Digital Archaeology

Strangely, since my last blog, lamenting the lack of progress on my CD, I’ve actually made quite a lot of progress. Today, it dawned on me that what I’ve been doing is “digital archaeology.”

If and when this CD is finally finished, it’s doubtful the average listener will ever fully appreciate just how much went into it. Far more than the average CD. Let me explain (With the understanding that only the true music-recording-geek will fully appreciate what follows…).

First, there were songs Clark Findley and me were recording/tracking at his studio, and at a studio in Fort Worth, seven to ten years ago now. At the end of that process, I had a CD that, recording-wise, was 90 percent done (maybe more…). For all sorts of reasons, it was never released.

I’ve continued to write songs, of course. But it’s now become clear to me that some of those older songs –once in line to make the (ahem) cut– now won’t. They’ve been replaced by five or six newer songs recorded more recently (some, this year, even).

So, in order to really connect the dots, I needed to go see Clark and get those older files from him. But it’s been so long that neither of us now use the recording software (Cubase) or the operating system (OS9) we used back then. (Actually, even more technical and more confusing: Some of the Cubase songs used OS9, and others OSX. Yeesh)

Add to this, Clark’s gear got caught up in bankruptcy involving the studio where he worked. It was all his gear, but he couldn’t access it. So, for a couple of years, the files were, physically, in a small room in Fort Worth.

When I went over there in early October, we were able to export/save just about everything from those old recording sessions. By exporting some of the tracks at Clark’s (Cubase SX), and also exporting others here at home (Cubase 5, using my own old pulled-out-of-the-closet-G4, booted up in OS9), miraculously, I’ve imported them all  into my studio here at home (Logic Express) with no problem at all. (Other than keeping everything straight…)

Included in these archaeologically recovered cuts is great session work by Rick O’Connor, Bruce Hathaway, and some mighty tasty piano by Tim McLemore. The incredible Reggie Rueffer plays fiddle on two of the recovered tracks, and it’s absolutely amazing.

But it doesn’t stop there, since I am also dealing with two self-inflicted wounds that resulted in even more lost files over the years.

The first was my computer getting stolen, right off my desk, early last year. I had three brand new recordings of three brand new songs on it at the time. And, yes, I’d failed to back up. (That’s the “self-inflicted” part)

Sooo, in recent weeks, I bit the bullet and totally reworked those songs too. Rerecorded/retracked them from ground zero. Which was a lot of work, since two of them are actually among the most complex cuts that will be on the new CD.

The final bit of archaeology necessitates from when I inadvertently erased an external hard drive. I was trying to reformat at small thumb drive, chose the wrong icon, and erased a key major external storage drive instead. (Yes, this time, I was backing up. Yet, I still screwed it up)

Some amazingly good data recovery software meant that, ultimately, there was “good news” and “bad news.” The good news was that every single file was recovered. The bad news is none of the original file names associated with any of the recovered data, nor did any program files survive.

In other words, every track from every song was saved. The hours of work, edited/mixing them was not. With no file names, I was left with a huge pile of sequentially numbered audio files to listen-through. Just under 800 separate audio files, to be exact…to listen to and to sort, in order to find the very few I needed. (BTW…it was the same process for recovered pictures, mp3s and everything else that got erased)

Amazingly, after months of on and off sifting, I’ve been able find all of them. Again, this includes real treasures, such as a session my friend Billy Jonas did back in 2003. But, most amazingly, it includes vocal work Rachel Bissex did on two songs before her death. Clearly, that is not stuff that can be re-recorded.

So…to review
Recopied/Exported files from Clark,  that were archived and locked away for years…
Recovered filed from my own hard disk, sorted through after a stupidly-painful erasure…
Re-recorded songs to replace the ones that got stolen with my computer…

After years of looking at this mountain of work, and feeling nothing but hopeless/helpless about it, it’s really coming together. Just one more song to re-track, and then they’ll all be in Logic, ready to mix and master. Beyond that, perhaps just a few more vocal takes to clean some stuff up. Maybe a little bass here and there. But nothing major to “find” any more. It’s all been found or recovered. Amazing.

So, if all that was way too computer-geeky for you (likely), the punchline is this:
Real progresss. Things are looking up.

As I said last time I blogged about it, “a little at a time.”

Man, that really is a lesson I keep learning, through a lot of work, a lot of patience, and some digital archaeology.


(As always, if you like this post, then “like it”  or “share it” on Facebook by clicking the box below, or send it to your friends…so others can see too…and leave a comment…EF)  

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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