Posted by: normanlgreen | January 31, 2012

Dream, January 31, 2012, recording session, fretless tourtoise bass


Dream, home, 6:05 am

As part of a larger musical project, my brother and I have been offered some studio time to make a recording. Neither of us being studio musicians, I am dubious. I have not brought a six string, so will have to work with an unfamiliar instrument. My brother is jazzed by the prospect – he drives us to the old, repurposed commercial district of Bellingham. The project has been organized by my friend David, who is a lifelong professional musician. He has arranged for the studio and is presumably underwriting the time. We get to the studio at midday – just as the woman who owns the business arrives. She lets us into the dark room. Strangely, it has triple glass windows facing the street. There is no traffic, so noise is not yet a problem. Various electric pianos stand about the room. My brother walks up to and leans into a white instrument and plays an aggressive guitar lick from Siberian Kahtru. Since the instrument is not amplified, I can barely hear the hammer strike the sounding metal within.

The studio’s owner recognizes me. She looks slightly familiar, early sixties, coiffured blond sweep of hair. I tell her that I have not brought an acoustic. She looks about, but neither of us finds one. She asks If I want to work with a bass (she pronounces the name like that of the breed of fish, as a weak joke). I see a new Precision on a stand in a corner, but on my way toward it, I find a strange custom-made fretless bass built of a single, wide, and wildly shaped plank, The wood has been stained a deep redwood color, and the strings are spaced with an inch and a half between them. As it is fretless, the player can slide between and bend notes more easily – with practice. I opt for this sure-fire failure. Picking it up, I test it for tuning and find the G string flat. There are lighter colored wood strips across the neck to indicate the approximate positions of half steps. I look about for a likely bass amp and cable with which to patch-in.

A young electric guitarist, a house musician, has joined the session. He and my brother are working on their own business without coordination. None of the amps seem suitable. I ask the woman for help. She directs me towards and old hi-fi console with a blond wood cabinet.  There is a curly black guitar cable on a chair.

I plug this into the bass guitar, which is now no longer made of wood, but of a dried tortoise shell of about a yard long.  As I strike notes, the friction of the strings passing the belly of the tortoise begins to peel away a layer of skin.  The tortoise is still alive and living in the shell.  I take him to the back garden to trade him for another instrument.  I try to turn him gently onto his stomach so that he can crawl away to heal, but I lose my grip and drop him into a stone-filled hole at the foot of a fence post.  The precision bass that I spotted earlier his now standing in a corner of the garden and has white barnacles growing on its body, moss has grown on its neck.

waking words: the note in passing

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