(Banjo, piano, modular) Hilary Hawke and Claude & Ola "Open the Doors"

“Open the Doors” is a collaboration between my partner, Ola, and I with banjoist Hilary Hawke. Hilary is probably best known as the banjoist for the 2018 and 2019 Broadway revival of Oklahoma, but she is a mainstay of the NYC folk/bluegrass/oldtime music world. She and Ola have been friends since attending music camps together at the Crane School of Music as high school students and they both attended Crane for their undergrad music degrees. I knew them both at the time but Ola and I were years away from partnering up.

This collab was born out of the pandemic, with Hilary sending us her banjo parts, Ola composing her piano parts, and me seasoning with my modular synth and Monotron Delay. We all grew significantly in our home recording skills and I confess that it really helped me get over years of stubbornness about using a DAW, coming from a hardware history of reel to reel, ADAT, and DA-38s.

As I was picking up steam as an early-career mastering engineer, we gifted Hilary a pair of Eris 3.5 monitors and coached her on mixing, with lots of feedback and back-and-forth revisions. This afforded a bit of distance between the mixing and mastering stages, though we took our time with the pieces as life kept happening, even as the pandemic did its best to slow everything down.

Somewhere along the way Hilary landed us a NYFA NYC artist grant to travel the seven hours south to the city to perform the album live at Shapeshifter Lab after a few days of intense rehearsals. We were joined by shadow puppeteers Dorothy James and John Manjuck and it was positively magical. I did resort to using a little Akai MPX08 sample player for some key elements which would have been a royal pain to patch on the fly and some field recordings Ola incorporated on some of the tracks.

As for the music itself, it veers into what I might call “contemporary classical”, but I would love a more apt descriptor if anyone is inspired. The process was very much additive, fleshing arrangements out for Hilary’s sometimes elegantly spare banjo lines. There are plans for a follow up to begin work this summer, which will likely be its own adventure as Ola and I are now navigating the care of my 87 mom who is suffering from dementia. Fortunately, we now have some experience with distance collaborations!

We also had quite a nice time this summer as Hilary made the trek up to the far north of NY state to visit and we shot some “promo” photos:

So, llllllll, that’s the quick gist. Thanks for listening!



Oh wow, this is gorgeous! I love the sparse instrumentation. Super inspiring :slightly_smiling_face:


Thanks so much for listening Jeremy :heart:

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This is excellent ! Compositions, playing, timbres, sounds, recording. Sounds so fresh ! Congrats


Really lovely blend of instruments and electronics! This is a great reminder that electronics are often at their most effective when in service to other sounds…

I’m curious about how you shared tracks to enable remote DAW production, choice of DAW, click tracks or not, and whether you started with a specific goal in mind or let it unfold as you went along…

Any insights will be much appreciated :pray:t2:

EDIT: Folks interested in this should definitely read the notes on the Bandcamp page, very illuminating :sunglasses:

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Thanks so much Ed!

Hilary, I believe, recorded her banjo in Garageband (via a Warm Audio WA-14 straight into a Focusrite Scarlett). No click tracks. We sent WAV files back and forth, Ola and I use Reaper as our DAW. Initially we used a Behringer UMC404HD interface and later an Audient id14mkII. I did smash Hilary’s banjo with an ART Pro VLAii compressor and sent her those tracks for some parallel banjo compression. Some of Ola’s piano (her Roland FP-7F) was tracked with a tiny bit of VLAii compression and many of my synth tracks were, typically just a few dbs of gain reduction though, I love compression even though I use it on the subtle side, particularly with this sort of material. I also picked up a Chameleon Labs 7721 VCA bus compressor, which would have been used on some of the later tracks (Open the Doors was the first track we worked on, Undoing was the last).

As far as goals, I won’t speculate about Hilary’s intentions, as she sent us solo banjo tracks. Ola says her goal was to provide “orchestral, atmospheric support”, while my parts I saw as “seasoning”, with a fair amount of Serge feedback as I recall. I think supporting the evolving feel and mood was the greater goal Ola and I had.

Thanks for asking!

Edit- tracks were shared via WeTransfer


Thanks Claude.

How refreshing to hear the tightness in the ensemble feel and know that it was free played with no click, just musical listening! Beautiful :sunglasses:

I’m intrigued by your emphasis on compression. I’ve been home recording since about 1980 and compression is one aspect I am still pretty clueless about. Always more to learn, right?!?

I pointed my bandmates to it, there’s a lot of inspiration in this record :sunglasses:

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Oh Ed, compression is M A G I C !!! That said, it’s elusive at times and sometimes over used. Happy to chat more about it any time, and it’s worth noting that I got my relative hang of it processing full mixes first.

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