Jump to content
Mander Organs

Making a recording


Bevington

Recommended Posts

My musically well informed organ tuner has been encouraging me to make a CD of our organ. (His father has been a church organist and produces CDs, so maybe some extra influence there!).

I have looked into various aspects, time required, expenses and so on. But I am concerned about editing and 'takes'. A local choral society paid very large sums of money to have a number of 'unsuitable chords' digitally retuned for a recent CD. In a neighbouring church just a few years ago the parish organist was somewhat baffled when he acted as page turner for a leading concert organist; who amongst other things, did 28 takes of a Bach Prelude and Fugue - so the CD has a number of pieces that are cobbled together from numerous 'takes', yet this organist is quite capable of presenting stunning concerts of difficult repertoire with never a note out of place. My friend cannot enjoy that CD because he knows how many tracks are made up from various takes. So it makes me wonder, if someone can pull off a top performance, when does one decide enough is enough? How many 'takes' in a recording session is fair, musically speaking? I am aware that we all strive for various levels of perfection within our ability, but how far should technology take over?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps modern technology has produced the opportunity for technicians to mackle until their heart's content. The days of splicing tape was a total art form in itself. Digital programmes range from totally simple to utterly sophisticated - as you intimate when tuning is corrected. The problem with concerts is the music 'hits the spot on the night' and is often tremendously exciting, especially when carefully juxtaposed with other works in the programme. However, on repeated hearing the rhetoric in the cold light of day might be considered too much. One is playing for an audience that will remember the experience. On a CD one must also remember that it could be played time after time and over-indulgence (which I like tremendously!), can tire so easily upon repetition. Registration will also often change for a microphone which upsets the player somewhat, so takes might seem in order. Technicians often are listening for extraneous noises and not the musical content, so another take is necessary to placate them. Furthermore, it is trusting to luck if you just do it once as there could be a glitch in the digital capturing and thus could make difficulties when putting everything together. You need the safeguard. Audiences can be coughing (no matter how silently) and can spoil things impossibly, so the clinical late-night sessions are often what one only uses. Some players are totally put off with a microphone (like me), whilst others prefer one (Glenn Gould for instance). I rarely listen to performances on CD - it is the sound of various instruments that interest me, and even then there are differences between the room and the CD. I prefer a complete take, even if there are 'noises off'. In Saint-Antoine we once had the migrating birds in the Abbey Courtyard trees who (at all times of day and night) were excited by one particular final chord of a piece by Boyvin believe it or not. So we left it as it was an intrinsic part of the place. Another take of some Pachelbel in Bitche might seem to have a strange background sound from the organ's action - when in actual fact it was my mother knitting a jumper in a side chapel (which I was to use for all subsequent recordings!)

In other words you can make a sterile recording and filter and splice to the n'th degree or you can be more human and let us hear tiny imperfections that create a human musical offering.

On the other hand, is it still true that orchestral players because of unions can only provide a certain amount of recorded material each day? Then editing and joining takes is totally necessary.

Best wishes,

N

Link to post
Share on other sites
My musically well informed organ tuner has been encouraging me to make a CD of our organ. (His father has been a church organist and produces CDs, so maybe some extra influence there!).

I have looked into various aspects, time required, expenses and so on. But I am concerned about editing and 'takes'. A local choral society paid very large sums of money to have a number of 'unsuitable chords' digitally retuned for a recent CD. In a neighbouring church just a few years ago the parish organist was somewhat baffled when he acted as page turner for a leading concert organist; who amongst other things, did 28 takes of a Bach Prelude and Fugue - so the CD has a number of pieces that are cobbled together from numerous 'takes', yet this organist is quite capable of presenting stunning concerts of difficult repertoire with never a note out of place. My friend cannot enjoy that CD because he knows how many tracks are made up from various takes. So it makes me wonder, if someone can pull off a top performance, when does one decide enough is enough? How many 'takes' in a recording session is fair, musically speaking? I am aware that we all strive for various levels of perfection within our ability, but how far should technology take over?

 

Recording can be a demanding business: just as the presence of a live audience can create a psychological pressure on a recitalist - even a really superb player - so too can the presence of a microphone. Even if you've practised the music up to the point where it flows out as naturally as your own breath, you can still make mistakes! And even if you make it through a piece in only one take with no mistakes, chances are (depending upon the location of the recording venue) you will need additional takes to eliminate traffic noise, aircraft noise, drunks singing along with you outside the church (etc.) which won't have been apparent to you during the take but will certainly have been apparent to the microphone. In the context of multiple takes on a long evening, you'll be getting more and more fatigued and by the end of your session you'll be lucky to make it through a single take without error, simply as a result of muscles tensing up.

 

It's worth noting that a "take" doesn't necessarily mean a complete performance of the whole piece being recorded. For every recording I've ever done, each different producer and sound engineer has advised beforehand that "we're going to need at least two complete takes of each piece or movement, and then if we need anything further we'll do little bits to cover joins." So, one might play a Bach Fugue through twice (Takes 1 & 2) during which the producer will be making notes on his/her score of caught notes, slips, smudges, extraneous noises. S/he will then say something like, "it's mostly there now, but we still don't have a clean version of bar 29. Could you go in from bar 20 and stop after about bar 35?" (Take 3) If an ambulance goes soaring past during that, you'll do those bars yet again (Take 4) and if the producer is satisfied, you can put that piece away and move on to the next. Should you therefore be in a venue in or near London, you may therefore have to do dozens of takes even for simple pieces (which, incidentally, is why such ensembles as St George's Chapel Choir Windsor seldom record in their own venue - much less tiring than having to re-do pieces over and over on account of low-flying Heathrow air traffic!) or record very late at night / early in the morning when human activity and noise outside will be minimal. It's possible to have false starts as a result of car alarms starting right before you play; you must also allow the acoustic to fade to silent again after any extraneous noise so that you can start playing into "emptiness."

 

Even "live recordings" done during an actual performance get done in this way. The producer may call the players back afterwards to play everything over again without audience, and might well have done some sneaky takes of rehearsals beforehand. Angela Hewitt's benchmark Hyperion recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" was famously done as a "live" recital for the production crew after two days of proper recording sessions; the producers essentially used their recording of that live performance on the finished disc but needed to go back to the material from the earlier sessions to correct a few minor smears - and presumably the odd cough or creaking chair from the small live audience! Other celebrated "live" recordings of recent years, such as the EMI Mahler Symphony No. 10 (Berlin Philharmonic / Simon Rattle) or the Hyperion Rachmaninov Piano Concertos (Stephen Hough with the Dallas Symphony / Andrew Litton) were done by the recording team shadowing those performers whilst on tour with those works, recording each live concert plus a few rehearsals over a period of several days, ensuring that the finished disc has the best of each performance without any of the audience noise, except of course for some rapturous applause at the endings!

 

Coming to the question of "how many takes are reasonable for a recording session," you need to think about how much music you intend to record and how much time you're paying for to get it recorded. My own CD at Bath Abbey ("Colours of the Klais" on Cloister Records) has a running time of about 66 minutes, which took about 8 hours in total over two consecutive nights. There are nine works recorded on it, in 14 tracks - two are major works, the Boellmann "Suite Gothique" and the Durufle "Veni Creator," each of which was done on a separate night and each of which needed up to 50 takes, large and small, leaving us with room to record a few smaller pieces before or afterwards. Pacing the sessions was a challenge in itself: I knew that the Durufle in particular would be very fiddly because it takes no prisoners and is also quiet for most of its length (hence traffic interruptions could ruin many otherwise-perfect takes) hence it had to wait until the end of the session when traffic noise would be at a minimum - so I had to choose easier shorter pieces to go before it so as not to wear myself out too much and not have the energy to make it through the work at least twice...

 

It all depends upon who is producing your recording and how high you are aiming with it. Should you be working for a label - even a small one - bear in mind that they have a degree of quality control and would therefore expect to produce a flawless or as-near-to-flawless-as-humanly-possible performance on the finished disc. If you are going to market the recording yourself, selling it only in the church porch plus in friendly local record shops that will stock it, it won't matter so much and the odd flaw in your performance or in the recording ambience will not matter. Even so you would still be wise to put a disclaimer on the sleeve notes, stating that the recording was made in single takes with no editing, or that the church is situated in a busy suburbian location and as a result there is a significant amount of traffic noise on the recording ("but we hope this will not spoil your enjoyment of the music") --- you never know who might snap up a copy and send it to Organist's Review or Church Music Quarterly, where the quality of performance and recording will be mercilessly scrutinised and commented upon in review pages!

 

If, as your tuner thinks, your organ is worth recording, I'd say go for it and good luck.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a difference between the excitement of a live performance, which may involve skating on thin ice, and the relative perfection commonly expected of a recorded performance. There are two reasons for the second - one is that hearing mistakes or mere infelicities repeatedly makes them much more irritating than just once, and the other is that many recordings have a documentary character as well as entertainment, and so need to present the music as accurately as possible.

 

When I was recording CDs of my son Nic's piano playing, we worked differently according to which aspect of the recording was felt to be more important. But in general, he would play a couple of takes of each piece as performances, and then play sections that were not covered in sufficient accuracy (always as substantial size sections) until he was happy. The ratio of full takes to sections would vary, and in one case, we only made complete takes of the (25 min) piece, and in another a single take was all it took to get it on the CD. Every take was listened through completely before proceeding to the next - this gave Nic a chance to rest or recover, and was also necessary because he knew the music far better than I, so I didn't feel able to act as sole producer. Each CD we did was completed in six three hour sessions, most of the first being occupied by balance adjustments.

 

The editing was done in every case by choosing one complete performance as the basis, and then fitting in corrections as required. If the recording phase was done right, it should be possible for a skilled editor (like me!) to make a complete recording that no listener can detect is edited. There is one place on our records which sounds to me (not to most people, I should say!) as if there is a slightly imperfect edit - but I know that in fact there is no edit there: it's just how he played it. The music critic Paul Griffiths used to say, in his university days, that he could always tell an edit because the performance sounded as if it was about to fall apart, and then didn't - but working as I describe above, this should never be possible (and Paul Griffiths had no reservations when reviewing some of Nic's records).

 

In addition, because of the cost of long periods of studio and editing time, there has recently been a strong move towards recordings being taken from live concerts. As a result, listeners are becoming more accustomed to the slight imperfections that are thus preserved, and probably tolerate them because there's nothing actually bad about them; and also because the cheapness of modern recordings to buy means that instead of listening just to one recording, they are likely to alternate round more than one. (Nic's records that I made are all of music that has only been recorded once, so the documentary aspect was relatively important; but I have also contributed tracks to CDs of live performances that I have recorded.)

 

Even "live recordings" done during an actual performance get done in this way. The producer may call the players back afterwards to play everything over again without audience, and might well have done some sneaky takes of rehearsals beforehand.

I've made some tracks that way, too, but they were not advertised as live.

 

Paul

Link to post
Share on other sites
snip

 

In other words you can make a sterile recording and filter and splice to the n'th degree or you can be more human and let us hear tiny imperfections that create a human musical offering.

 

snip

 

I think Nigel puts it very well here. I have a large library of organ CDs and some of them give me absolutely nothing because they come over as sterile because of over-mechanical playing through many hours of practice or queasy because of over-editing.

 

In my experience, making a recording is generally a humbling experience. The fact that you are a good player is not necessarily what gets you through at all. To be blunt, it's a combination of morale, sound preparation and sheer bloody-minded determination. As if to put me in my place, when I made my first recording with Priory the brains of the outfit (Neil Collier and Paul Crichton) described to me the system as used by Colin Walsh. According to them (then) his arrangement was that when recording him they set up their equipment and leave the building. After precisely the requisite time for the whole programme, they are under instruction to return, to find that he has played everything perfectly once. My God, how wonderful it would be to have such talent! And, to a certain extent, such faith.

 

Of course there is the other side of the coin, some recordings of apparently faultless playing have definately been obtained through editorial genius. One famous recording (in the Great Cathedral Organ Series) apparently had so many splices on the spool that a company that had bought the rights to reissue tracks fell about laughing to see the truth. Work to 'fake' a perfect result goes on, don't let's pretend that it doesn't! I was once shown on an editor's computer screen the edits in one variation of Dupre's Variations on a Noel (lasting about two minutes) there were over 40 (forty) of them!

 

I record fairly regularly, bringing out two or three CDs a year generally and it is always like drawing teeth. No sane person would do it because you go through such hell and (no lie) I generally work very hard so that I can actually play everything properly before the day. The difference between simply playing a good performance and recording a good performance is that you notice everything when the microphones are there. The tiniest little 'noise off', or your own little cuff or clip (particularly where there is little acoustic to cover it) means there is little option but to go back. What tends to upset my concentration most is the challenge of controlling a strange console; practically always, I am not trying to record on an organ I am actually organist of.

 

Sometimes purely extraneous forces will decide for you whether several extra attempts are needed. I recently recorded in St.James' R.C. Church, Reading. The organ is a small Tamburini with very sensitive mechanical action. Not only do the keys play for a second time (called pallet-bounce) if you release them too smartly, there is a busy road immediately outside. Sticking to our guns, we got our four little movements for a compilation CD in well under an hour - including having to do them all over again when, on trying to play them back, my engineer found that they had not (after all) been recorded at all.

 

I was actually out recording last night! We'd hired Ripon Cathedral for two nights this week and (I fervently hope) we did get our stuff in the end! I have yet to hear it all. Hearing back Tuesday's session on Wednesday, it turned out that because of some mechanical glitch there was a faint background noise (like a very distant bowl of Rice Crispies) on one channel. To my enormous relief, the four movements that had to be done again proved considerably easier to get on a fresh day having had a day off between. What had taken easily an hour to get on Tuesday went through more-or-less first time. Morale again!

 

Why do I put myself through it all? Well the answer's not difficult. If you manage to hold it together and 'get it right' there is such a sense of achievement, and in issuing carefully made discs you're providing pleasure for many others.

 

My regular line is

'well, what can you buy for £10 these days and enjoy more than once?'

Link to post
Share on other sites

P.S. Sorry, I didn't answer the question. I should have been a politician, only I heard that you have to have part of your brain removed for that career.

 

 

How many takes is musical?

The sole criterion ought to be whether the performer's intended interpretation makes it through onto the final recording.

I think if you stick at it, patience is usually rewarded.

 

I feel sorry for the guy who can't enjoy a disc because he was involved with it being made and knows the struggles that went into it. The business of making extra takes is a sign that the performer is serious not that he is useless! To say that you can't enjoy an edited performance, provided that it has been properly done, is like saying you don't want a poet or a novelist to draft and re-draft their work. What the purchaser wants to get when they listen to your CD is the best that you can do, and hopefully this will also represent the composer's intentions too.

 

Final Advice

Make sure you get to hear yourself plenty of times before any such official recording. Your playing may very well not sound the way you think (and hope) it does. Record yourself practising and make a point of carefully hearing it back. In particular, I think you may find that speeds do not always do what you think they do!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I suppose one solution for the nightmare combination of perfectionist organist and time-restrained recording team would be, on an appropriately kitted-out instrument, for the organist to record everything in advance in MIDI, edit the glitches to his or her heart's content, then for the recording, just set the equipment up and let the organ trot its stuff.

 

I may well stand corrected, but I have a feeling that some of the more excellent Hauptwerk recordings are edited in this way (ie editing at the level of the controls to the organ, rather than editing the sound the organ makes after the sound recording). Any thoughts?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, I suppose one solution for the nightmare combination of perfectionist organist and time-restrained recording team would be, on an appropriately kitted-out instrument, for the organist to record everything in advance in MIDI, edit the glitches to his or her heart's content, then for the recording, just set the equipment up and let the organ trot its stuff.

 

I may well stand corrected, but I have a feeling that some of the more excellent Hauptwerk recordings are edited in this way (ie editing at the level of the controls to the organ, rather than editing the sound the organ makes after the sound recording). Any thoughts?

 

 

What an awesome thought.. however, and I don't want to decry Hauptwerk or anything on similar lines, but do you really expect us to buy recordings made on electronic instruments in place of recordings of genuine historic instruments? I know about Wendy Carlos BTW - an honourable exception.

 

The truth is a lot can be done in the studio, much more than many of us are aware of. Since the days of Kenny Everett it has been possible, for instance, to speed up a recording without altering its pitch. Now, could any serious musician make his or her reputation by using such doubtful means? Well, I'm afraid it has happened. Many will have heard of the case, not to say scandal, of the piano recordings issued by Concert Artists purporting to be the sole work of one Joyce Hatto. Some won't. If anyone here wants to find out more about what can be faked, what stunts can be pulled, enter 'Joyce Hatto' into Google and read to your heart's content!

 

Examples of trickery:

http://www.pristineclassical.com/HattoHoax8.html

 

No, I would be doubtful if I heard a faultless CD from someone who I suspected was not capable of playing well in live performances. I hope nobody else would be fooled either! There is such a wealth of genuine talent out there, honest truth.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The capabilities of doing this using MIDI exist on pipe organs too. The organ of Worcester Cathedral has this option, as does the newly restored organ of my parish church. (III/38) With the right knowledge, it is entirely possible to make a recording and then open up the midi file (complete with stop changes etc) in Cubase or another similiar programme and amend the notes, either by removal or lengths etc accordingly.

 

The end result is still heard as a recording through the pipes, and apart from when the music is 'too' perfect (or mechanical sounding) it is very hard to tell that such a system has been used

 

Of course you can also turn this system the other way and create a file in sibelius and export it onto the organ.. can be interesting, and enable compositions to be played without the limitations of human physicality!

Link to post
Share on other sites
As if to put me in my place, when I made my first recording with Priory the brains of the outfit (Neil Collier and Paul Crichton) described to me the system as used by Colin Walsh. According to them (then) his arrangement was that when recording him they set up their equipment and leave the building. After precisely the requisite time for the whole programme, they are under instruction to return, to find that he has played everything perfectly once. My God, how wonderful it would be to have such talent! And, to a certain extent, such faith.

 

In 'Mirabilis' days we only did complete takes, no editing. We were extremely fortunate in using great players who did get things down in a single take - this was especially wonderful with FJ, when we did the complete Bairstow disc: he was about 73 then I think.

 

The "set it and leave it" technique was one I used generally. All of the red light stuff only serves to get players wound up and nervous before they've even played a note.

 

DW

Link to post
Share on other sites
The capabilities of doing this using MIDI exist on pipe organs too. The organ of Worcester Cathedral has this option, as does the newly restored organ of my parish church. (III/38) With the right knowledge, it is entirely possible to make a recording and then open up the midi file (complete with stop changes etc) in Cubase or another similiar programme and amend the notes, either by removal or lengths etc accordingly.

 

The end result is still heard as a recording through the pipes, and apart from when the music is 'too' perfect (or mechanical sounding) it is very hard to tell that such a system has been used

 

Of course you can also turn this system the other way and create a file in sibelius and export it onto the organ.. can be interesting, and enable compositions to be played without the limitations of human physicality!

 

Though not advocating this technique in the context of making a recording for sale, etc., it does open up ever more possibilities for study, and for personal criticism. I think it represents a very valuable and valid set of facilities to be had on an instrument, and to be commended - whatever BIOS, et al., might say in Canute-ist terms.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Of course you can also turn this system the other way and create a file in sibelius and export it onto the organ.. can be interesting, and enable compositions to be played without the limitations of human physicality!

 

I seem to remember that Sibelius actually did this in the early days of their marketing. They did it by hooking up the software to one of those 'proper' pianos (ie with a mechanism) but also does MIDI. If memory serves me correctly, Ligeti said it was the best performance of his 'etudes' he had heard.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Though not advocating this technique in the context of making a recording for sale, etc., it does open up ever more possibilities for study, and for personal criticism. I think it represents a very valuable and valid set of facilities to be had on an instrument, and to be commended - whatever BIOS, et al., might say in Canute-ist terms.

 

I quite agree. To be able to go and sit in a different part of the church and focus on listening, rather than playing the Trio Sonatas must have been one of the most educational musical experiences i've had.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I may well stand corrected, but I have a feeling that some of the more excellent Hauptwerk recordings are edited in this way (ie editing at the level of the controls to the organ, rather than editing the sound the organ makes after the sound recording). Any thoughts?

 

"Confess, all ye sinners here?"....

 

Well, I'll admit to it...

 

And let me tell you, sometimes it takes a LONG time to edit (probably far less than splicing in, which I've done also)

As many have mentioned, MIDI is not always precise as one might want, so sometimes even FURTHER editing is needed

to make things sound right.

 

There are some things to consider, however, that will make for a more precise capture - most importantly

TPQN - Ticks Per Quarter Note (Ticks Per Crochet) The higher the number, the more precisely the musical information

is being captured (and, of course, the larger the file, to some extent). It's kind of like the MIDI equivalent of printing

resolution - i.e. the higher the DPI, the sharper and truer the image being reproduced.

 

IMHO, this kind of post-production is no different in spirit than splicing, and for a recording that is to be listened to many times,

I think it is quite valid. Even when it can be done on a pipe organ it can be useful (and far less tiring for the performer!)

and I find it quite freeing to know that an otherwise perfect take cannot be spoiled by noise, ciphers, etc.

 

One caveat - if you are doing this in a live situation (i.e. a real pipe organ), it really is best to edit your MIDI playback in the venue,

since that will give you instant feedback on what it will really sound like. For the extremely fussy, one can also make an audio recording

during the MIDI session recording , and then the edited portions can be spliced in later.... leaving most of the recording "live"

 

When it comes to recordings, if it sounds good, it is good.... for archival/documentation purposes I want it as perfect as possible.

 

Best to all,

 

- G

Link to post
Share on other sites

There were one or two crucial things that I meant to say in my post the other day. One has already been said - the fact that you need good independent ears on the scene. Secondly, I say that the player should refrain from listening back at the takes for some considerable time. I say this because you most probably have a very distinct remembrance of the recording sessions which remains in the memory. To be able to forget the sessions and then come fresh to the recordings is of greater benefit in my experience. The last time I sat time for a recording was earlier in the year in March and I have not heard it through until the end of August. There were snippets of moments to revel in the sound - but certainly not in the performance. The largest work I heard from march was in September with a student and it was only then that I thought it time to give the go-ahead for production as I was not entirely happy at the time with my reading of the work. I was pleasantly surprised and was hearing something quite unlike my original memory of it. Your soul is being exposed for posterity and I find it a torment. others rather enjoy it. We are all different!

Nigel with all best wishes.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I once edited someone else's disc, and the "Allein Gott" Trio by JSB (the Klavierübung one) was built from 26 clips from several takes.

The performer was simply unable to provide the necessary preparation, but he is the number one in his region (a province in southern Austria), and has his audience, so he made it for them (and it was never available otherwise than directly at his church).

 

I edited several own recordings, and my aim was to transmit my musical view. Two of the three discs where made to present the INSTRUMENT, not the player. The third one was a live recording of an improvisation concert, which was decided to be published two years later - I never thought of doing so during the concert, but the marvellous acoustics and organ were depicted so well in spite of hasty mic arrangement and a large Panasonic SV-3700 DAT (stae of the art in those days).

 

But there is one great musician in history who is the "saint of all editors" - it is Glenn Gould. He was working (originally with experienced staff, later himself) painstakingly on his recordings, searching for the essence of his musical opinion. If a 36 bar piece would need 40 clips and sound fine, he would still be happy. On the other hand, he had not the problem that he might fail as a real-time interpreter at a live performance. So for him, editing was the same as the work of an artist refining his painting or sculpture, or a composer working on his music.

 

I would always make a difference between good recordings and good concerts and the people behind them - there are some musicians who provide both, but many others are better only at one of the two. I took the step to record and edit, because I knew that nobody else would get so much music out of the certain instruments at the time of the recording as I did. That is not ignorant, I simply knew them best. And making other people that much acquainted with the organs that I have already been, would have afforded quite a long time and would have needed money which otherwise could be saved to get most profit out of the projects for raising the organ funds (which has been proven true). On the other hand, I was happy to receive warm reception in articles commenting on the recordings.

But I'd never produce or use such discs as enclosure for an application for a concert (which I actually never made in my life), because they do not show my concert abilities. My "cleanest" performance ever was a live broadcast in Austria with BWV 547 with one wrong pedal note, and I hope it was a musical performance though. Mostly there is much more "dirt" in my performances, but audiences like them, as there is much music happening.

 

But sure, there are players who can play clean AND inspired. Some others make their money and reputation by acting as human MIDI machines. We all know to hear the differences.

 

So I would encourage JOR to make a recording even with many edits, if he thinks it serves the organ and its regional reputation - and nobody else is at hand at acceptable prices.... But try to find an engineer with sympathy for the project, because paying a large editing job according to a regular price list and checking the studio clock will always be very expensive.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunately my internet connection disappeared not long after starting this post: there have been many interesting points of view provided by members since then. And of course to see things from the recording engineers' viewpoint is crucial. Close to the idea behind my initial concern over doing numerous takes and providing an audience with "one piece made of many" was a perhaps misinformed moral or ethical feeling about giving honest performances. It is interesting how old recordings can be caught in "time and place" whereas a modern CD perhaps avoids this. Years ago, like all tromba-happy teenagers, I began collecting LPs of choirs and organs. Although musical, my mother was less inclined to enjoy hours of such music turned up loudly(!), so I bought some headphones and began to hear all sorts of things up close. There is a track on an old Peterborough Cathedral choir recording with a quite obvious cough; another LP appears to have windows or something rattling when the 32 is used; and on yet another LP, my headphones allowed me to just catch a short burst of distant conversation during a few quiet bars that had not been picked up when the record was produced. And so on.

All amusing in a way but the downside is that one is always ready for the interruption as a sort of feature of the performance - hence it loses the timelessness that some modern techniques can produce with extraneous sounds removed.

It seems however that I should relax and allow myself to be 'taken' as is required!

Link to post
Share on other sites

That's true - I have the Bach b-minor Mass with Gardiner, and somebody's talking during the opening of the "Dona nobis pacem", and in one of the Osannas, there's an error in the trumpets. The play brilliantly, of course. But when you listen often to such recordings (as I did, since it was my first cd ever bought around '86 or '87), you are not free to enjoy as you keep waiting for those "extra events"....

 

So, that is another reason for a clean recording. May it be played clean or edited to seem so.

Link to post
Share on other sites
In 'Mirabilis' days we only did complete takes, no editing. We were extremely fortunate in using great players who did get things down in a single take - this was especially wonderful with FJ, when we did the complete Bairstow disc: he was about 73 then I think.

 

The "set it and leave it" technique was one I used generally. All of the red light stuff only serves to get players wound up and nervous before they've even played a note.

 

DW

 

==============

 

This reply I found VERY interesting, and confirms what I recall of FJ in his heyday. As a performer, he tended to wear his heart on his sleeve when I used to go and listen to his many recitals in the Yorkshire area.

 

I have heard "live" recitals which were just flawless from start to finish, but just occasionally, he was "off form" for whatever reason, and the playing was all over the place. A famously bad recital at Bradford Cathedral was broadcast on Radio 3, but only after a long after-recital session to re-record it all again, quite late into the night as I recall being told.

 

On a more general point, some artists are actually better as recording artists than they are as live performers; perhaps released from the pressures of audience recation.

 

Peter Hurford, of course, did two complete sets of Bach recordings: one for the "Beeb" and the other for a recording company "Argo?"

 

When he talked about the two sets, he said that the LP recordings were more cautious and calculated; the intention being to create an archive style of recording. With the BBC recordings, he threw caution to the wind and re-0created a "live" performance experience. Interestingly, I always preferred the BBC recordings, which were far more compelling, even if they were not flawless.

 

Going right back in time, you have to admire some of the great names of the 1930's and 40's. George Thalben-Ball playing the "Ride of the Valkyries," Goss-Custard and especially Lemare. They seemed to combine perfection with panache.

 

 

Going right back to the early days of acetate 78rpm recordings, what of Quentin Maclean recording the Grieg "Piano Concerto" using piano and organ separately, with no electronic tricks. He recorded the orchestral part on the organ, which was then played back and presumably fed into the cutting machine, at the same time as the piano solo part was played.

 

It is an extraordinary recording even to-day, and with only a wall-clock to guide him, and timing marks on the score, it is utterly remarkable that the various queues are more or less precise throughout. Unfortunately, there are no links to the recording, but the following gives some idea of his facility as a recording artist.

 

 

Other great recording artists, who seemed to be capable of single-take recordings, included such as E Power Biggs and Geraint Jones. I suspect that Simon Preston is in the same league, judging by the TV broadcasts I've seen from the Proms.

 

Another organist who can perform this feat is cinema organist Simon Gledhill, who just arrives, tries a few things through, records the tracks in one go and leaves. He has both a considerable technique and an absolutely flawless musical memory.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWvBNbrQNA0...feature=related

 

Irrespective of the recording method, one has to admire those who can play precisely and musically, and at least convey the thrill of a live performance. There is a certain Paul Derrett who can pull this trick off wonderfully, and by comparison with many other recording artists, he gets my vote as one of the very best.

 

 

Of course, the final lesson about "live" v. "archive" has to come from the late Virgil Fox.

 

Did he EVER play anything accurately? (Actually, the very tricky "Giga" by Bossi is absolute perfection).

 

Take it or leave it, his recordings still cause the heart-rate to rise, and it his best, he certainly catches the attention of the listener, some 30 years after his death.

 

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites

Whislt I'm not in the league of those who are recording professional CDs, I do record my playing for practice purposes and sharing with family and friends. Even in such an informal situation I find that my mind will play games with me to a greater extend that when doing a live performance. For me, in a live performance situation, any mistake or imperfection is immediately in the past. So assuming it wasn't catastrophic, it doesn't impact the remainder of the performance.

 

However when making a recording, the pressure increases throughout the performance. The further though the piece you are without having made any mistakes, the more effort that is "at stake" if you make a mistake between now and the end of the piece. It's all silly mind games I'm sure, and not so disimilar from me becoming progressively cack-handed as soon as I approach the "daily record" whislt playing pit-pat on the beach during family holidays.

 

Sq.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...