Arrival of the Piano

Hugh Carswell / Piano Moving

This is the first week of the final phase of recording for the I'Anson music. Yes, it's been quite a long time coming, but I'm still as passionate about it as I always was. Even more so.

I started the whole production process off by recording the piano parts at Crear on the mainland. Whilst these recordings were used to form the basis of all the music, with other players subsequently adding their performances to my sometimes idiosyncratic playing, the recordings themselves alas suffer from tuning issues and a few technical gremlins which, despite many hours trying, I have been unable to correct. A period of hoping that digital piano samples would suffice was short lived, so nothing for it but to record the parts again.

In the blurb for I'Anson we frequently use the phrase “he wanted to make an honest record and knew the perfect place to do it”. I don't recall those words being particularly difficult to say, but it's interesting that it's actually quite hard to do. To stick to. An honest record. I can't quite explain why but I realised that, for this particular music to be honest to me, all my performances should be recorded here, in the cottage in Jura.

The piano, a 1970s Yamaha, was delivered in October 2011 and has been acclimatising for six months. A piano tuner from Glasgow was persuaded to visit the island last week, did his stuff, and the instrument is now sounding lovely. Time spent experimenting with different microphones, placements and recording equipment has resulted in a sound which sits well with the other instruments. Although I loved the Steinway D at Crear, and we'll still be able to use some of the early recordings made there, recording a smaller instrument here in Jura somehow has more intimacy. I've been getting such enjoyment from playing along with the amazing performances of Steve, Dudley and the Scottish Ensemble. This process has also meant that I've had the opportunity to up my game with the piano parts – much practice has taken place in addition to experimentations with variations in the writing.

When I built the house here, I was frequently frustrated with the slow pace of progress. It took me two years to finish, which I always found a little depressing until I looked at it in terms of man hours. Normal - perhaps you could call them sensible - people may build a house in about six months. But if you count how many men are on site doing the work it will average out to at least four – meaning that my two years pretty much singlehanded wasn't actually too bad in terms of man hours. And in that time I had the opportunity to craft everything exactly as I wanted and learnt new skills in the process. The same is true of the record. Having decided to be hands on in order to create something which I believe to be original and honest, the passing of time while I do all the work and get everything right is somewhat frightening when I think about it. Hopefully, however, the end result will be worth it. I've also been developing new crafts, whether it be scoring string arrangements or learning the intricacies and subtleties of recording – which I hope will be of value in the future. I think it's safe to say that the second I'Anson release will be rather more speedy than the first...

So, when will the record be finished and available?  Having come so far I'd much rather take my time and get it right – so I'll keep going until I'm happy with it.  It's now getting close.  And we have some interesting film ideas to produce in parallel. I've learnt my lesson by making the previous promo film which said that the album will be 'coming 2011' as a caption at the end(!) - so I'd prefer not to commit to a definite release date until I know it's done. But all being well it will be in the Autumn.

I'm incredibly grateful for the interest that is being shown in the project and sorry that it may be getting rather frustrating for those who have been following for a while.  As you may have noticed we're holding back a little on the online activity until we have more definite release details, so you'll have to rely on my iphone instagram pictures (posted up to & flickr) to provide a little entertainment in the mean time!  Please hang in there and watch this space. It's coming, honest.

Hugh Carswell