Colouratura

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    Autographed by composer and performer Nathan James!

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about

I think the phrase 'Colouratura' materialized out of thin air. Nate walked into the studio one day and announced that it was the title of the album (this was well into the writing and recording process). It wasn't until much later that he actually explained to me what the word meant ...

It is a reference to a type of soprano singer who can change her voice at will, both style and timbre, and therefore a metaphor for the frequent and abrupt genre skips to be found across the work. There's also a deeper, more specific meaning, but that's for you to suss out. ;-)

One day I had been on the school's radio station discussing my various production projects (including Nate's) and the station, WGLZ, was kind enough to play "Questions?" I stood and listened in the student union, where they were piping the music. I was overcome by a feeling of success at hearing my own production work on air.

I usually walked over to the music department whenever I was in a particularly good mood or a particularly bad mood, to find Nate. Sure enough, there he was - and he grabbed my by the arm and pulled me into a practice room.

"I have the title track," he said, and he sat me down. At the piano, he proceeded to play this song, so fresh he was still reading the words and chord changes off his phone. He had written it less than 24 hours before.

Once he'd finished, he turned to me and looked. "Well ... What do you think?"

I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. I was nearly in tears. It was one of the most beautiful, heart wrenching things I'd ever heard. It's rare for me to inexplicably connect with a song on a deep, emotional level - but there it was.

I said "Studio."

Nate couldn't go. He had assignments and commitments and what have you. He couldn't get in for another 2-3 days at least.

I said "Nate, if you wait 3 days, it'll be a totally different song. Studio."

So dutifully, he eschewed all his responsibilities, temporarily, and we recorded this piece, in two takes - one pass on piano and one on vocals. We used a totally unique mike technique called 'midside', which involves two microphones, one set to omnidirectional and the other to bidirectional. The bidirectional is doubled and you reverse the Polarity in the control room, giving it a really strange three dimensional sound. For the vocals, we left the pedal depressed and got natural reverb off the mikes that we mixed in with the vocal performance; this is one of the 'hallmarks' of 'Colouratura' the song.

The ending is totally Nathan James' improvisation. It is the sound of him closing the piano lid, grabbing his keys, and walking out. The slam is real - with some added treatments from Nate. It is both my favorite piece on the album and the one I personally had the least to do with.

Interestingly, two other versions of this were attempted - one, with a full string quartet arrangement and another without, recorded live in the studio some 4-5 months later. We ultimately chose to release the 'demo' - the reason for this is there was something raw and emotive and real to it the other, more 'fleshed out', more 'perfect' versions lacked. The unique phenomenon about recording is you can set up the same song, with the same performer, with the same equipment and cables and microphones in the same room, and it will still come out different. There's something about the strange air of the day that just cannot be replicated ever again.

Which is kind of frustrating because Nate actually arranged an elaborate, gorgeous string part for this. One of the most powerful moments of the whole project was when he handed me the score and said "here it is." Unfortunately, we couldn't get the personnel in time to make it happen. Maybe a 'bonus track' someday, hmmm ...

lyrics

I've seen that look before
The way you tilt your head
And all the years that I've been here
I've seen it less and less
Now the hurting in your eyes
Betrays a deeper pain
And I'm not sure about tonight
Will I ever see you again?

Chorus

Co-lou-ra-tura
Co-lou-ra-tu-ra
Co-lou-ra-tura
Here's Loving you

The changes in your loving me
Happen all the time
And when at night I'm lonely
You're always on my mind
And when the words don't come out right
And end up hurting flame
As you run out the front door
Will things ever be the same?

Chorus

I know that when things are wrong
I can't make them right
And we're sleeping in separate places
For the first time tonight
But even through the madness
I'm still here for you
To say ---

Chorus

credits

from Colouratura, released June 16, 2017
Nathan James - piano, voice, treatments

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Colouratura Wheeling, West Virginia

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