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“What Is It?” on Open Tunings

“You take a song like that into

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a practice room with a band how do they approach

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it?” That’s the excellent question I was asked after performing “The Buffalo Song” on Scott Regan’s NPR radio show “Open Tunings” last month. Excellent because I don’

t read music , don’t talk “musician”. “I’m trying to communicate this feeling you might get if you were at Yellowstone Park’s Firehole River at dusk (Scott’s laughing), and you see the head of a buffalo in the distance chewing on the grass and a fumarole shooting steam up into the air, and you would look at that scene and say nothing about this has changed in a million years. So that’s what we’re trying to do and we have to figure out how to use musical instruments to paint that.”

That in a nutshell was what made making RIDE so challenging. Mike and I weren’t engineers and we had to figure out how to use music recording equipment to make the movie out of the song.

And we didn’t know how, and so we had to learn how. And that meant mixing

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tracks over and over to get them to where they “looked” the way we wanted them to. And when we were frustrated and it just didn’t seem right, Mike invented what came to be called “The Ricciardi Test”, which required us to answer the question “What Is It?”, which is essentially Scott’s interview question. When you play the song, when you record and mix the song, you better know what it “is” or what you get at the end is just not gonna’ be that clear.

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