My free Audacity programme is quite dear to my heart. I recently typed into Google; ‘is Audacity any good?’ to find many disgruntled users complaining that there are so few techno bells and whistles involved that this limits what you can actually do, and that the sound quality isn’t that great (which it isn’t) – but what can you expect when it’s free. Audacity’s state of simplistic affairs suits me just fine. It means all I have to do is hit the record button and maybe add a few harmony layers for depth; being that I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do with the ‘effects’ that come with the programme, or how to edit the stuff I record. I once tried to ‘equalise’ a song with disastrous results. The thing is I can’t be bothered to actually learn how to use the gizmos on offer. Moreover, the basic recording quality I get with Audacity beats the quality of a couple of songs I recorded in an actual studio many singing moons ago (mind you it was a very basic studio) – this continues to amaze me.
The reason for this adventure in audacity is that I’ve not been feeling much love for the human race recently. When it comes to my fellow man I’m with Jonathan Swift:
‘… principally I hate and detest that animal called Man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas and so forth.’
This current streak of misanthropy is due to the fact that I now take part in the morning and evening rush hours. These daily journeys are only 2 miles each way but every single time I take my life in my hands. Mine is a straight route, comprising 30 and 40 mph zones but these speed signs may as well be non- existent. I stick to these speed limits a) because I always do as I’m told and b) because a significant number of school kids cross the road. In return for being a law abiding citizen I’m faced with road rage at every turn – it’s actually beginning to give me a driving phobia. Other daily commuting drivers take it as an insult that I drive at the speed limit. Therefore, drivers place themselves about an inch away from my rear end (the car’s) in an exceedingly threatening and intimidating manner; sometimes dodging to the right to get the message across that I’m taking up valuable road space and they REALLY NEED to overtake or, sometimes, (and this really happened) overtaking me in a single lane, getting so close I had to swerve into the cycle lane (where there could have been a cyclist) then racing ahead at roughly 60 mph, just before the lollipop man and his ‘slow down’ school crossing sign. This is actually completely irrational (and murderous) behaviour because they always end up just in front of me at the traffic lights when they’ve gone red.
The thing is, you can write this off as normal behaviour – the husband has been facing it daily during 30 years of commuting – but it isn’t. And it’s a mindset that’s seeping into almost every aspect of our culture.
My recent Christmas choir concert reminded me that there are nice people around and maybe I have to hold on to the fact that the kind of people, who think nothing of intimidating a middle-aged woman driving her tiny car, are in the minority.
The Christmas singing got me in the mood to put another song on my blog – something soothing, something like a lullaby so I can forget the rotten rat race and I landed on ‘Into the West’ by Annie Lennox, sung over the end credits to one of the Lord of the Rings movies.
The recording process, as always, was fraught with difficulty. I found an instrumental version on YouTube by Eline Homburg, which did not contain the main melody – exactly what I needed. Eline gave us all free rein to use her version, so I used my usual youtube to Mp3 converter, which immediately, and unexpectedly, downloaded malware. This meant installing Spybot (very good free anti malware software) and scanning my entire laptop, which took forever. I then searched for a virus free converter, landing on one which would convert backing tracks whose owners had agreed to the use thereof (hurray) – I’m also desperately hoping it hasn’t also downloaded any nasty, hidden viruses in the process.
I then found that the key to the original Lennox song was too low for the tone of my voice so changed pitch, via Audacity, which always degrades the original track somewhat – I don’t know why. I then sang it in the lounge a couple of times for practice. Then moved up into the loft, where I assembled my microphone, on my usual unsteady pile of books, and sat in Son No.3’s chair, singing it through a couple of times before realising that sitting down wasn’t the ideal way to hit the high notes, and was also giving me a crick in my neck.
Lacking a microphone stand, I decided to stand up anyway, held the mic in one hand, and the pop shield in the other, and stood as far away from the laptop as my iPod headphones would allow and thought right, this is it, and pressed record. About half way through the husband decided to ring from work which put paid to that version. During the second version the postman knocked, which put paid to that one. During the third version the husband’s computer suddenly decided to spring into life, making a very loud whirring noise. By now I was getting stressed, husky and heartily sick of my lovely, soothing lullaby – not the effect I was going for at all.
I’ve now realised it isn’t a lullaby at all but is actually about going into the Lord of the Rings version of heaven – so basically it’s a song about dying – which, again, isn’t quite what I was going for. I tried to lose my Yorkshire accent in the singing and to make it all floaty and ethereal and very Lord of the Rings’ish. I did this by adding echo, choosing 0.3 as my decay and delay factors, which may have been overdoing it somewhat. I go very wavery and hoarse towards the end – this seems to happen when you get old. My pop shield was also woefully inadequate at dealing with the explosive ‘P’ sounds and all the other unwanted sounds I don’t know how to get rid of. I had to sing the word ‘ships’ very carefully to prevent it sounding like ‘sh*ts’ which would have been an audio-based calamity.
Son No.3 asked to listen to it the other day and visibly jumped when I hit the high bits, claiming the sudden change came as a big surprise and was pretty funny – which doesn’t bode well.
My new blog’s muted colours mean that the Mp3 shows up as a very faint orange line just below the image; if you can manage to see it just press the play arrow and it will turn blue. Wearing earphones is always recommended. I’ve added an LOTR image which you can stare at fixedly to create a bit of atmosphere while listening.