“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” —
For me, this simple but profound statement has never rung more true than it does today.
But how could I apply this sage advice to my own work? At first I wasn’t quite sure. I talked it over with my longtime co-composer and close friend Hernan Romero. He and I are both guitarists, and this common bond has brought us together for many years and gotten us through both good times and bad. “Music is a vibration and that vibration is a physical reaction that the notes create in your body,” Romero has told me, revealing the depths of his feelings. “When I hold and play a guitar, it is right next to my heart and it literally resonates inside of me.”
After some discussion, he and I came to the realization that, just as music is what unites the two of us, so too does music unite us all, as the recent scenes of people in Italy singing and playing to one another clearly shows. That lead us to the decision to create a series of pieces — a musical dialog between two guitars — to help others, as well as ourselves, heal in a time of need.
We came up with a plan to work independently in our respective home studios, and began by using the voice memo function on our phones to sketch out the framework of the first piece. From there, we further discussed the idea and rehearsed it using our phone’s video conferencing capabilities. This allowed us to understand what each of us was going to play, and we made sure to leave a lot of musical space for one another. By doing so we were making a conscious decision to let the chords and production “breathe” in order to create more of an open, calming sound.
Once the initial idea was agreed upon, we decided that I would record the first pass and have Romero perform the “answering” overdub. I decided to use my Yamaha FG-TA TransAcoustic guitar not only because it was comfortable and familiar to me, but also because I felt the built-in reverb and chorus effects bought additional depth and dimension that enhanced the overall spacious feel of the piece. I positioned a high-quality omnidirectional mic near the soundhole and connected the guitar’s direct output (coming from its piezo pickup) into a tube preamp, which gave me two tracks to play with. The track was recorded without a click; I decided to instead rely only on the instinctive flow of time to guide me.
Once that was done, I sent the file to Romero so he could get to work. He had also decided to use a Yamaha TransAcoustic guitar for the track — a nylon-string CG-TA model. Using just a touch of the built-in reverb for additional sonic depth, he captured his performance using the same type of omni microphone that I had used, and then sent me the file for final mixing.
All that was required was some balancing, a slight touch of EQ and a little extra reverb, and the track was ready to go. We then added some simple graphics (including a brief glimpse of my home studio) and uploaded the song — which we call “Towards the Sun” — to YouTube. Here it is:
Ever since posting this video, we’ve been touched by the deep, heartfelt reactions of those who have viewed it. The entire experience reaffirmed our belief that music truly helps heal and that the guitar in particular is a voice that speaks without words. We’re planning on continuing the series, and intend to release more musical messages of healing on Romero’s YouTube channel in the near future. Hope you can join us there!