Steps that Went into Creating the Steve Reich Video
Unlike many of the previous “How to Sound Like” videos that I have posted so far on my Youtube channel, this one was the first to feature a living composer. Not only that, Steve Reich is one of my greatest musical heroes, so it meant a lot to me to put this video together. Although I was chasing the “deadline” in order to post the video by his birthday, October 3, I couldn’t cut certain corners to do so.
Here are the steps that went into making the video:
Several days of concentrated listening to Steve Reich’s music. Any chance I got to put on his music, I did. This is not so much out of the ordinary though, because it’s been 10+ years since I’ve become an immense fan of his music.
About 2 lengthy improv sessions were done where I imagined what Steve Reich might do with the melody of “Happy Birthday” — to be included in the video. The material I experimented with in these sessions ended up NOT making it into my final piece, but it was a great brainstorming exercise.
Writing the piece took about 3 days total in this case, and about 9-10 hours from start to finish (including the recording). I first started with the opening rhythmic motive, and began to add layers one by one. I wrote these down on staff paper, but also tested them out in Logic to see how they sounded together.
Note-taking on post-its and in my phone was a big part of this procedure. I tried to list all the possible adjectives and descriptions that come to mind when I think of Steve Reich’s musical style. I added to these throughout the day, especially during commutes and in cars/planes.
Filming and recording music for this video was simpler than usual, since I decided not to talk in front of the camera. This was an intuitive decision - I wanted to keep the vibe of the video more neutral and “clean-cut” than usual. The only filming was for the piece, which took about 3 hours total (including audio, of course). I recorded on my Yamaha CP88 using only sounds from the keyboard (analog recording).
Recording the voice-over was the beginning of creating a “structure” to the video. I used the notes off of my phone to record into my Zoom H5 . I then imported this file into the video software and used these markers as organizational points for my video.
Editing the video in Final Cut took perhaps the longest concentrated amount of time. I started editing around 2pm on Oct 4 and finished around 4am (12 hours of work later, excluding 2 hours of meal breaks). The bulk of the time was spent on making the final piece — finding the layout, syncing the parts, etc… The rest of the time was spent on making Photoshop slides of text/image-based visuals to accompany the voice-over, as well as extracting clips of Reich’s music and interview moments.
Additional research was done during times when my laptop slows down in order to process something. I listened to as many interview clips (many of which I’ve seen/heard already before), as well as articles that feature him. A lot of my interpretation and understanding of a composer’s musical style comes from an intuitive, self-analyzed point of view, but I find it useful to learn how others describe the same material just in case I am missing key insights.
Choosing a thumbnail was simple this time — a lot of times I make a separate one for my videos, but the visual for the piece seemed suitable.
Rendering and uploading the video took about 1.5 hours with my laptop and internet speed.
And that’s about it! I’m not sure about the total number of hours that went into this, but it doesn’t really matter. This is something that I really wanted to make and every ounce of effort that went into it was really worth it. Of course after finishing, there is always a part of me that wishes I could have done certain parts of the video better, but this was my best effort as of this moment in time. I do believe that such a “statement piece” on a composer is not static at all. I’m sure in the future, my understanding and interpretation of his music, as well as other composers’ will evolve and change — but that I cannot worry about until the time comes.