The String Machine
The recording studio in the East Village of New York City had all the latest digital equipment. All the musicians who recorded there just loved it. The engineer was a fine musician himself, and knew how to get the best out of everyone who played there. He felt what they were doing and knew how to convey their feelings through sound. He also had the latest synthesizers that could duplicate every instrument except the strings.
One day there was a popular band that booked some time in the studio. After all the sound and volume checks were set, and the rhythm tracks laid out, the rhythm section went home and the keyboard player came back the next day to try and finish up the tracks. There was this one ballad that the musicians played that would be incomplete without a rather extensive string part in the background. The song needed as close to a humanistic string sound that it could get. The producer, engineer, and keyboard player worked laboriously to find that sound on the synthesizer, but after a time had to abandon their search.
They finally came up with the idea to hire live string players. Time is money, and the more time they took to try to get that sound, the more they had to pay. With that wasted day behind them, they had to go about finding and rehearsing a string section, then book another few hours at the studio. A few weeks later, it was time to go back into the studio again. The session went smoothly and everyone was happy.
String machines can only do so much. They can’t match what humans, those imperfect but sensitive beings can do. They can strike the notes and chords with precision, but can’t throw themselves into a sea of tenderness. They can’t cry. They can’t approach each passage in the music as if it were a virgin bride on their wedding night. They can’t sing as if their hearts were swimming with the current. They can’t feel the warmth of comradeship as each note reaches out to them to caress and pass it on to the next. They can’t blend with the spirit that hides in the belly of the sound. They can’t take part in the joyful ambiance that fills the room with love. They can’t feel the strength and power of the triple fortissimo passages, or the pianissimo passages that sound like quiet spirits singing through the lips of the tulips. They can’t dance with the imaginary angels that hover over the hills. They can’t see the forest nymphs with their third eyes. They can’t feel the rain smashing on the rooftops. They can analyze life and its mysteries but not live through them.
After the string tracks were laid down, the singer sang and rode on them as if they were a diamond studded carriage taking her to the grand ball. She wept with the lushness of the strings and sang like it was all heaven coming down to fill her heart and soul. The song was a huge success and the band won a Grammy Award for what they had done.
If their project needed an extra effort to accomplish it, even though time is money, it was well worth it.