Saturday, May 5, 2018

Animal Poems

So this is the first draft of the first movement of a horn concerto. I enjoy working in Sibelius. I do not enjoy the viola's C clef. Nor do I enjoy instruments which are written in other keys (although Sibelius makes up for this and lets me write the F horn in C so that it's less irksome to look at in the score.)
I think I'm not linking the themes together enough. And I don't modulate. I should probably modulate. I'm guessing that's one of my bigger failures as a classical composer.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Recording Chorus

I got to record the Nikolai Kachanov singers last weekend. They did two pieces -- an all-men's ensemble, and a piece for chorus and classical saxophone quartet.
The New Hudson Saxophone Quartet is really fantastic.
So we're at the Good Shepherd church (famous for Robert Shaw recordings, among others) and a couple things: there is a "bloom" of sound that starts at about the 5th pew. That's the sound the music director likes so I put a pair of spaced (about 2 meters) hypercardioid mics there as a stereo pair. Those are Oktava 012's.
But I also put up a center microphone. Well, I put up three.

Center cluster -- handmade ribbon mic, Oktava 012, handmade U-48 clone.
 I like to have appropriate mics ready because different pieces frequently must needs different setups. But also, I was experimenting with different sounds. So for the rehearsals I put up a cluster to listen to different sounds. I discovered that the ribbon just did some magical something. All the things everyone says about ribbon microphones? Yeah. Creamy yet beautiful and articulate high-end. Noisy, sure, but beautiful. I listened to an Oktava. I listened to the U48 clone. I listened to a Rode NT1-A. None of them did the "thing" the ribbon was doing.
The other thing about the ribbon is that it's inherently in a figure-8 pattern, which means it picks up sound behind as well as in front. So as a "close" microphone it sounds about twice as far away. So I put it close to the action. Almost right over the conductor's head.
But the sound of that mic was more like a couple meters away from the conductor. And it was being blended with the two mics behind it which were several meters behind.

But during the rehearsal for the men's ensemble (not pictured) I felt I had too much distance on the men and I wanted to place some large diaphragm condenser further downstage and pointed left and right.
So this is how it went on performance day: Ribbon mic in center. But I was a little worried about the delicate nature and ostensible crankiness of the ribbon, so I put an Oktava 012 up on that stand as a backup. And then I put the U48 clone up there in figure-8 mode but sideways, in anticipation of possibly doing a mid/side recording in the center cluster.
I also placed a pair of wide-spaced Rode NT1-A's just ahead of the first pew. The notion here was to better grab the men's ensemble.
Well, this is why we have options.
Nikolai told the group that the sound would dry up during performance because of people in the room. I looked at the room and thought "Well it can't dry up that much. The ceiling is like 15 miles away." But heck if I haven't recorded at this church a dozen times, yup. It dried up significantly down there on the floor.
What this meant was that the microphones at the 5th pew ended up being better than 50% of the stereo mix. And the ribbon just added a bit of prettiness and presence. The backup Oktava was not needed (thankfully). The U48 was also not doing anything for anybody. And the two Rode NT1-A's also didn't end up in the mix.
Seven mics in the air. Only three played.
The church has a bit of build-up at about 3kHz. Only once you get past a certain volume level. So back in the studio I put a bit of frequency-specific compression with a relatively narrow band at 3k.

There should be a new YouTube video of one or the other of these pieces. Asaf Blasberg was the videographer. Interestingly he also had a Zoom F8, so we jam-synced timecode to his F8, then he brought his F8 over to his camera (a 4K Panasonic) and jam-synced the camera. That way my files just blooped right over into his timeline. Kinda cool actually.

YouLean loudness meter. Oh boy. This is a nice loudness meter.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Elephant's Dream

I'm learning Sibelius. And doing so I decided to write the world's worst string quartet. Here it is.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Residents

The show last night was all old hippies and the most beautiful 50-year-old women you've ever seen. It took place at a really nice venue with lots of leg room which was an active temple. The menorah on the side of the stage was a nice aesthetic touch.
So it was a big surprise when the band just stopped and said the neighbors complained about the noise and the cops were there. Concert over.
I'd never even been to a *party* shut down by the cops before.
The weird comic bit I think is just how mellow an audience this was. I mean, it's a San Fransisco band. And basically anyone under 35 was carded and told they needed better ID*
The costumes were great. I was expecting more costume changes but maybe those were going to happen later in the show? I enjoyed how the musicians sometimes had to adjust their beaks between songs. 

The singing was more Cookie-Monster than I'd expected. And the guitar was more '80's finger-tapping than I would have figured.
The backdrop matched the costumes. We met the tour's LD and I told him he did a great job. He told me he only had 8 instruments.
Almost exactly 37 years ago Pete Cenedella made me listen to the Residents in his dorm room at Solebury School. Which is kinda awesome.

*This is a lie but one that amuses me.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Microphone tests with acoustic guitar

I test an Aurycle kit microphone (a u47 clone, all stock), the Austin ribbon kit (with Cinemag transformer), a Rode NT1-A, and an AKG C12-A.
Left to right: AKG C12-A (with the "Utopia" logo), Rode NT-1A, Austin Ribbon kit (Cinemag transformer), Aurycle U-47 multipattern clone kit.

They all go through the preamps on a Focusrite 18i20. I lined them up with a bit of distance from the guitar just so they shouldn't sound terribly different from one another just due to the positioning.
It's virtually impossible to do a real blind A/B comparison, so I generally don't even try. But there are some clear differences betwixt each of these mics.

Art Rock

I've had the very pretentious idea of "art song on the top, rock song on the bottom" for, well, since I was a teenager.
I've never quite been able to pull it off.
A baritone guitar would probably help.

The idea being to have a groove underneath, but to continue to vary the melody and harmony on top like classical Western music.

I dunno. Maybe I can pull it off eventually. I'll start with a concerto for electric guitar. That sounds appropriately pretentious. No?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

And then what

Master no louder than -9 LUFS short-term at the loudest moments
(with True Peaks no higher than -1)

That's what Ian Shepherd says at least. 

SimulAnalog guitar suite has a pretty decent Univibe free VST plugin.

Animal Poems

So this is the first draft of the first movement of a horn concerto. I enjoy working in Sibelius. I do not enjoy the viola's C clef. Nor...