Thursday, December 14, 2006

Melinama's albums of yore. What a pain in the butt it used to be!

I marvel at how the process of putting out a musical recording has changed since I started.

My first album: "Laduvane - Live Balkan Music!" (Pronounce it Lah-doo-vah-ney - it's the name of a Bulgarian water ritual.) Made c. 1976. In the studio, all eight of us had to get everything right all at the same time because there was no cut-and-paste.

I sang drone on much of this album of Balkan music - that is, I sang the same note all the way through many of the songs. One memorable day we did a very long song - in which I sang the same note throughout - we had to do 32 takes because the soloists couldn't get it right. I amused myself by mentally computing how many thousands of times I sang the same note in a row.

When the recording was finished, it took days to mix, then another day (and a ton more money) to "master" the mixes, then they got sent off (everything went by mail) and some expert someplace far away did a lacquer master - mastering is something I can now do at my own computer in an hour or so - and sent it back to us, and there was always something wrong, and we had to send it back for corrections. Months later we had the albums.

But first, I had to do the cover. Because I trust you all, I'm going to expose my youthful efforts. For instance, look at this (you can click on all these pix to see them larger):

Nowadays this would be done on a computer and it would be as easy as pie. But back then, I drew the picture by hand with a Rapidograph pen on bristol board, and then spent days using an exacto blade to cut out tiny little stair-step chunks of pantone film (transparent, sticky on one side) to be fit onto the board, each one exactly abutting the next. This was a completely manual process. If I made a mistake, I peeled off the film and tried again.

Here's the back:

I didn't have access to a typesetting facility so I lettered the whole thing myself. If I made a mistake: White-Out.

Here is the next album we did, a year or two later:

Watercolors - and white-out.

And here is the photo montage from the back (Melinama is in the upper left corner):

My method:
  • Scrounge up a batch of photos taken on all sorts of cameras from little brownies to "real" ones;
  • Buy photo re-touching inks - they came in little sets of several bottles of different shades of grey - and hunch over the photos dabbing at them with the little brush trying to correct glare etc.
  • Cut the pictures to size.
  • Wax the backs of the pictures and put them together like a jig-saw puzzle.
  • Put sticky-back black tape between the pictures and rub it hard because it didn't want to stick to the places where two photographs stood side-by-side.
  • Have another picture taken of the final product. (Remember, nothing digital, so each round of photos means waiting for them to be developed.)

One more example, this one from the not-so-old days. This is from 1991. Beth found the picture. To do the lettering, I took a piece of acetate and painted one side of it with black ink (leaving the parts that would be the lettering un-painted) and then painted the other side with yellow ink. Then I pasted the acetate to the picture.

When I think of how easily all these things can be done now - with minimal expense and fast as lightning - I have to laugh.

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At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely work--thanks for sharing. Technology has certainly changed our world, especially in the last few years. While watching the ''That Girl'' marathon, I kept thinking how strange it was not to see any cellphones, computers, VCRs, microwaves, etc. Who could have known back then what our life would be like today. I guess that's why I like the period technology. People had to look at each other and relate and deal with each other face-to-face.~~~Susanlynn, technophobic

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Sylvia said...

The older I get the more I realize how utterly clueless I am about so many things. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that putting an album cover together would have been so detailed and painstaking. I promise to really appreciate my Courting Disaster CD when it arrives.


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