kaddish in two-part harmony podcasts

daily kaddish: five tests

Today’s Kaddish compares two mics for vocal tracks with Mira’s Mac’s built-in mic, and it tests my ability to repeat the Aramaic text.


In preparation for recording some kaddishim in live collaboration with Mira starting this Shabbes, I picked up a new vocal mic today. Since it was a used-gear purchase through craigslist, I wanted to test the mic right away when I got home to be sure it was in excellent condition as advertised, so I did two tests: first, using the new mic (an Audio Technica AT3035 large diaphragm cardioid condenser mic), then using one of the two AKG B414uls large diaphragm cardioid condenser microphones I’ve been using all along for the stereo music track(s). I used a pop filter in both cases.

These two mic tests were also Hebrew tests for me. You can judge for yourself how poorly I’m doing at getting the Aramaic/Hebrew text and specifically Mira’s accent into my ears and mouth. This “bismilleh Kaddish” audio of hers that I’ve been working with for a while now feels so familiar in my headphones, but repeating along with her was harder than I expected. I kept hearing all kinds of American e-y and a-y diphthongs in my headphones that I was just positive I was not actually saying—alas, microphones are poor liars.

So, for those of you who would like to play audio engineer at home, let me know what you think of the mic comparisons (or my Hebrew, or both). You’ll hear me in the AT3035 more on the left channel, Mira in stereo toward the center recorded on her MacBook using GarageBand and the Mac’s built-in mics, me in the AKG B414uls more on the right channel, and horn in the pair of AKGs in stereo, panned a little wider than Mira. I’m using ProTools 9 and a digidesigns Mbox2 on a MacBook Pro in my studio.

The fifth test? My ability to play Lev Kogan’s “Kaddish” while hearing all my Aramaic mistakes! It’s hard to say whether I failed worse at that or the Aramaic.

By erin

Erin Vang, PMP, BMus, MMus, is Owner and Principal Pragmatist of the consultancy Global Pragmatica LLC®, offering custom JMP scripting, localization program management, and facilitative leadership services. She is also an orchestral horn player who freelances in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays assorted brass for the celebrated dance bands Midnight Smørgåsbord and contraPtion. More about Erin…

4 replies on “daily kaddish: five tests”

Well, I’m terrified now! Erin, you know I’ve just never done this before! How many disclaimers can I give you? It’ll be sensory overload. I will be in your Studio for the very first time. Using a microphone for the very first time. Trying to recite a kaddish with someone else in the same room (well, yikes). Puppy and kitties. You. Lev Kogan, no less. My beating heart. Fear in the room. Actual terror. The only thing worse would be if you insisted on that neti-pot thing beforehand.

I left comments on what I was hearing before you even posted this Kogan’s Kaddish, as it turns out. Summary for here: It felt like we were walking side by side. Strangely, I could see us walking towards my own funeral plot at Gan Yarok in Mill Valley. This perhaps, because I had just written a kaddish for George Leonard as you were recording this kaddish — and my post was about being dead — inside the role playing game that George invented: The Samurai Game.

So. We were walking hand in hand — saying a kaddish for me! It was very very odd. But because you were holding my hand, I felt safe.

And maybe when I get in front of those scary microphones you’re going to have to hold my hand again. So that I don’t bolt and run right down the hill worrying about breaking something, failing miserably, making the pup howl, and any number of more reasonable terrors.

What you recorded was lovely to my ears. And of course I could not tell one microphone from another. I just loved having your voice next to mine.

You’re going to be awesome! And we’ll relax the rules. Multiple takes are fine. The Delete button is there for a reason.

The “first take, no editing” rule was for me: to remember that this is a ritual, a practice, a journalistic record of a process, so that I wouldn’t get hung up on perfectionism and have this turn into a tyranny of spending two hours a day trying to get a take that’s good enough. That feeds my narcissism and nobody’s soul. It’s self-destructive and would have killed the project before we ever got it off the ground.

The rule was also to assure you that you’d be dealing with a real, live, mortal musician with feet of clay, to whom you could listen critically and as a peer, not some idealized seductress who would leave you powerless (cf “what is it about musicians?” and its proposition that all performance is seduction).

And you’re going to be awesome! This will be fun. I can’t wait.

I’ll be happy to hold your hand. The pup will lick your other hand. We can probably find a kitty to ride on your shoulders, too, if you like.

Another thing: good mics, recording gear, and playback equipment will reveal to you, perhaps for the first time, what your voice really sounds like to other people—as opposed to the horrifying tinny version of your voice that you hear on answering machines and so forth. I was greatly relieved to learn from my work as a radio announcer at an NPR affiliate station that my voice really does sound approximately the way I thought it sounded and not at all like it did on answering machines. You’ll finally understand why the rest of us love your voice so much!

I trust you — that’s the key. Delete button helps. Pup and kitties too. But this is a steep learning curve for me — in a medium I’d let go of. It’s Tuesday, and I’ve been quaking already since you proposed this escalation a few days earlier. And now I only have until Friday to either work myself up or calm myself down. Will do my best to be adequate if I can’t manage awesome!

Maybe it’ll be like our first (only so far!) live take in your living room, where Roshi and then any number of other things cracked us up. Kjersti’s a pretty reliable goofball. Plan for laughter no matter what you do.

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