Trevor Cox Professor of Acoustics from Salford University goes in search of the best venues for different types of music. Trevor is fascinated by the effect that the acoustics have on the enjoyment of different types of live music. He visits various music venues and tries out their acoustics by playing his saxophone. He talks to musicians, sound engineers and experts in acoustics about the venues and the effect that their design has on the audience’s enjoyment of music. He asks whether the size and shape of venues has had an effect on the way music is composed. And he travels to Finland to meet Professor Tappio Lokki who can replicate the sound of famous concert halls in his laboratory.
With contributions from acousticians Adrian James, Rob Harris and Niels Adelman-Larsen, sound engineer Derrick Zieba, and musicians Jessica Cottis and Trish Clowes.
Today’s level 3 project guest lecture was given by recording engineer Ken Blair. Ken is a freelance sound recordist who’s company BMP Recording specialise in classical, jazz and acoustic music.
Ken came to talk about his typical week of recording, editing, mixing and filling in tax returns! He described a typical orchestral recording session and how it can differ from a pop/rock recording session, in that a lot of these sessions are still recorded straight to stereo – especially if its a live event recording. This means a lot of time is spent positioning microphones and balancing levels into the recording device. This also means there’s no room for error, both in terms of the musicians’ performance and in terms of the recording levels and mix balance. Nerve wracking stuff!
Ken also talked about how his background and recording experience led him to the place he’s at now. After leaving school in Scotland, Ken studied the Tonmeister course at the University of Surrey and spent a year on work placement at Air studios in Montserrat. He also gave our students some great advice regarding building their portfolios and creating a skills based CV.
Many of our students will go on to be freelance workers across the very broad range of audio production careers. Ken’s lecture was a great insight into the day to day activities of just one of these fields. Really useful stuff!
Dame Evelyn Glennie celebrates the 250th birthday of one of the most unusual of all musical instruments, the Glass Armonica, premiered by Benjamin Franklin in 1762. She tries out the working instrument at the Benjamin Franklin House in London, sees an original example in the Horniman Museum, and discovers the repertoire written for it by Mozart, Hasse and Donizetti. On the way, she encounters madness and mental illness, reveals one of the world’s first female virtuosi, Marianne Davies, and meets the man responsible for the present day revival of this remarkable instrument, Thomas Bloch.
Cultural commentator Paul Morley explores a history of popular music through some of the iconic recording studios in which classic albums were created.
Without them music as we know it would simply not exist. There’d be no technology to capture the sounds envisaged by the musicians and created and enhanced by the engineers and producers… and there’d be no music for the record companies to market and distribute. But more than that, the studios actually played a crucial part in the structure and fabric of the music recorded there – the sounds enhanced by the studio space itself… the potential and shortcomings of the equipment and technology housed in the cubicles… and the ability and ‘vision’ of the engineers and producers operating it all to find the new sound that makes the recordings sound different and fresh.
Today he visits the world’s first purpose built recording studio, and possibly the most famous: the one at No 3, Abbey Road, a stone’s throw from a much photographed zebra crossing in London’s St John’s Wood. Opened by Sir Edward Elgar conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in a recording of “Land Of Hope And Glory”, the studios went on to record everyone from Adam Ant, The Bolshoi and Nick Cave… to XTC, Diana Yakawa and the Zombies – to say nothing of Pink Floyd and the Beatles.
But that’s not what’s drawn Paul Morley to these historic recording rooms – it’s the continuing work in capturing the sound of orchestras that is put under the spotlight in this programme. With the help of engineers and producers, composers and those that keep the studios running on a day to day basis, Paul explores how the relationship classical music has with the recording studio differs from the one that pop music enjoys.
This is a great insight into how Elbow went about probably their most challenging brief.
“Go into a studio and come up with a global Olympic theme”. It starts with a brass fanfare where the first five notes relate to the five Olympic Rings. It’s a call to attention. The choir was introduced to make it more ‘everyman’. It will become another familiar BBC sporting theme which will be remembered by a generation. Though as Elbow’s Guy Garvey admits, “It’s never going to be as good as ‘Ski Sunday’ theme is it?
Mercury Prize-winning group Elbow have spoken about how they created their anthem for the BBC’s Olympics coverage.
Entitled First Steps, the new piece was recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the NovaVox gospel choir.
First Steps is accompanied by an animation produced at Passion Pictures, showing the landscape of the United Kingdom transformed into a giant sporting arena inside the Olympic Stadium.
Guy Garvey and therest of the band spoke to the BBC about their inspiration for the music and the recording process, and the video’s designer explained how he created the look of the graphics.
The track will be available as a digital download only.
The trailer has been devised around the concept of “Stadium UK” and cleverly uses animation to transform the United Kingdom into a sporting hub where athletes prepare and compete in the Olympic Games. Exchanging swimming pools for the English Channel, running tacks for the streets of Britain and gymnastic apparatus for famous London landmarks.
Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and experimental composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s work appears side by side on a new Nonesuch recording. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme, the two composers discuss music for film (Penderecki’s music is used in The Shining and The Exorcist, Greenwood scored There Will Be Blood) and creating sounds and textures not normally associated with the orchestra. Greenwood also discusses the limitations of recorded music: “Recordings just aren’t good enough…the concert hall provides far richer and more complex sound than listening to loudspeakers in a room.”
“I love my work! I studied at the Royal College of Music (violin and composition) and have always enjoyed variety in my music career. String arranging and orchestration have ended up as my specialities, but via bands and radio commercials and music theatre (musical director for The Rocky Horror Show ’96 – ’99) and teaching.
I have a special interest in web tools for musicians – as learners, teachers and professionals. My wikispace documents my interests and research. Elearning for Musicians.”
It’s Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School centenary year and to celebrate they wanted to record an album of pieces performed by the school orchestra. Under the expert guidance of Bryan Rudd, the musicians of the 45 piece orchestra set up in the University’s very own Abbey Road Studio 2, the large TV studio (Monk’s Road Studios, perhaps?). We patched in the various arrays of C414s, C1000s and MT201s and balanced live to stereo. Even though we were very pushed for time the recordings turned out very well due to the nice acoustic of the room and some really great playing by the musicians. I’ve never recorded a full orchestra before so this was a very enjoyable experience for me. I’ll post more details of the album when it is completed, for now, you can listen to one of the pieces below.