Finishing Up Boats

14 Aug 2006

I have finished recording all 17 chapters of The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”. All but two chapters are edited. Tonight I will try to edit the last two chapters and then pick out music and mix the final six. That’s a big job, but I’ll finish as much of it as I can; if all goes well I’ll have the rest of the chapters available by tomorrow midnight!

This project has been fun, but sometimes tedious and frustrating. If I’m going to do another one, I have to figure out how to emphasize the “fun” part and reduce the “tedious and frustrating” part.

The text is difficult to read — a lot of Hodgson’s sentences are so painfully long that it is all I could do just to finish the sentence correctly. His other works aren’t nearly as difficult to read aloud. His other works, that is, except The Night Land, which also is written in a difficult style. Giving it nuance in the form of an emotional performance generally took a back seat to just pronouncing the words properly.

Try it yourself: here’s a sentence I recorded last night. Yes, it is once sentence, and I’m certain it isn’t the longest in the novel. Try reading it aloud:

Yet, to please the fellow, I put my hand upon the line, which we had made fast in the evening to a large piece of rock, and so, immediately, I discovered that something was pulling upon it, hauling and then slackening, so that it occurred to me that the people in the vessel might be indeed wishful to send us some message, and at that, to make sure, I ran to the nearest fire, and, lighting a tuft of weed, waved it thrice; but there came not any answering signal from those in the ship, and at that I went back to feel at the rope, to assure myself that it had not been the pluck of the wind upon it; but I found that it was something very different from the wind, something that plucked with all the sharpness of a hooked fish, only that it had been a mighty great fish to have given such tugs, and so I knew that some vile thing out in the darkness of the weed was fast to the rope, and at this there came the fear that it might break it, and then a second thought that something might be climbing up to us along the rope, and so I bade the big seaman stand ready with his great cutlass, whilst I ran and waked the bo’sun.

Or, if you like nautical jargon, try reading this paragraph out loud without making a single verbal “typo,” and putting all the pauses and moments of emphasis in their proper places:

And so, having gotten in our three jury lower-masts, we hoisted up the foreyard to the main, to act as our mainyard, and did likewise with the topsail-yard to the fore, and after that, we sent up the t’gallant-yard to the mizzen. Thus we had her sparred, all but a bowsprit and jibboom; yet this we managed by making a stumpy, spike bowsprit from one of the smaller spars which they had used to shore up the superstructure, and because we feared that it lacked strength to bear the strain of our fore and aft stays, we took down two hawsers from the fore, passing them in through the hawse-holes and setting them up there. And so we had her rigged, and, after that, we bent such sail as our gear abled us to carry, and in this wise had the hulk ready for sea.

Did you manage it? If you rearranged the words slightly you could easily make tongue-twisters: “sparred a stumpy spike from smaller spars to shore up the superstructure’s strength to bear the strain of the stays.” In fact, it is hard for me to believe that Hodgson wasn’t smiling with glee as he assembled these sentences, thinking “let ’em just try to read that out loud!”

Besides the difficulty of the text itself, I have been driven to distraction by my equipment and software. The BLUE Snowball was unreliable (although the replacement seems to be OK — more on that later). The Logitech USB headset is also unreliable. DSP Quattro is somewhat buggy. The particular way I found to mix down the music track with the voice track for each chapter (basically, playing both tracks together live and recording the output) has a tendency to produce dropouts, and has to be done correctly in a single pass, because I’m recording “live” — if I screw it up, I have to start the mix over. Due to some problem with the plug-ins, I was not able to get the compressor to run at faster than real time, and DSP Quattro doesn’t seem to support any kind mix automation (except the playlist mechanism, which has been very helpful for final assembly of the chapters, but which is buggy in its own right).

I would love to produce a second novel — perhaps either The House on the Borderland or The Ghost Pirates, but before I commit to another big project, I’ve got to get my recording process reliable, reproducible, and more rewarding to use! Otherwise, I’m producing sub-par work despite my best efforts, and that will just discourage me from actually completing the project.

Anyway, The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” isn’t perfect, but despite the technical glitches and my limitations as a reader, it is close to what I had in mind. I am pleased with the results and I hope you are too. The next one will be better!

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