I have always had a passion for music, and this has always been something my parents had supported me in. They sent me to music tuition from the age of 5, so I could learn skills in relation to the piano, and this continued until I was in year 7. Although I am now grateful for the knowledge I acquired over these years, I was no longer interested in these weekly lessons. It was at this point I was given a choice of whether or not to continue. I chose not to, and instead moved my focus away from the piano, identifying instead with my voice.
My voice as an instrument became a very important aspect of my life within my high school years, leading me to join the schools A Capella group, which in turn enabled me to train and expand my techniques; joining a number of school musicals, landing roles in the chorus as well as lead roles in later shows, and discovering YouTube as a form of distribution for the bedroom artist. YouTube is something I consider to be a significant point in my musical career, because it is where my relationship with music became linked with our digital age. I started to become aware of the way in which the internet can impact careers, particularly for those within creative art fields.
It is these experiences in life that have lead me to this project, and have become such an important aspect of my auto ethnographic account which involves reflection upon my process of creating digital content with someone from the Philippines. That is to say, I will be attempting to practice self-reflexivity to understand how I have reached certain points in my creative process, analyse what drove certain decisions and note that my background knowledge from an array of different areas has resulted in the production of my final supporting artefact. This reflection upon the work enables me to understand how I operate as a digital collaborator as well as learn from my experience. The fact that I am collaborating allows me to contrast my own experience and approach with that of my co-collaborator, Kariann. The result is in an auto ethnographic digital artefact, which follows a co-constructed narrative approach, due to the fact that our process of creating this content, involved reflecting upon our work afterwards with each other over Skype. My observations have thus been influenced by the observations from my collaboration partner, highlighting a new perspective which is then tied to my own. As a result, this digital artefact intends to communicate my own experience and how Kariann’s experience of creation also impacted the piece.
As I mentioned earlier, I became aware of how the digital age has influenced creative fields, and so it should come as no surprise to say that I met Kariann, my digital collaborator, on a website called Habbo Hotel. We are both members of the Oceania Radio Department on a fan site for the game, and we happened to cross paths initially due to a shared love of the punk rock genre. This was our initial meeting, and although I thought it our mutual music taste was awesome, I didn’t think much of it. The beginnings of KarEly didn’t actually start until I realised she could sing. The initial idea was not to cover songs simply to use as reflection for DIGC330, but instead for use within a Double DJ slot on This Habbo – the fan site we worked for. In fact originally, we had hoped to avoid the process of recording at all and use Skype to sing duets together. Unfortunately, we quickly realised the Internet comes with a time delay and as such neither of us could be perfectly in sync. On the 18th of August, we proposed to the department managers our idea for a weekly show, which showcased our musical talents as the key feature of the hour long slot, while also allowing us to reflect on our work to the audience that was listening. (Kariann, 2015, pers. comm., 18 August)
This idea was quickly approved, despite the fact that it broke our departments ‘no singing on air’ rule, and so we got to work quickly before anyone changed their mind. It is interesting to note some of the differences between the digital recording vs. live performance approach to music. Since we were from completely different countries, there was no way we could have performed the piece together live, and due to the way in which we wished to distribute the covers, it would not be a useful approach to take either, since we would have to record it anyway. That being said however, most musicians tend to be more experienced with a live performance approach and as such the recording of parts in separation can come as quite a shock. I had done something similar to this once before with an online friend from Cairns, and so I was a lot more comfortable with this digital separation, however Kari noted that it was quite an odd experience, saying, “It was hard to know if your partner will be singing in sync to you so a little bit of caution needed to be taken while singing.” (Kariann, 2015, pers. comm., 20 September) Our approach to recording was modelled off a similar approach I had devised in my previous online duet experience while also modelling the digital editing process found in the professionalised industry. We both recorded our vocal lines as separate tracks, before I brought them together, mixing and editing in order to create a blended final product. Despite the same end goal, we still took different approached when it came to our recording choices. I personally prefer to organise all my recording content across multiple tracks in GarageBand, taking full advantage of the digital medium, allowing for easy correction editing within smaller areas of the piece, while Kari utilised the program QuickTime, taking an approach which mimics the live performance style more, in the sense that it became a 1 take opportunity, and if something was wrong a brand new take had to be started, rather than re-recording the small segment with the mistake. Ultimately, these two programs although used for the same final purpose, created different experiences for Kari and I. Beyond different recording techniques, we also have very contrasting vocal techniques. Kari’s voice is often bright and breathy, learning towards a voice suited better for higher vocals, while my voice is deep and rich, sometimes with a nasal twang which gets offset with vibrato. Normally, having two opposing vocal techniques isn’t much of a problem, however with the digital separation, the blending techniques which are usually used when singing with another person, became a lot more difficult to achieve. In order to combat this issue, I did two things. The first thing was that I often recorded two different vocal lines – one before receiving Kariann’s, and one after. This provided me with two sources to work with, and sometimes created a better blending effect before editing. This of course was never perfect, so I would then edit the successful recordings from both Kari and I, playing around with EQ settings, reverb, echo, ambience, and compression until the recordings sounded compatible with each other. The final result, like any digital song release, then becomes a hybrid of live recordings, edits, and mixing.
To this date, we have created a total of six covers, however today I will be reflecting on the final product of our cover ‘Pag-Ibig’ by Yeng Constantino. Constantino was actually one of the artists I looked at while listening to a variety of Pinoy music, and she honestly didn’t interest me that much initially when I listened to her song ‘Chinito’. Although I preferred the songs jazzy vibes, it didn’t really sound like a genre of music I could relate to. However when Kari suggested Pag-Ibig, the song style was quite different, sounding instead like an acoustic pop song, similar to ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz. What actually interested me about the song enough to sing it with Kariann was the small section of English, which I could understand. Coming from a Christian background, I immediately recognised it as a bible verse, coming from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and this gave the piece something I could relate to. Not speaking Filipino myself, I did not understand a lot of the lyrics, but I could understand that the song was about love.
Not knowing the Filipino language acted as a barrier when I was recording my parts of this piece. While Kari knew all the lyric by heart and acknowledged that she could be lazy with her pronunciations at time, I was in a completely different circumstance, worrying that the translations I though I had correct were in fact not. This is one of the few covers I practiced for a few days prior to recording the song. In order to get what I thought was the best possible pronunciation, I mimicked the words and sounds Constantino created in the original piece, emulating her voice and singing patterns to the best of my ability. This was the only recording where I felt a little out of my depth when recording. I have the background knowledge in music to understand how it works, both from a recording and mixing level, but introducing a new language into the mix made me a foreigner in my own practice which was quite intimidating. According to Kari, there was only one word I failed to pronounce correctly, which was in the chorus (@1:10 for my version and @2:48 for Kari’s version) where the word ‘ika’y’ was being mispronounced. As an Australian, I had been putting my accent into the word accidentally, resulting in an ick-ayy sounding word, where it was meant to sound instead like eek-eye. Considering I ddi not know the language, only mispronouncing one word was quite an accomplishment in my mind. I did notice however that I struggled with some of the timing, occasionally stuttering over words because I did not have the flow between words due to unfamiliarity with the language. It was also a bit unusual when English words were scattered in the first verse, as they were intended to be pronounced differently in the song, and it took extra concentration to ensure I didn’t slip into my Aussie take of the words ‘dammit’ and ‘cell phone’.
While I enjoyed partaking in the song, there is only one section I can sing without looking at the words, despite how long I practiced the piece beforehand, and this is into pre-chorus (@0:50 for Kari’s, and @2:28 for mine). Upon talking to my Filipino friends, they had told me that love is pag-ibig, while I love you is mahal kita, (Janna, 2015, pers. comm., 27 October) and it was upon re-singing the pre-chorus that I realised that I love you is in there. Curious to know more, I looked up a translation of the song, to find that it is essentially a love song declaring love which doesn’t ever go away, even if the person was ugly, fat, with wrinkles, instead it will stand strong and not be abandoned, unlike old cellphones, clothes which aren’t trendy anymore, food when you’re not hungry or noisy cats. With the translation adding to my understanding of the song, it became a new piece, something I thought was quite light hearted and funny amongst the serious message of eternal love, and that really appealed to me.
Alsop, Christiane K. (2002) Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research 3:3.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.
Janna, 2015, pers. comm., 27 October
KarEly 2015, Pag-Ibig – Cover #KarEly, YouTube, viewed 26 October 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qyd7NaOFcw>
Kariann, 2015, pers. comm., 18 August to 30 October
Na Tagalog, T 2012, Yeng Constantino – Pag-Ibig (Love), Tagalog Translate, viewed 27 October 2015, <http://tunaynatagalog.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/yeng-constantino-pag-ibig-love.html>
This Habbo, This Habbo version 4.5, viewed 30 October, <http://thishabbo.com>
Turner, E 2015, Duets Across the Globe, Elysium Design Utopia, 17 September 2015, <https://elysiumdesignutopia.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/duets-across-the-globe/>
Turner, E 2015, Internet Music Culture and OPM, Elysium Design Utopia, 23 September 2015, <https://elysiumdesignutopia.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/internet-music-culture-and-opm/>
Turner, E 2015, Kariann’s Response to Duets Across the Globe, Elysium Design Utopia, 17 September 2015, <https://elysiumdesignutopia.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/karianns-response-to-duets-across-the-globe/>
Turner, E 2015, Research Into Online Duets and OPM Artists, Elysium Design Utopia, 17 September 2015, <https://elysiumdesignutopia.wordpress.com/2015/09/24/research-into-online-duets/>