Guitar virtuoso and teacher Wayne Krantz and his trio are coming to the Miraverse February 15, 2015, and we are so excited! I first learned about Wayne from the AbstractLogix catalog. My love of the music created by John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Herring, and others of that sort predicted I would like Wayne’s music. Not because he imitates them–he most certainly doesn’t! But because he is as boldly original as they are, bringing together an exciting mix of classic and alien, funky and beautiful, harmonic and angular. I bought the self-titled album Krantz Carlock Lefebvre and it spent weeks in the player as I listened to it over and over and over again.
When Wayne released a book (An Improviser’s OS), I found myself falling down a rabbit hole of nearly infinite complexity. And infinitely beautiful. And that’s how I learned that in addition to being a creative composer and master player, he is also a teacher.
So it is fitting, then, for him to come to the Miraverse both to play, and to teach…and you can attend his lessons and/or performances by clicking here.
Still reading? Then here’s some more motivation to come…
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:
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.
In Acoustic Magic (part 1), we talked about techniques for getting great sounds from players in an indie rock band that plays with a horn trio. Now it is time to turn our attention to Hindugrass, a band that brings together Sarod, Tablas, guitar, cajone, percussion, and a string quartet. Some of the approaches will be strikingly familiar, others will be more novel.
Our goal in any tracking sessions is to get the best performance from the artist and the best sounds from the instruments. This begins with an understanding of how the musicians like to play together, how they like to hear other instruments and the click, and how the instruments, the rooms, and the microphones all interact.
String quartet players have a way of listening to each other and playing with each other to make the sound of the quartet greater than the sum of its parts. And it’s almost impossible to achieve that dynamic balance and synergy when recording one instrument at a time. Booths A and B are each large enough to record four string players, but Ian decided to use the Music Room for that purpose because the other, more delicate instruments in the ensemble would actually sound better in the smaller acoustic environments of the Booths. Ian again took advantage of the large space and numerous gobos to provide separation for each instrument, yet retaining the sound of the ensemble in the room. Here’s Ian getting things rolling on Day 1:
In previous blog postings, I previewed that we would have a very busy spring at the studio, and this has indeed come to pass. We’ve done a lot of tracking, a lot of mixing, and not–unfortunately–a whole lot of blogging in the process. Let’s work on that, shall we?
There are many approaches to making a record, and even a few good ones. The ones that get me the most excited are the ones that include the capture of great audio. We are very proud of the acoustic quality of the Music Room and our Booths. We also have an extensive collection of high-end microphones. The art of the tracking engineer is using the microphones and the room acoustics to get the best performance from the artist and the best sounds from the instruments. Here are some photos of recent tracking sessions that demonstrate the flexibility of our environment and the creativity of Ian Schreier, our chief engineer.
Here Ian sets a pair of close mics for a trombone:
When an artist makes a recording at a studio, there is always a coincidence–two things happening at the same time and place. One is the interpretation and the performance of the artist, the other is the creative capture of that ephemeral performance so that it can be replicated and experienced across time and space, perhaps by people not yet even alive when the recording was made. But the coincidences we shared with pianist Frederic Chiu this past week went far beyond that.
At the Dōjō where I train, the black belts begin every class by saying “Shiken Haramitsu Daikoumyo,” reminding themselves that “every moment is an opportunity for enlightenment.” I have been training for a year, making good progress, and if I keep it up, I might earn my black belt in 3-4 more years. There’s a lot to learn and a lot know, and these Black Belts, who know so much more than I do, are constantly prepared to learn even more.
Earlier this month we hosted Béla Fleck and Brooklyn Rider, high-degree black belts of their respective instruments for sure, and I was struck by not only how much they knew, but how prepared they were–every moment–to receive new enlightenment. Shiken Haramitsu Daikoumyo!!
Some things take longer than others. A little more than two years ago I advertised that the studio would be using Variac transformers instead of more modern technologies. This was not a “retro at all costs” decision (though Variacs can be used to provide a really, really great dimming system), but due to the the fact that the pre-eminent lighting control company refused to sell us the very reasonable and very standard system that virtually every other studio employs, and instead would only quote us a package that cost 200% more than it should have. Their absolute unreasonableness caused us to design them out of the main studio, albeit at an extraordinary expense of time. Our proven ability to design around them led to a very easy negotiation the next time around when it came to outfitting the Annex. Go figure. But now, the variable transformers that we procured in 2008 are finally now being installed:
The design is ultra-green (in my book), as follows…
At long last the acoustic cloud in the Music Room has been completed! With 60 panels totaling very nearly 900 sq ft (nearly 1800 sq ft of active acoustic performance since both sides are used), it is a thing of beauty to behold:
But if you look more deeply, many more layers of beauty await…
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