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Viaticus: A History of Lessons and Experience, Pt. I

The first song providing Louis R. Perez with more than just a cassette.

Unlike conventional productions, Viaticus was a very long work in progress over many years yielding a mere 10 songs but the net result was a massive accumulation of knowledge that would dramatically expedite Viaticus II and future projects. Following graduation in 1987 from Bellevue Hosptial School of Respiratory Therapy, Louis R. Perez returned to music with a significant "day job" that could financially support his musical endeavors one of which to write and produce his own album. In 1987 he enrolled at Manhattan School of Music for private lessons in electronic music discovering large areas of complex diversity in new composition techniques. After 8 weeks at Manhattan School Louis took up the project selecting one of many songs sitting in his piano bench, "Dance With You". The piece was approximately two and a half minutes with a simple form of statement, new statement and return or ABA form as in the textbook using a very simple rock style band: lead and bass guitars, percussion or drums and early 60s organ. Richard Martinez, his instructor at Manhattan School became his producer on four of the Viaticus songs. Walking into a midi studio for the first time was overwhelming for Louis especially when learning how to use a computer. Apple products were the choice in the music industry with the 512K model at the studio. The piece took approximately 4 hours to produce into the computer. Deciding that the music needed more life, Richard suggested using a live guitarist. At the time, Louis was learning how to work with reel to reel 8 track analog recording while incorporating the 512K within the process. The guitarist was recorded on one track and the computer on another. Each separate instrumental part was recorded onto the reel to reel machine on its own track using a method known as "slaving" or having the computer control the recorder. The band was finally completed on tape and the decision had to be made on a singer. Joseph Salucci was a professional level singer that did jingles, and club dates. A connection to Richard, Joseph was an easy find for the project. His services included singing his own backup vocals doing a splendid performance: his lead voice on one track and his backups on another. Every part was finally in and the song was actually starting to sound like a tolerable piece of music. Now the final part, mastering was needed to complete a long journey that took approximately 6 studio sessions over 25 hours. During this phase the music was balanced in appropriate volumes where one instrument would only be a specific volume or gain in relation to the other instruments and voices. Effects or reverb (the echo) was added at this time where needed to give the song that professional "edge". Once mastering was completed the song was done. A master of the song was recorded on a conventional two track reel and Louis went home with a cassette copy. "Dance With You" was born. Following copyright Louis sat down and tallied all the expenses for his first project: $4,350.00 (in 1988 dollars) for a two and a half minute piece of music covering over 40 hours of studio time and labor in a seven month period. It was staggering but Louis realized that the cost was necessary to learn the method of working in the creative process within the industry. He also realized that there were many others in the business with similar goals that wouldn't think twice about the cost. He decided that the next project a french version of "Dance With You" would involve a new investment: buying an Apple product or Mac and learning the various ways that a computer is used in the music business. To be continued in October.

Viaticus: A History of Lessons and Experience, Pt. II

Apple Computer's Mac Plus: The Beginnings of a Recording Studio

The creation of "Dance With You" presented several eye sores for Louis R. Perez: the cost of professional labor, studio rental and singers all to put together a 180 second piece of music totalling over $4,000.00. The experience overall was enough to convince him that certain major decisions had to made. If an album was going to be produced, many things in music production would have to be incorporated into Louis' career namely, learning as much as possible of the recording studio to reduce expenses.

The first decision was easy. In the mid to late 80s, it was clear that technology in daily life was changing the way we live in almost every facet of normal activity and the Personal Computer or PC was an obvious choice. It was slowly revolutionizing the recording studio and having one for normal activities such as the developing internet, word processing, etc. made it almost compulsory to learn and own one.

The music industry was was solidly behind Apple Computer products for its superior graphics, audio and user friendliness. At the time, Louis could only afford the Mac Plus but it was enough to begin the learning process. Richard Martinez, his instructor, producer/engineer was very valuable in setting Louis in the right direction for learning studio work which included some education on the Mac.

While learning the computer, Louis started on his second song: a french version of "Dance With You".

Many years ago on a tour of the U.N. the tourguides explained the many reasons for english and french being designated the official international languages of the world. It stuck with Louis right up to album production for the second song.

Placing an ad in the Village Voice for a translator netted over 100 replies. The translation had to be street level french to appeal to younger ears. Eleven were picked. One to decide on the best translator from the remaining 10.

Once the translation was completed, production on the song commenced with Joseph Salucci singing the same song again this time in french coached by the translator on pronunciation.

Following editing and mixdown "Danser Avec Toi" was complete. Total cost: $1100.00. It wasn't bad considering the band was already in the computer.

After 40 hours of practice, Louis was comfortable with the Mac and moved on to purchasing an electronic piano and sound module ( a device that stores different musical instrument sounds). He wasn't ready to put together his own tune as a producer but he was already realizing the savings potential in the future.

For song no. 3, Louis decided to move on to R&B music creating a similar form to "Dance With You" but injecting a brief rap section near the end of the piece. It was a more sophisticated band using percussion, organ, trombones, piano, guitar and bass all provided by the Mac with ancillary computer sound modules.

Branice MacKenzie was a club date singer connected to Richard Martinez and very aware of the R&B feel for new music. Singing the melody and doing her own backup vocals was cost effective as was the learning experience for Louis on singer versatility. "Tell Me" expenses came to $1800.00. As a result of owning the Mac Plus and learning music software he was able to direct Richard Martinez quickly through the recording process or function as an executive producer but it wasn't enough. Time started becoming the most valuable commodity and organizing everyone to do their part was all too consuming. It became imperative to continue learning more and more of the production process. Louis was determined to start putting his own music on the Mac. He purchased a small mixer and sound effects unit learning both machines and their parts within the recording process. "Tell Me" was the last song Louis would ever rely completely on someone else to produce music for him. He finally reached a level at which he could put a rough copy together of the next song for Richard Martinez.

To be continued in mid November.

Viaticus: A History of Lessons and Experience, Pt. III

Louis R. Perez working on Viaticus

Holding Hands was a slightly more complicated song than the previous pieces. It had a primary and secondary chorus, verses, and a classical technique "Sprechstimme" or speaking through song. With a basic rock band of guitars drums and organ out of a sound module and the Mac, Louis successfully created a crude but understandable first draft for Rick Martinez. Female backup voices were incorporated by volunteers of a nearby church and it was the first time Louis recorded voices in his studio.

Excited at the prospect of producing his own work, Louis made a serious error in the project: he leaped ahead into engineering without a solid foundation on the techniques of professional audio processing.

Holding Hands is a lively piece requiring various levels of energy and engineering to compliment the ever changing sonority. Although Louis wanted to move on doing the work himself, he was premature in his goal. It resulted in a sizable amount of time with a professional level music consultant to correct new unfamiliar potholes in the unfriendly land of digital audio editing. This netted a new dilema for Louis: where can funds be spent cost effectively without cost over runs? It was a painful question that hounded him throughout the album.

The album itself gave him satisfaction in its diversity and he moved in yet a different direction with Sally Mom. Funds were getting scarce with the purchase of new equipment and private lessons to operate the expanding studio. Sally Mom had to be done inexpensively. Louis was becoming much more comfortable with the Mac, the studio and was able to put the song down on tracks quickly. The R&B song was to be a long monologue sung rapidly on limited melodic tones with a bare band of guitars, drums and just one voice, the lead.

Ty Stephens was a very good Luther Vandross type referral from Branice Mackenzie and reliable at coming prepared to work but he wasn't cheap. This man is a pro. Never-the-less, he earned his pay with a great performance that required little editing on a song that was able to stand alone without backup voices. The savings here was that Louis did the majority of the production work himself relying on third party assistance solely for consultation purposes.

The album was moving along in production slowly but making progress. At this point, there were 5 pieces already completed and Louis decided to start marketing the songs individually. It was a massive campaign of failure. Countless refusals with markedly offensive criticism of the music. It became apparent that many of the alleged professionals in these firms were judging the music subjectively and not as they stipulated professionally. After sending out 100 solicitations (offers of the music) to record companies and publishers he decided to talk to other musicians and search for new strategies. Clearly, going to the companies themselves was not working.

Meanwhile, back at the studio, Different One-Male was ready for production. It was Louis' first attempt at an R&B/blues piece utilizing a somber piano personality with something else not seen frequently in popular music: a banjo. In addition, being a Buddy Holly fan he was influenced to incorporate a string orchestra as in Holly's later music. Ty Stephens was called back singing against the returning church girls.

There were 4 more songs needed to complete the album. Louis decided to go off on the deep end this time and produce a song for children.

To be continued in mid December.

Viaticus: A History Of Lessons and Experience, Pt. IV

Louis R. Perez processing Viaticus

A child's song was no easy task. It had to be original with lyrics clearly about a child in activity. Much children's music in the past was either game oriented or message specific. Louis wanted his to be more towards involvement in a function. Going to an animal shelter for a pet was novel enough to imagine a child with a specific purpose.

The form of the piece was kept simple with enough repetition of the idea to keep a child's interest. When We Want You was conceived, it had a large band including brass, organ and piano.

It was a good song. Unfortunately, it took four years to produce as a result of voice procurement. Many parents, schools and other child related enviroments were not fond of the thought of being solicited by a man for a child project. It was a miserable experience for Louis.

Finally, at one point he went to a musician's networking meeting and met Debra Joyce who owned and operated a voice studio in suburban L.I. and happened to have plenty of very young voices available.

This led to little nine year old Kelly Werner, who had a splendidly adorable sound in her voice and was able to handle the music. Recording her voice went slow due to a number of factors: it was her first studio session as a primary voice, the music was reasonably complicated for a child and it was a new recording experience for Louis which included hours of processing/editing work.Despite these obstacles, the end result was a wonderful piece of original music that later qualified for entry to the Grammy Awards process as an engineering piece but the best part of the venture was that Louis was using third party musicians/technicians only as consultants. He was doing almost all the work himself.

After We Want You, he decided to take a rest from the child voice procurement problems and so decided at least with Viaticus II not to include a children's song in the new album.

Three tracks to go with less expenses and more knowledge. It was time to go back to adult voices and a new genre. He decided it was the right moment to do Broadway.

Kelly Werner

Young Musician Sings Lead

August 2006 - On a sunny afternoon approximately four years ago, a sedan pulls up to Rodgers and Perez bringing a little 9 year old girl, her mother, and her voice coach to "record a track". Little Kelly Werner calmly walked into the studio and with her coach, set herself up comfortably in front of a music stand, a mike and began roughly three hours of session work with a break in between for pizza.
The AKG headphones seemed to dwarf Kelly when wearing them but sat snuggly in place without incident throughout the session.
The producer Louis R. Perez for "We Want You" had never worked with a pre-teen voice presenting some unique first time experiences during edit and mixdown such as ptich tuning and gain (volume) fluctuations. However with "Digital Performer" (a computer recording/editing program) all technical work went smoothly producing a fine finished product.
At the end of the session, Kelly was asked what she thought of the production and in a soft voice replied, "it was awesome!".
Today, Kelly now 13, is still very active in voice with a long list of references including public performances of The National Anthem and "Soon It's Gonna Rain (The Fantasticks)".
"We Want You" featuring Kelly Werner is track 7 on Viaticus.
Inquiries via Debra Joyce - voice coach through her web address: deborahjoyce.net.

Deborah Joyce

Singer, Instructor, Viaticus Contributor

September 2006 - Working for the fine art of the perfect voice, Deborah Joyce successfully guided We Want You lead singer Kelly Werner through her studio session while adding her own distinctiveness as backup vocal to the song.
A native of Long Island, NY Deborah Joyce was influenced by many music forms in her career which has led her to concentrate on a national culture: The American Songbook. She has worked to keep this phenomenon of Americana with a repetoire of Jazz and Popular standards. Her 12 track CD, Deborah Joyce is a collection of hybrid merges of R&B with jazz including spanish selections. Her experiences were numerous engagements in Rock, Top 40; Classic Rock, etc. to name a few. The performances have given her much insight in entertaining around the country which has also contributed to her desire for the popular standard.
As the founder of The Can Dee Music Co. in Floral Park, NY, Deborah gives voice instruction/consultation concentrating on classical technique to voice students of all ages beginner to professional.
Deborah Joyce sings We Want You as Kelly Werner's backup on track 7 in Viaticus.
Inquiries at: deborahjoyce.net