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:
We are proud and fortunate to have created the inspiring space that is Manifold Recording. But we always envisioned achieving something more than what we can do for artists, engineers, and producers. We believe that there is a larger public sphere that is curious, excited, and even ravenous for new ideas, new experiences, new musical performances and productions. We wanted to also create a space in which a newly-engaged public could bring new energy, new interests, and new resources to create a healthier, more vibrant, more sustainable future for music and musicians.
One thing I have learned as a former Trustee of a model Montessori school is the importance of the prepared environment. Characteristics of the prepared environment include: beauty, order, reality, simplicity and accessibility. It may have required the genius of Maria Montessori to explain why these are crucial to child development (compared with, say, efficiency, authority, policy, technology, and convenience), but as adults, it is obvious to most of us that such environments are conducive to our own development, too! Like fertile ground ready to bring forth an abundant harvest of whatever may be planted, prepared environments known as Salons helped bring about The Enlightenment by injecting academic discussion and debate into a newly formed public sphere (that was also a by-product of the Salon experience). Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin presented and refined their ideas at salons, “inventing” large parts of modern capitalism and modern democracy in the process.
But commerce and politics were not the exclusive subjects of salons–they were but two of myriad subjects that excited those who participated. Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt were proof of that. Chopin, in fact, preferred the environment of the salon to public performances. Continue reading “The Miraverse: A Salon for the 21st Century”
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:
And here’s an overview of the gobo arrangement:
Hindugrass will be recording next week, and they are kicking off their session with a performance on Friday night, April 12th at 8pm. If you have always wanted to be a fly on the wall of a real recording session, the band is inviting a very limited number of people to be their guests in the studio via this Eventbrite link.
Why perform before recording? Béla Fleck answers that question in this video from last year: