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The Madness of Clocks

Mr Sandbags

This is a track I’ve been working on for quite a while so I am glad to finally have it out of my head.

I have a kind of love/hate relationship with time and its humble functionary, the clock. Ticking, in particular, is something I am ambivalent towards: I hate incessant ticking while, at the same time, finding something comforting about it.

After using a clock sample to good effect in a previous track I got it into my head to try and make a track entirely from clock samples and there followed several weeks of collecting samples of different kinds of clocks ticking.

Then I began a process of trying to assemble them into something beyond a cacophony and I found it rather difficult. My initial enthusiasm for the project waned and I shelved it for a while.

Last Friday I bought Ableton Live 8 and I’ve found the Live session view quite an invigorating way to work. This morning I decided to try and build The Madness of Clocks from scratch working in Live’s session view and the whole thing came together so much more easily.

I spent quite some time making my clips fit right and structuring the arrangement in terms of ticks, fast ticks, grandfather ticks, chimes and so on to create a definitive shape for the piece, even finding room for a cuckoo clock!

Once I had a basic arrangement I went back and added further ambience by adding subtle, but different, effects to each groups of sounds.

Then I recorded to into an arrangement and bounced the 22 individual tracks to audio before importing them into Logic.

Once in Logic I setup my usual mix environment. I had some help from MMI here in trying to get the reverb and panning right. I’m not sure I nailed it but the track definitely sounds better for the attempt.

I spent a lot more time on the basic mastering setup than usual and, in particular, on getting the limiting right. I think I often dial in the limiter too hot and, on successive passes, I brought the gain down.

This is quite a long track at over 8 minutes, but there is quite a lot in it and I think it will reward your attention. I hope you’ll be motivated to leave a comment and tell me how you felt about it.

My thanks to all those who helped me out with finding clock samples. It wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined!

I’ve written more about how I made this song on my blog

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