind that will suffer.

…and it also has that opportunity to show off my bass voice. Heh.

This was about two hours of work, recording and re-recording the melody line (and octave-dropped supporting melody) in GarageBand, then trying various possible background interpretations. I did this completely haphazardly, picking out a particular sound, line, or device from the original and seeing if I could throw it on top of the current mix. Mindful of my difficulties last time, I recorded the percussion almost last; fortunately “Watershed”’s 3/4 time was a little easier to deal with.

There’s a lot missing, both in what I would have done in this part of the song as well as, well, the rest of the song…but I had to take off at the end of those two hours, and didn’t get back until late. I’m fairly happy with the way the first part turned out; a little less so about the second, which still seems a bit “empty” to me. But if I ever come back to this, I’d probably do it “properly”: coming up with actual vocal lines ahead of time to match the different instrument lines in the original, rather than just trying random things and hoping it would all work.

Ferrard (Carson’s Creative Corner) had “Recessional”; Josephine (Intake) had “House”. Even though it’s not in my usual rotation of “favorite Vienna Teng songs”, today I have at least some of “Watershed”.

P.S. If you’re a Vienna Teng fan, chances are you’ve already heard the album version of “Watershed”…but you might not have heard the StageIt version from last summer. Fortunately Ferrard captured it and put it up on YouTube: perhaps the most exploratory performance of “Watershed” to date. Definitely worth a listen.

  1. But Josephine or Ferrard could probably tell you. ↩︎