Masks... a new Emmasong to bash please

Masks... a new Emmasong to bash please


I mixed this initially for a video installation and needed it to be relatively gentle as part of a continuous play thingie in a gallery exhibition but now I’ve re-mixed it as a standalone song.
Because I’ve worked with it so very much, I’m struggling to get a fresh perspective. I’m deliberately putting it for bash without the video but the pictures have become such an integral part of it for me, I’d love to get some fresh feedback on this …

I was experimenting again …


the first time I saw
you were wild as a bright
bitter mask of forgetting
the armour you wore

the next time I saw
you were he you were me
you were all I could see
all those masks that you wore that you wore

and now that I see all those pieces of me
the colours dissolving the collage unfolding
the first time I saw
you were just me

the third time I saw
you were mine you were everything
mask upon mask upon mask that you
wore that you wore

and now that I see all those pieces of me
the colours dissolving the collage unfolding
the first time I saw
you were just me

Some tiny tweaks:


Hey Emma,

Good to hear your music again! Just listening on 2.1 computer speakers at work, but this sounds very good.

I love the ebb and flow of the underlying musical bed - those backwards-sounding, constantly evolving textures really add gravitas to the lyrics.

I think you have a good balance between sounding gentle and soothing while still having emotional impact on closer listening. I’ll have another listen on better speakers when I get a chance.

Nice work!


Holy crap Emma I have this lump in my throat and about to shed a tear. Really got to me. jeeesh

What a vocal delivery that was. Powerful my friend. So many elements swishing about. Really great stuff. I always have the same feeling when first hearing your stuff that it would be best suited in movies.

I know you are looking for mix stuff, but everything I heard was great. Especially the intro…and you said you couldn’t sing high??? Gotta put this on some good speakers and listen again. Glad you are in gear again:)



Wow. Thanks for sharing that Emma. Your arrangement works beautifully and the balances are spot on - nothing to distract from the song. I love all the backwards notes, the strings, the crickets and other noises - the soundscape you created, then tied together with a cozy little piano melody. A perfect setting for your always thoughtful and imaginative lyrics. Everything is so well done! And I simply LOVE that after a very pleasant “musical” listen, I get to go back and read through and absorb the thoughtful lyrics. Bravo!

Honestly, I feel so privileged to be able to pull up IRD and listen to such talented artists on here like you! Keep 'em coming! :+1:


Hi Emma,

I like the collage of sounds played backwards, which resonates nicely with the lyrics.

In the mix, I’ve noticed two things:

  • some high frequency content in the backwards stuff, that sounds like digital artefacts to my ear, not very pleasant since it is sustained and pretty much all along the song
  • a tad of harshness in the vocals (hi-mids), on those moments when there is more intensity

Great work anyway!


Hi Andrew, thanks so much for checking this out and your wonderful descriptors.
I particularly appreciated your comments on the balance between the elements as I wanted an edge but not too harsh. If you get the chance I’d love to hear your feedback on a different sound system.

O Paul, you are too kind! So glad it 'caught ’ you though…
And I must confess to a cheat… although I did sing some of the high notes, I also used a synth choirboy thing in the intro to try to paint a scene I had thought in my head.
I also used a field sound bite of cars swerving around in a tunnel that I rather liked… :wink:
Yep it is so good to be back working again!!! Yay…

Yay… thanks so very much Mike… twas a rare pleasure to read your words…
And I loved your description of the cozy little piano melody holding things together as that really did describe the concept I was striving for… :sunglasses:

Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply… And yes, I do know what you mean. I made a conscious decision to keep those artifacts… even though they did sound a little relentless on one set of headphones I was listening through. Similarly with the vocal harshness… I did soothe a couple of more strident peaks but made the decision that the harshness fitted with the intensity of the emotion and caused a discomfort in the listener that fitted the mood I was trying to create… but… I’ll be the first to admit that this is a delicate balancing act and I may well have got it wrong.

My original mix that played in the exhibition was much sweeter and more soothing because it needed to fit in a secondary role to the drawings but with this version I wanted it to reclaim some of that ‘bite’…
You’ve given me things to think about some more - thanks again!!


Just listening on my studio monitors. Still sounds great! One nitpick… the ending cuts of a little too suddenly… that’s all!:beerbanger:


Outstanding work Emma!! Really love the entire production. No nits to pick, athough I do agree with Andrew that the end cuts off a bit too abruptly, I’d like to hear that car engine fade away for a bit longer as it drives off.



Haunting. I love the atmosphere added by the ambient textures and warbles. Makes me think of something Richard Barbieri might have done with Porcupine Tree. The entirety of the piece sets such a mood! Very nice.


Thanks heaps for that Andrew… and yep, the timing for that ending was linked to end credits and I’d not thought about it at all since… done!

Thanks so very much… Yay… as as per Andrew… yep, ending now stretched. :beerbanger:

Yay… thanks so much!! I’d been so immersed in this I had lost my perspective… so cool to read your feedback thanks!!! And I had to look up Richard Barbieri… some cool sounds there for sure!


Thanks so very much for the feedback… have updated with a couple of tiny tweaks… just stretched the ending a little and did cut out some of the upper freqs in the backward sounds… mostly I didn’t mind it but through one set of headphones it was a little too annoying.

Time to move on I think… working on this one was interesting though, just breaking my moulds a little more… :smile:


A courageous arrangement, Emma! All that daring ambience like a swirling counterpoint to what otherwise is a lovely traditional melody. It is mixed a little hot, as if bordering the edge of normal rather than landing squarely in the center. I’m sure the more refrained event version was very moving as well.

The lyrical structure as written is very poetic, and I was wondering how you were going to handle that phrasing. Surprisingly you were able to keep it sung as written with the shifted line breaks and seem to make perfect sense.

You are such an experimental traditionalist, which I think makes your music more exciting and even more beautiful.


That is a POWERFUL song. Perfect singing for this. An absolute sincere delivery. The background music is cool and it works well. I don’t get the connection between the psychological mask from the lyrics and the sounds that you chose for the music. I’m not saying that there isn’t a connection, I am not connecting it. With songwriting, I feel like the music is the bridge between the lyrics and the heart. I feel like this music accomplished what you set out to do and I can’t really explain why. I like that and it bugs me at the same time. Your music is always evocative and that is what it let me with. I would listen to this on the sheer power of the vocal.

I did feel there were a couple time the backup vocals distracted me from the lead vocal. In particular

As this phrase ends I feel I am drawn to the backing vocal instead of being held by the lead vocal. This is the most powerful part of the song. I want the lead vocal to be the star.

BTW. I listened to the second version.

I am very much an Emma fan:) :+1:


I re-read my post and I feel like I didn’t express what I was attempting to say very well about the instrument choices for the music. Please bear with me as I try to elaborate. What I said could be interpreted as I don’t like the music. That is not at all what I mean. I do like it…a lot. It fits and carries the emotional message perfectly. More standard or expected instrumentation, for example, more orchestral instrumentation could pull off a similar impact. When you chose to go with very “different” sounds to carry the message I am not connecting the sounds with the message. I would love to know more about your writing process and what made you choose what you chose. Was it intuitive or deliberate?


Loved your comments thanks heaps steban, sorry to be such a slow replier!
The phrasing is so important to me but as the words are the key part of the song, I tend to wrap the song around the words and their inherent rhythms, I’m about to respond also to Paul’s posts and will include the video link which may be of interest to you… thanks again for taking the time and your insights!! :beerbanger:


Hi Paul,
Thanks so much for taking the time to listen and comment… really appreciate it!
This song came through a curious journey. Unusually for me, it grew from a series of drawings that I did which grew into a song. Mine is a very intuitive process - I have a concept and then try to find the sounds to complete that concept. I can spend endless hours playing around with omnisphere, just for tiny sound bites but this song was quite quick.

I played some cello bits… funny, I was just remembering I’m sure it was an early writing from you on recordingreview where you described using isolated cello notes that you pieced together… hmmm, the details have faded but I do remember it inspired me to attempt my very limited celloing and I do really love the authenticity of that sound, rough as it often is, compared to the vst (which I often use as well, just to ‘soothe’ things).

So I started playing around with converting part of the piano to ‘choir boys’ and then added some of my own vox to that. I had quite a different sound in mind for this and the backwards retrovibe piano layered nicely with Alicia’s keys. but I couldn’t remember one of the sounds that really set the scene for me so have just looked it up - curiously it is called ‘My kite fell into the ocean’ in omnisphere. :wink:

So that is a classic emma-process, having some daft concept and stumbling across sounds that met that shape… it was the same with the field sounds I included - the cars-in-a-tunnel… I just liked them and thought that they fitted.
So this piece was essentially created as part of my art installation earlier this year. I thought some of you may be interested in seeing that so have popped it on youtube as follows:

The drawings were a nightmare to convert as I’d filmed them with no tripod using my cellphone and not in high definition… yep, it was a horror to try to use them but I did really like how they progressed so I persevered. The video has a ‘smoother’ audio mix, my installation was part of a mixed media exhibition and because I only had four individual songs on repeat I didn’t want it too strident or unsettling to listen to ad nauseum…

I now have a fixed dslr camera so have hopefully learned my lesson… well a lot of lessons actually. I seem to be spending all my spare time drawing and filming at the moment but it’s all terrific challenging fun.

So I’ll copy in those of you who have commented on/liked the thread and might be interested: @ColdRoomStudio @feaker @steban @miked @Lophophora @Chordwainer @skua @redworks @holster

Thanks so much to all of you for your wonderful support during my often strange creative journey… :sunglasses:


That does not surprise me at all. Watching the video with the drawings pulled the feeling, lyrics and artistry closer together for me. I am so impressed with the multiple levels of art you are pulling together. I am blown away!

It may have been me. Many years ago I had done a recording that was guaranteed a radio spot of a song for a school (if we could get production levels up to scratch). It was important that the kids play the song. The kids weren’t very good but my editing skills were pretty good. I had the child playing violin play his part and then at the end, I asked him to play the entire scale in the key of the song using whole notes. I autotuned the notes and wrote a violin part from those notes. :sunglasses: This later turned into me playing cello on other peoples stuff doing much the same thing to my own dreadful playing and other musicians as well:)

Ha! Brilliant. When I heard the “traffic noise” I was like WTF?!? What does that have to do with the subject matter? I struck me as everyday sounds replacing an orchestra(which is really cool). I could infer all types of brilliant artistic vision on your part as to why this is a stylistic and cutting edge like art majors tend to like to do in all sorts of pretentious circles. I love the sincere answer of yours which is “it felt right” and I agree it does to me as well:)

Thanks for the link! It was great to see it all put together. As I said before, I am a fan, I might not fully “get” your work, but it sure is fun to try:)


Ok, so I just had to listen again. That first 30 seconds could be used anywhere. just sayin
This is a great vox Emma. It is right at the brink of harsh with the heavier volume. The intimate stuff is purrrrr…fect. Do you pitch correct at all. The reason I ask, because this is almost perfect pitch. Well I have to melodyne every few notes as of late. ha ha Ok, no complaints. Last few seconds too abrupt ending. Whatever. Take care



Hi Paul,
thanks for checking that out! I did the audio on the video before I’d put it up for bash so yep it is ending quite quickly … it’s a bit of an arduous thing to re-do so I’ve not done it yet, rendering it takes a long time and my video computer is shonky and near-death!
Re the auto-tune, I don’t use it much on my vox unless it’s glaring but I do use it heaps on backing vox, just soorthing and smoothing and doubling to add strange harmonies. I like to let the lead vox sway around a bit, it’s a kind of freedom haha… back ‘in the day’ I used to have to do vocal doubles and I loathed that, so hard to sing it pitch perfect twice but that was the days of tape.

I really liked that entry sound I sort of stumbled across, it felt right and yet was more a happy accident (grin). I had people crying at the exhibition while they watched and listened, in a good way! ANd that was lovely. Plus quite a few of them bought the dvd copies I’d made so I even covered my cost… o my goodness!!! So funny really…
O but it didn’t cover the cost of the new tv Hayden decided we needed while our usual one was out of action for the exhibition (double grin).

It’s cold here, the only thing growing really well in my garden is boring kale which is thriving - probably because we rarely eat it. Great to hear from you.