We spent the first week of February recording scratch tracks. Each week thereafter we added layers, recording drums and percussion, bass, piano, organ, guitars, and finally lead vocals. We will mix and master the final product in March. We are also excited to be working on some video productions stemming from these sessions.
This past weekend, Manifold Recording hosted four ensembles of the Chrysalis Chamber Music Institute from UNC School of the Arts (UNCSA): the Giannini String Quartet, the Liminal Phase wind quintet, the Chrysalis Brass Quintet, and an ad hoc piano/violin duet. The goal of the session was to give these developing musicians an opportunity to hear themselves in a new way–recorded in a studio setting. Of course musicians must be able to hear themselves, and of course they must be able to hear other members of their ensemble. But beyond that, how much do they take for granted that what sounds good inside the circle will translate beyond it. This session gave them the opportunity to experience this for themselves.
Sarah Shook came to Manifold Recording by way of an Intern from Italy, Mario Bianchi, but the story of Sidelong, Sarah’s first full-length album, has a longer history. And one that makes this album release that much sweeter.
A recent feature in INDY Week tells the backstory of a Sarah’s journey, from growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household in Rochester NY to the devilish ways that led first to her musical emancipation, her break from religion, and ultimately the embrace of herself as a unique and uniquely driven person. Regardless of how dangerous that may be. And without any apologies.
Sarah first came to Manifold Recording to make an EP with her band, Sarah Shook and The Devil. It was a fast and wild ride, but one that told us that there was some real magic, too. Ian Schreier took it upon himself to use his 20+ years in the business to convince Sarah to come back and make a real record, with him as producer. The fact that her band had just dissolved wasn’t an excuse to sidetrack the project.
Once Sarah had recruited a new band that could both play together and work together, Ian was ready take the reins as Producer.
Last night as I was driving home, I heard Bryan Adams interviewed on the CBC’s program q. In the course of that interview, he went into some details about his three-step process for making a record:
- Write the song
- Record the demo
- Make the record
His 12 studio albums have been extremely successful, with 11 going at least Gold, and Reckless going 5x Platinum. He’s also charted more than 10 #1 singles. Clearly he has a talent for writing and performing, but he has also learned to follow a process that helps good become great and great become the best.
Bryan takes collaboration as a given. Just as Design Thinking teaches that “the best idea wins”, so, too, does it apply to songwriting and producing. When he was just getting started, he felt his initial drafts were “precious” and wanted to retain the purity of his authorship. But, as he says in the interview, “Mutt Lange beat it out of me.” And as Wikipedia reports, they co-wrote “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You“, a hugely successful single written for the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that currently holds the record for the longest consecutive Number 1 UK chart single with 16 consecutive weeks at the top of the charts (7 July-26 October 1991). They clearly worked well together!
After the songs are written, demos are recorded. The demo is the first really concrete representation of a song as it might be played and recorded for real. Demos are not low-quality sketches, but an honest first draft of the real thing. They are also a baseline for quality: when recording a record, Bryan’s goal is that each “real” song be better than the demo. In cases where that doesn’t happen, the song is likely going to be left off the album. The demo provides an objective way to tell if they are really knocking the ball out of the park or if they are just making another version of the demo.
When enough material has passed the demo test to fill out an album, and when that material all fits together coherently, then it becomes possible to make a record that will be successful.
Obviously Bryan Adams has had a very successful career as a musician. In his telling of his own story he is humble and humorous, but it is also clear that he follows best practices rather than ignoring them. And this has certainly served him well.
Last month Kat Robichaud and her band moved in to the studio to record an epic rock album, with Ian Schreier engineering and producing. The process actually began some time before that, but the studio came into play for some intensive rehearsals before tracking and mixing began. Here’s a shot of the whole band rehearsing, showing the great energy that everybody had throughout the session:
Last year, John Heitzenrater and the band Hindugrass came to Manifold Recording to track their new album. John used crowd-funding to help defray the costs of the tracking session, and to use his home studio to edit and mix the resulting tracks. The theory was that by going “all in” on the quality of the recorded material, he would wouldn’t need all the firepower of a high-end studio to produce a good result. But as good as the tracks were, he began to realize that his artistic vision for the album was way more complicated than just selecting the right takes, putting the faders at zero, and letting the songs mix themselves. He began to inquire about mixing dates toward the end of the year, and we agreed to do a joint project. We would mix the album, but he would let us produce video of the process. We are proud to present the first fruits of that collaboration:
I have been talking for some time about the virtues of kickstarter funding for music recording projects. The indie album Move by Matt Phillips and the Philharmonic could not have been made without kickstarter funding. But the more I learn about the world of music kickstarters, the more I see there is to learn.
The Set Chopin Free project reached its $75,000 goal scarcely two weeks into its seven week funding schedule. It is already more than $5,000 above its funding goal, and could well surpass $100,000 by the time its funding window closes. And the Open Well-Tempered Clavier project (launched by Robert Douglass) has already reached 50% of its $30,000 fundraising goal from more than 450 supporters in its first 5 days! That kind of strong start virtually guarantees funding success, and leaves us only to wonder whether it will achieve 160% (like Open Goldberg Variations), 200% (like Fractal Journeys and the Twelve Tones of Bach), 350% (like the Well-Tempered Clavier Tour), 600% (like Musopen’s Set Music Free) or more than 1100% (like Amanda Palmer did in her amazing 2012 record). The possibilities are quite wide open. But real questions remain: how did this happen? what does it mean?
A press release today invites the press itself to consider some more pointed questions:
If both Open Goldberg and Musopen succeed with their Kickstarter campaigns, collectively raising over $100,000 for new recordings of standard repertoire, it is probably worth asking “Who is holding classical music in shackles?” and “Why do so many people feel it is so important to set Bach and Chopin free?” Continue reading “Success Stories”
It is always exciting to think about what might happen when two of your favorite artists decide to team up and produce a new collaboration. But it can also be a disappointment when the result sounds a bit like a tug-of-war between two visions, or a competition between the two artists. NOW not only avoids the these pitfalls, but it soars above them with rare and wonderful transcendence. Indeed, it may do for Piano and Electric Guitar what Crystal Silence did for Piano and Vibraphone.
Alex Machacek and Gary Husband spent several days with us recording a new album for their label, AbstractLogix. Gary has just finished touring the East Coast with John McLaughlin, and Alex flew in from Los Angeles. Both had been writing, practicing, and sharing notes about the music they would be recording, but this was the first time they had a chance to play it together. It was exciting to witness the music literally being realized through the process of recording!
Our recording setup anticipated Alex playing both electric and acoustic guitar. In the photo you see him practicing with Gary, so the amp is not isolated, and neither is Alex. For the recording, Alex played through a Carr Rambler amplifier isolated in Booth B, but he’s practicing with Gary through a Carr Mercury amplifier. He really enjoyed playing through both. During the recording session, Alex moved into the hexagonal room we made from gobos. When he was getting set up, I asked him “what’s your favorite color?” and when he told me “something warm, maybe orange”, I illuminated it with a really orange light. He liked the effect, and that’s how we kept it during the remainder of the session. (See below for some color out-takes.)
For the acoustic guitar, Alex auditioned two of our studio guitars: a Breedlove and an Alvarez Yari. Alex picked the Yari because its tone and action fit were a perfect fit for the tone he envisioned and for the way he plays.
Gary played our Yamaha CF-9. We set up three pairs of microphones to capture several perspectives of the piano’s sound. Over the hammers we had a pair of Schoeps CMC6 mics. Over the harp we had our DPA 3521 compact cardiod pair. Slightly higher and slightly farther away we had a pair of Coles 4038 ribbon microphones which you can see on the large boom stand. Ian then set about to get the piano to play Gary’s favorite colors, which tended to be a bit darker than our piano plays naturally. However, after some back-and-forth, we found that we could get the desired color with a touch of EQ. With that, we were ready to record.
This week we have been given a gift. Two of the most talented members of the Jazz fusion community are making a record at Manifold Recording. And they are trying something new: the co-production model of The Miraverse. If you are within 40 miles of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, or Pittsboro, you might want to consider becoming a co-producer on Friday, or at least having dinner with these artists and hearing what Alex Machacek and Gary Husband have been creating.
A lot has changed in the recording industry since John McLaughlin started recording with Miles Davis, but a few things have stayed the same: the laws of physics that govern acoustics have not changed, and the challenge of making a great record–from the technical practice to the acoustics to the critical decisions during tracking and mixing–remain challenges no matter how much technology one has available. The co-production model is a new approach geared toward helping artists produce their art at the highest level, using both the most advanced technologies available and the most organic acoustic spaces in which to give their music life, and to do so in an economically sustainable way.
One major task of making a great recording is the recording process itself. This process has its own magic, its own mystery, its own moments of enlightenment to offer. And it is a process that is usually hidden from view, inaccessible to all except those directly connected to the process. But what about those who love not only the music itself, but the process of producing the music? In the world of local food, chefs are teaming up with farmers, bringing the restaurant to the field so that diners can experience food in a more complete and holistic way that just what is served on the plate. Other artists are inviting people into their studios to witness the process of creation. Why not do the same for the recording arts?
We are thrilled that Gary and Alex are trying new things. And we hope that you might try something new as well and support the work of these artists in a new way. It is quite something special to hear our 9′ concert grand piano in the Music Room. It will be quite something special to hear Alex playing through our locally-made Carr amplifiers. And if you decide to make a day of it and spend time not only hearing them play live, but participating in the recording process.
Leonardo DaVinci once said “Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom.” Which means that art is defined by the choices made by the artist. By seeing those choices being made, by understanding how those choices can be discerned in a recording, you might just find that you have a whole new appreciation for your existing library of recordings as you hear nuances (choices!) you’d never heard before.
Tickets for those who wish to attend are being handled by AbstractLogix here.
BREAKING NEWS: There is now an option to join only the post-dinner concert. Contact AbstractLogix to check on availability of these $99 tickets. We hope to see you Friday, either for the whole day, for dinner, or for the wrap-up performance. Thank you for helping these artists produce the next milestones in Jazz recording.