Renmin Park, volume 1 (the sounds)

When we first got to China one of the first things that struck me, aside from the poor air quality, were the sounds. Not only was it loud and unrelenting, but there were so many textures to the sounds that were completely foreign to these Western ears. So I wrote back home and asked brother Pete to pick me up a high end portable digital recorder. I had it, along with my camera, wherever I went. I’d spend hours in the park walking around and recording music and conversations, exercise classes and badminton games; in the streets I’d record the intense sound of the traffic; at the school I’d wander the halls and sit in on some classes and record the students chanting their lessons, or capture them at their morning exercise where the entire school of three thousand students would do their calisthenics. Even drifting by our apartment window were the calls of various hawkers, selling everything from vegetables to propane. I recorded it all.

When I got home I knew I had a treasure trove of really interesting and unusual “field recordings” and I knew that I wanted to somehow use them in the making of music, but I really wasn’t sure how to go about it. Eventually I bundled them up and sent them West to our friend Joby Baker in Victoria. I gave pretty vague instructions; create loops out of these sounds, let them spur your imagination. Alan, who lives on Vancouver Island, also got involved and the two of them proceeded to build musical structures with some of the field recordings as the foundations. They then sent them back East, Pete and I set to work on them in our studio, taking out elements that didn’t work for us and adding our own elements. And then I sat with them and wrote melodies and lyrics. Finally Margo came in and transformed them into Cowboy Junkies songs.

Five of these songs will appear on Renmin Park. Here is a taste of how two of them sounded about half way through the process:

Tags: , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010 at 11:36 pm and is filed under news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Renmin Park, volume 1 (the sounds)”

  1. Tom Says:

    March 9th, 2010 at 6:13 am

    Mike,
    Recording those sounds and weaving them into the album is the perfect example of EXACTLY what separates the “super-creative” top tier artist from the everyday person. Unreal. From the little I’ve heard so far, this record seems to have really tapped into your imagination and inspiration … Can’t wait for it.
    Tom

  2. Linda Hunt Says:

    March 9th, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Ooooooh, getting the shivers waiting for a brand new experience. Your music has inspired all of my senses for twenty-five years now. I have bought everything I could get my hands on except that album that shall remain nameless. Big raspberries to other people dictating your musical direction. I am so happy that you are now free to soar in any way you wish to express yourselves.

  3. jason c Says:

    March 9th, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    curious what type of portable recorder you were using?
    thanks
    j

  4. Corey Wayne Hamilton Says:

    March 10th, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    texturally beautiful and very haunting….i look forward to the final mixes of the songs…..you never cease to amaze me….thanks….