Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
Sunday, May 19 • 14:15 - 14:45
"Revolution 9": The Creation of John Lennon's Guernica

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I propose to direct colleagues through the creation of the Beatles' most experimental track, "Revolution 9," John Lennon's response to violent worldwide upheavals in the Spring of 1968. The eight-minute concrète work was a collaboration of Lennon, avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, and fellow Beatle George Harrison; producer George Martin and engineers Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald, Peter Bown, Richard Lush, and Nick Webb; and unwitting HMV artists including Dame Myra Hess, King's College Choir and the English Chamber Orchestra, who contributed through master recordings pulled from EMI's tape library. Engineers throughout EMI Studios fed loops from numerous tape machines (involving at least 45 sources) to the Studio Two control room, the board of which was played as if a Mellotron-like controller to complete a four-track master. The result is a piece of great beauty masked by a surface ugliness—violent and abstract, seemingly inchoate, argued against by the composer's bandmates and rejected by nearly all fans. To help students enter this world, I always start by sharing thoughts on Picasso's Guernica.

"Revolution 9" includes the first music recorded for the White Album, based on the improv- ised six-minute tail—a jam replete with guitar feedback—excised from what became the backing track of "Revolution 1." To enhance our study, we have numerous early working tapes: three different pre-loop versions with various pre-brass overdubs of the instrumental backing; different stereo mixes (plus oops reductions of each) and an early mono acetate, which show provisional attempts at mixing the loops onto three vacant tracks alongside the bounced-down "Revolution 1" bed; and monitor tapes from the Studio Two control room with 67 minutes documenting the mixing sessions, over which Yoko Ono speaks. Highlights include sounds not heard in released masters, a demonstration of the STEED flanging system, backwards and varispeed tapes, and raw loops.

avatar for Walter Everett

Walter Everett

University of Michigan
Walter Everett, Professor of Music at the University of Michigan, is the author of the two-volume book, The Beatles as Musicians (Oxford Univ Press), The Foundations of Rock (Oxford), and What Goes On: The Beatles, Their Music and Their Time, co-authored with Tim Riley (Oxford, forthcoming... Read More →

Sunday May 19, 2019 14:15 - 14:45 EDT
Classroom 411 (4th floor)