Music you don't remember making...

I’m sure everyone around here encounters it from time to time.
You find a file or a piece of audio recording you have no memory of making.

For a project I’m working on i was skimming my harddrive for usable material when i found a Bitwig session I at first thought was a demo from Bitwig. But it was so unfinished it obviously wasn’t. It must be one of my first try’s and making something in Bitwig. It’s totally different then I usually make and a bit more generic electronic dance music, though i quite like it and it might just fit in the project i’m working on now.

What did you find on your harddrive or cassettetape?

9 Likes

I have kind of an opposite experience: a lost song I’m certain I made - I know I made it, but I’ve forgotten what it’s like and haven’t heard it in over a decade.

It was made for an art project / festival / short range radio program where they played songs in forest from people that you could only hear in that very situation (somewhere in Scotland I think). So I made a song for them, sent it and deleted it right away myself.

I think there’s a 15-20 second clip of the song in some recorded mix of the event, but I can’t even remember the name and year of the festival so I haven’t really heard the song since I made it. I’m pretty sure I could still recognize the song out of the ones playing in the mix, but I still can’t remember what it was like at all.

4 Likes

I found enough source material to put an album together, 30 years later!

It’s almost the opposite of forgetting having made it, more like reading an old diary… “Ohhh! I remember this! And it sounds okay, too!”

13 Likes

That’s very familiar as well - used to make hundreds of silly loops and ideas most of which I can’t remember actively, but when I look at a very old backup hard drive, most of it is there. The old diary comparison is very apt, in good and bad :slight_smile:

5 Likes

Years ago I put together a compilation of unreleased and demo material from a period of time where I was exclusively releasing and recording harsh noise (think Japanese-American Noise Treaty-inspired, but nowhere near as good).

The first file I looked at when putting together all of the recordings was clearly something I’d recorded, but I had no memory of recording it and the title of the recording gave me nothing for context.

Interestingly, because I had no memory of the recording, I felt (and still feel) well disposed to it, as opposed to the rest of compositions, which I have mixed feelings about. I take this to mean that I need to calm down about my own artistic output and stop being so darn precious about it all 🫠🫠

6 Likes

I usually remember making stuff, but I almost never know how I made it. I’m finding a lot of one take recordings consisting of a single stereo file and I have no idea what the instruments are, and what effects I was using. And there are some tracks that I’m not sure if I did them myself or if they are collabs with someone else.

I totally understand how Jeff Mills accidentally released another artists tracks as his own.

10 Likes

I’ve always loved working in the studio until I must sleep, and then the following morning listening with a fresh brain/ears/psyche and… often being surprised by WTF I thought I was doing!

During the first lockdown I started having a jam every evening with the same setup, Tenori On > Bitrman > Infinite Jets… over the months I filled an entire 24 hour PT timeline, then moved to a new session and half filled it… It is such a fun listen, as I often have no memory of how I made anything… skipping through it, tagging bits (especially some as IRs)

Anyway, just to say I felt better about this approach after listening to a Tape Notes podcast interview with Caribou and he casually mentioned the tracks on his last album were chosen from approximately 900 contenders!

7 Likes

Yeah, more than a few times I’ve forgotten a track or been puzzled about how I created something I did years later on. The worse was at a party 20+ years ago and the DJ commented how much they liked the track they were playing and when I asked who it by, was definitely surprised to find it was me. It was pitched down a fair amount but still :slight_smile:

7 Likes

I literally made a 14 track album that I have no recollection making or what equipment I used to make it. It really freaks me out because I’m sure I spent a bunch of hours recording and then mastering (and also making album art).

13 Likes

I tend to perform 3-5x a year, and as such I try to make at least 1 new piece for the show based on “where I’m at” with music – what techniques I’m into, what I’m listening to, etc. I’ve made a point to record each new piece no more than a week after it’s done, otherwise I tend to get distracted and move on without any document of what I did. So in that sense, there’s music I remember making but don’t remember exactly what it was.
That being said, I went looking for a piece I made in summer 2019 and found 2 pieces I forgot I made in 2020! It was a joy to go back and listen to it, and also to note what I want to do differently when I play it again.

5 Likes

I love discovering (rediscovering) old recordings. I would normally record 20 minute sessions once or twice a week. Over time they’ve turned into tracks, but I quickly move onto something else. About once a year I’ll go back through my old recordings and wonder how the heck I made something.

4 Likes

One of my favorite methods for discovering old music I don’t remember making is to go to my Gmail account, then type into the search field something like:

from:me has:attachment .mp3

Then I look through the results to find mp3 attachments I’ve sent to myself or someone else. The most promising candidates tend to be from pre-2010. Often they’re named something completely perfunctory and non-descript, like 01.mp3 or 2d.mp3. There are many dozens of tracks like this. Some of them are even from as far back as 2004. Audio mementos from another era and lifetime.

Like others here, more often than not I end up liking what I’m hearing. Even the stuff that was almost surely made in an amateurish fashion, or with software or controllers I wouldn’t dream of using today. A good reminder that I’m inevitably going to lack the distance or objectivity to properly judge something I’ve made until it’s years behind me, and that the particular tools of the trade don’t matter nearly as much as I might think.

11 Likes

That was a really familiar “workflow” way back when I was living alone and making music (hobby / freelance) practically every day. When an inspiration hits, make something until 4am, go to sleep, listen to it next afternoon / evening, and wonder what the hell I was thinking (sometimes in a good way, sometimes less so).

Way back when I was more “serious” about music and had a worse self-esteem, it felt sort of soul-crushing how much worse and more boring music I felt I was making than some of my friends and artists I loved. I liked doing what I was doing and did a lot of stuff, but was never super happy about how things ended up being or how stupid all the finished ideas were.

Now that I listen to unfinished ideas and self-released songs from a decade or two ago, I’m amazed how good they actually are compared to what I’m working on now - sort of, I wonder if they were made by some other person entirely (and in some sense, they are). Perhaps that’s in a way the reason - I tend to look at 10-20 old almost forgotten songs as artifacts from some random music maker who was learning and experimenting with things, rather than “something I made ages ago”, and that makes a big difference.

As you hint, I guess the feeling will be same 10 years from now when looking at this day…

6 Likes

I often write in the middle of the night when I have insomnia. It sort of puts my mind into a “don’t question yourself” mode and stuff just runs away with me in unexpected directions because I’m too tired to think. And after I finish writing something I will generally not listen to it again for a few months at least. That way I have enough distance to judge a track unemotionally when it comes to final tweaks to the arrangement, mixing etc. Stuff I write when I’m sleep deprived often has this weird dreamlike quality, strange arrangements, melodies that are unexpected, meandering, odd. Usually when I listen back to that stuff I have no idea how I made it or what the heck I was thinking, often I don’t really remember the process. I recently found a bunch of these kinds of tracks on my old computer - stuff I made a couple years ago and then forgot to copy when I switched computers. Some of them are so distant emotionally it’s as if someone else wrote them, they are surprising, but still clearly mine, I recognise my own style on them, it’s in my music folder, etc. I don’t remember making them though! I was pleasantly surprised by all of them and one track actually kinda blew me away. Would love to remember how the heck I even made those sounds. Like seriously, insomnia / dream state Me, please start taking notes?!

9 Likes

I don’t remember any music I don’t remember right now, but just want to say that threads like this make me really happy that the contemporary internet has llllllllines besides all the so-called social media. Keep at it, PLUR.

10 Likes

That was exactly the case with an ambient track I released in February (shameless plug): https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/natetrier/house-of-blue-magic

I found it in a collection of songs I was going to send to a label but had no recollection of making it or even how I made it!

I eventually figured out that really it was just Michael Norris’ Spectral Dronemaker plug-in, and I added some kind of pitch-shifting time-stretching stuff.

Also, the Disquiet Junto generally ends every calendar year by asking participants to create a “sonic diary” of their past year, and I always find it to be an illuminating retrospective of pieces I kind of remember making but don’t remember the specifics of!

2 Likes

This is actually an important part of my sound-working process: leaving recordings alone for long enough that I don’t remember how they sound in any particular detail. Then I can listen to it and hear how it sounds rather than how I meant it to sound in the moment.

I try to record all the shows I do, and if I listen the next day, I’m hearing it via my memory of performing it, and thinking about how that bit didn’t quite work, this bit I meant to do something different but hit the wrong button, how it didn’t match up to my ‘plan’ for the set.

Six months later though and that’s just a vague memory, and I can hear it fresh. Often I’ll then edit it down and use it for something very different to what I originally had in mind.

5 Likes

The lack of notes ‘IS’ part of the magic.

Experience without story….

2 Likes

That’s a great point and the same for film photography: the moment you take a photo is not the best time to assess its merits, and the delay with seeing the photo is a feature and not a bug.

3 Likes

Not remembering how I even recorded it is my #1 criteria for Cementimental tracks

3 Likes