The Culture Music

You’re invited to musicians’ recording sessions

With projects by three high-profile artists, music fans have been able to look into the creative process as new projects were being created.

Singer Esperanza Spalding poses for a picture in New York in 2016.
Drew Gurian/Invision/AP
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  • Yoshi Kato

When music fans wanted to learn about how their favorite albums were made, they used to have to wait until deluxe anniversary box sets or documentary films about the recordings were released. 

But with projects by three high-profile artists, they have been able to look into the creative process as new projects were being created.

British singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist PJ Harvey incorporated a live art installation as part of her latest album, “The Hope Six Demolition Project.” 

Back in January 2015, she embarked on her roughly monthlong “Recording in Progress” exhibition behind one-way glass at Somerset House in London. 

Audience members could witness the action – or lack thereof – in 45-minute segments. (No phones or anything that could record footage was allowed.)

Meanwhile, New Zealander and veteran troubadour Neil Finn livestreamed rehearsals and the sole four-hour recording session for his latest album, “Out of Silence,” each Friday this past August from his studio in Auckland.

In September, American bassist/vocalist/songwriter Esperanza Spalding wrote, arranged, and recorded “Exposure,” her upcoming release, in Los Angeles over a 77-hour period. The 2011 Best New Artist Grammy winner used Facebook Live as a portal. She planned on issuing only 7,777 copies of the album on CD and vinyl; preorders for the physical media versions of “Exposure” sold out.

“It’s great to come as you are and have that be accepted,” says guitarist Matthew Stevens, who participated in the “Exposure” sessions and says he stopped noticing the cameras early on.

“I kept asking her, ‘Are you sure you don’t want me to come in with any ideas?’ ” vocalist/violinist/guitarist/songwriter Andrew Bird, who also participated in the “Exposure” experiment, remembers. “And she just said, ‘No, no – just yourself.’ ”

“We were really revitalized by [it],” Mr. Stevens says. “It was an amazing experience.”

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