This week I had my first attempt at mastering.
The piece I chose to master is an excerpt from a brilliant electronic composition album ‘Epic’ by my good friend Phillip Garbé. The work itself is rather special because most of it was legitimately composed by hand on manuscript and masterfully produced over hundreds of hours in Fruity Loops, despite Phil having no real experience with music production. Everything is done with careful intent and I am fortunate enough to be one of only a handful of people who’s actually heard it. I am also fortunate enough to have his original hand written scores and am custodian of the only surviving 44.1kHz/16 bit original CD.
I had some mastering notes from the composer to try to adhere to:
The ‘slams’ at the beginning of Epic need to be understood in context of the title which should be pretty evident. “Dreaming of Dreaming” and then “Dreaming”. What’s the dream? Everything! The whole universe.
The slams are a cataclysmic, stellar, universal blasts of cosmic thunder. It’s the beginning of all things. Less like the Big Bang than the subtle rumours of the universe’s (a child’s) heartbeat.
The rest is the starry, glittery nature of the dream and that should be factored in on a visual and sublime level. There are also ‘notes’ of disjunct hits that are arbitrary at best near the start of track 01. These are intentional. The dream isn’t comfortable.
It’s a dream that falls into another dream. Inception-like (although gotta mention that I called it first).
The first challange was getting any audio off the disc. Unfortunately the disc itself is quite old and not in the best condition. It plays fine on a regular CD player, albeit with some minor skipping and occasional crackle, but it was an absolute nightmare trying to read it through a high speed DVD drive and I spent close to 2 hours trying to get any usable audio.
In the end, I managed to get the first 5 minutes off the album, compiled from the workable portions from several rip attempts.
I had to do some repair work removing some clicks and pops using izotope RX4 declicker. This was fairly straightforward and worked well for everything except the very end when the DVD drive crapped itself. This called for a creative manual fade out using the mastering backbone.
For the mastering itself, I added some very light sparkle to the top end and gently cut some low mids to give it a bit of space. I then added some sub bass through the the MaxxBCL maxxbass to give the slams at the start a lot of impact – The room should be shaking.
I would’ve liked to spend some more time with it, but due to the import issues this was not possible during my session. Overall, I’m happy with it as a first attempt, but things can always improve with more practice.