Recording our first CD (part 3: text)

The text on a CD package and booklet should include not just the programme notes, biographies of the performers and composers, recording location and details, but also something or some way to convey the voice of the performers. How does one achieve this?


One would think that producing a CD involves two parallel independent processes: the music and the CD packaging. The former includes the recording, editing, and mastering. The latter includes choosing the images, designing the layout, and writing the text.

I had the text ready months ago. It was simply a copy and paste of our programme notes from the Madrid concert in May. I submitted it for comment in my writing class last fall. The only remark from my teacher, a prize-winning author, was to consider the tone of voice.

What tone of voice? The text on the six CDs of the South African composer/guitarist Derek Gripper, who performed in our Monument House Concert Series, last October had his voice. When you read the CD booklets, you could almost hear him speak.

The text in the Madrid programme notes was informative but devoid of any personality. How could one weave oneself into the text of a CD?

I decided to add some quotes.

Anne Ku, pianist. Photo credit: Serge van Empelen, Amsterdam
Anne Ku, pianist. Photo: Serge van Empelen

When Robert and I first met in March 2001, we wanted to play music together. The only piece I had available for us was a transcription of Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto in D major for guitar and keyboard. Since then we have collected not only original works written for piano and guitar that was so popular in the 19th century but also arrangements for the two instruments. In addition, we have actively arranged a number of pieces to add to this repertoire and invited composers to write for us. Recently we ventured into improvising on stage, an activity that had brought us together in the first place — nine years ago in Amsterdam.” — Anne Ku

I also wanted to mention the challenge of playing the piano with the guitar. It was a constant power struggle, sometimes more like a power game, to get the volume balance right. Initially I wouldn’t give in. Too bad the guitar was too soft…. it’s not my problem. Like all relationships, eventually I learned that it was about compromise, give and take, adjusting and finetuning.

Robert Bekkers, guitarist. Photo: Serge van Empelen, Amsterdam
Robert Bekkers, guitarist. Photo: Serge van Empelen

Playing with a pianist requires precision in timing and tone quality because the guitarist needs to play loudly most of the time. The real challenge is not to beat the piano but to be with the piano. You’re not trying to be another piano but to retain your authentic colour. The guitar has six nylon strings on a wooden construction compared to the piano, which has over 200 steel strings on an iron frame.. The turning point in our music making occurred with the arrival of a Jeroen Hilhorst concert guitar in November 2005. Custom-built for our duo, it has served me very well.” — Robert Bekkers

It has taken 9 years to get the balance right. In the process, I learned to play softly and more sensitively to the guitar. The other major challenge for piano and guitar is to play in sync. It’s too obvious when we don’t, thus timing is everything.

There is much more Robert and I can say about our polyphonic acoustic duo. We will have to save that for our next CD. We have already filled 8 pages with text and images. All this needs to be finalised and delivered this week, if we are to meet our self-imposed deadline.

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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