When I try to write music, I often struggle with the fact that melodies, ideas and fragments don’t necessarily come at practical times, i.e. when I’m sitting down with an instrument and writing a chord progression with the intention of making it a part of a piece of music. I’ve read far too many interviews with musicians who talk about how they either had a functional way to capture fragments or how they regularly lost what could have become good songs or melodies because they didn’t have a way to capture them. Then came along Voice Memo.
The worst is waking up to a functional idea in the middle of the night and feeling no desire whatsoever to open up my computer or make a usable note while only half awake and somewhat able to communicate ideas in writing. I know I’ve lost well over a dozen ideas this way, and that if I’m going to have any luck getting things done, I have to change my behavior.
My strategy for logging my memories, then, is pretty simple: I record them into my telephone’s Voice Memo function. It provides me with only a few minutes of recording time and sounds utterly grainy and noisy, but I can use it as an easy way to track lots of things that I’d otherwise lose. Using just the simple included microphone I can sing a melody, if I have one in mind that I’m afraid I’ll lose, into the phone, then play it back when I’m in a more functional mindset or at my workspace, where I can then try to build it into a piece of music I’m working on.
If I make a recording, I can email it to myself using text messaging, then save the file on my computer, play it back, make edits, or even work the original recording into a project that I’m working on if I feel any desire to do so. When I’ve needed to make recordings for various reasons – collecting promotional messages for the radio station I used to work for, for example – the phone’s easy recording system proved hugely helpful for this purpose. I’ve also used it to record conversations, to make field recordings (in which I capture sounds around me either for purposes of preservation or for later experimentation and processing), and to play with noise and feedback in a very traditional, conventional setting.
Using the phone as a voice recorder I get distinct recordings of either myself or my surrounding environment, which I can then preserve in many compelling ways. I’m especially struck by the process of making field recordings because of the ways that certain environments and cities sound different, as if the noises and the languages spoken there, as well as the presence of absence of traffic, can have a direct impact on what the recording equipment captures. Carrying a bad microphone with space constraints as a Dictaphone is a liberating, easy thing, and a fun way to capture ideas and memories.