March 6, 2013 - Mala Punica at the Italian Academy at Columbia University. This was the second concert in the new GEMAS Series, a collaboration between Gotham Early Music and Americas Society. The ensemble Mala Punica (Latin for pomegranates!) is based in Italy and specializes in the great musical patrimony of the late Middle Ages, starting from antique manuscripts. Their concert tonight featured vocal-instrumental music by Paolo da Firenze, Matteo da Perugia, and Johannes Ciconia. The evening was beautifully run by the ensemble's Argentinean founder and music director and medieval music specialist and recorder virtuoso Pedro Memelsdorff. The group tonight featured the singers Barbara Zanichelli, Markéta Cukrová, and Gianluca Ferrarini, accompanied by Helena Zemanova, Thomas Baeté, Pablo Kornfield, and maestro Memelsdorff. The concert was in the ornate 3rd floor ballroom of the Italian Academy, a wonderful spot to see and hear early Italian music. I hope we can return there for future collaborations.
It's been a quiet beginning to the new year, but still plenty to do. We worked hard with maestro Steve Richman of Harmonie Ensemble NY editing their recordings of the incidental music from the Peter Gunn TV series. I'm gonna go out on a limb and call Henry Mancini one of the most iconic composers of all time, in terms of how much music he wrote that is so familiar to so many. Peter Gunn, Pink Panther, Moon River, the Baby Elephant Walk from Hatari...this could make for a good bar bet. The recording is by Adam Abeshouse and we can't wait for this record to be finished. We know that people will be knocked out when it's released.
And then there's been lots of studio maintenance going on. I like to call it our drydock period. New systems were implemented for the remote recording rig, with more fun gear slated to arrive in the Spring. We added a second computer, the Mac Mini above, which we pimped out with Pro Tools 10, all of our favorite plug-ins, oddles of RAM, and 2 solid state drives that are wicked fast and whisper quiet. It's a tidy little machine. (The ice tray? That's for keeping track of all those wee screws and other parts.)
May 9, 2012 - A wonderful evening with our new best harp-friend, Bridget Kibbey. If you don't already know the work of Bridget Kibbey you will soon. She was at Americas Society and played a very interesting program of works by composers from the Americas - Canada, Cuba, Argentina & the US...and all living composers to boot. She played two delightful pieces by Paquito D/Rivera, one written when he was 10 (!), two multi-movement pieces from the Great White North, Kati Agócs' Northern Lights and Murray Schafer's The Crown of Ariadne, and then a piece for processed harp and electronics called Glitch Box by Ricardo Romaneiro. For the electronics we put a couple of mics tight up on the harp and Ricardo fed them through his computer and back out to our PA. Special shout out to our PA rental house One Dream Sound, who saved our bacon with a last-second equipment change which gave us a system that delighted both the artists and the audience. And they turned us on to a cool little subwoofer, the Sunfire TrueSub II. Gave us just the tight, pumping & thumping bass we were looking for. We're working with Bridget again this weekend at the Look and Listen Festival and can't wait to hear what she has in store for us there.
May 4, 2012 - Back home at Digital Island, recording Lucy Hart - my favorite voice talent in the whole wide world. And as an added bonus, we were working for two other dear friends and talented people - Lee Wade and Tad Hills. Lee runs a children's book imprint at Random House, and Tad is one of her more popular authors, largely thanks to the success of his series of books on Rocket the Dog. Lucy was in to read the eBook version of Tad's next release, "Rocket Writes a Story" and gave us delightful portrayals of Rocket, and the little yellow bird, and the owl. We'll put it together next week and it will be ready for download soon.
May 2, 2012 - Carlos Barbosa-Lima was at Americas Society for a Master Class and concert, and once again the maestro was masterful. He had just flown in from Brazil in the morning, but he gave each student his full attention and such insightful comments that they all were playing noticeably better by the time they were done. The students represented Manhattan School of Music, Mannes, and Juilliard, and they each did their institutions proud. And that's good, because in the audience was our friend Sharon Isbin, who happens to be the founder of the guitar program at Juilliard.
After a brief pause the maestro returned for a program of 20th century Brazilian pieces, some Leo Brouwer, and a couple of doses of George Gershwin. At the end of the concert he was joined by Lawrence Del Casale for some duo pieces, including a sweet rendering of the Jobim tune Double Rainbow. They also performed a two-guitar version of an orchestral arrangement of the Beatles' tune Yesterday. The orchestral arrangement was made by Byron Yasui, who was one of my theory and ear training teachers at the University of Hawai'i. It was like a trip back home to hear Dr. Yasui's beautiful work. We're already looking forward to our next visit from Mr. Barbosa-Lima, and looking ahead to the annual New York Guitar Seminar concerts coming up next month!
April 28 & 29, 2012 - We're back in the Garden State for the New Jersey International Salsa Congress. Last night we recorded David Cedeno y su Orquestra, and tonight it was the reunion of the Joe Cuba Sextet with the legendary Cheo Feliciano. OMG, as the kids say. Salsa dura! Great crowds, amazingly talented dancers, all very easy on the eyes. Keyboards, tres, vibes, bass, percussion, and a very tight choro backing up Señor Feliciano. Muy caliente! Worked with a large team from Worldstage / Scharff-Weissberg, FOH & monitors were handled by Marcus Cooper via their Yamaha DM2000. AT-4050s on trumpet and trombone, TLM-170s on each baritone sax (there were 2!) plus a U87 on the lead trumpet. FOH insisted on SM58s for the vocals, but we got 'em to sound pretty good. A lot of salsa bass players favor the Ramirez-style baby bass, and we ran these through a Radial/Jensen DI + stuck a 414 on the amp. Got us a sweet & fat bass sound. Can't wait for mixing.
April 29, 2012 - Today we're in bucolic Riverdale, aka the Bronx, recording the Sinfonietta of Riverdale. Terrific group led by Mark Mandarano, wrapping up their 4th season today. Couple of old friends in the band, and some new (to me) faces. They played a set of Beethoven contradances (who knew?), some Debussy and Ravel arrangements, two Schumann fugues (really, who knew?), and then wrapped up with a delightful serenade of theme and variations from 1905 by Bernhard Sekles. I'm sure we'll be hearing plenty from this group, and from maestro Mandarano, and from all these fine young players.
April 25, 2012 - I'm at Dear Old NYU, at the Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music. I'm teaching Audio Ear Training for Producers, standing in for my good friend Jim Anderson. Jim is in Europe on AES business, so he asked me to take his three sections (that's right, 3 sections) of Ear Training. I taught this class at NYU last Spring and it was great to be at it again, but it is challenging to stand up in front of a room full of eager students and say the same thing three times in one day. Still, it's a great class and a great audio workout. It uses the Golden Ears set of CDs compiled by Dave Moulton, and the hearing excercises it prescribes are quite humbling. If you're not familiar with these CDs, and you want to improve your hearing perception, I strongly suggest you check these out. They will quite literally change the way you hear.
April 20, 2012 - At Americas Society for the C4 Trio from Venezuela. Jorge Glem, Edward Ramírez, and Hector Molina on cuatro, joined by Rodner Padilla on six string electric bass. The cuatro is a small four string guitar from Latin America, descended from the Portuguese cavaquinho, and these guys perform a mixture of traditional Venezuelan music, original compositions, and arrangements of pop tunes, including a wonderful version of Norwegian Wood. They've taken cuatro repertoire and performance to a whole new level. And they've taken the idea of a trio to a whole new level as well. All four of them. Yes, there are four musicians in the C4 Trio. I don't know of any other four person trios, and I don't know of many groups where the bass player has more strings than any guitarist. The cuatro occupies the high end of the audio spectrum, so Rodner definitely got his money's worth from his low B string by providing us with a nice, big, fat low-end for the evening. And as an extra treat, our job was made even easier by the fact that the group travels with their own sound man, the golden-eared Darío Peñaloza. The group wouldn't sound the same without Dario, and he worked our PA system delicately to bring out all the power and nuance of their performance. We hope to hear more from them soon.
April 18, 2012 - At Digital Island Studios with legendary pianist and composer Fred Hersch. Fred's talking with Jesse McQuarters at WFMT in Chicago about his new composition Improvisation on a theme by Tchaikovsky. This is a commission from the Gilmore Foundation and it will be performed at their festival by pianist Natasha Paremski, the 2010 Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year. Fred is a wide-ranging, intelligent artist, and we look forward to hearing this new piece and everything else Fred has for us. Once again we're using the Brauner VM-1 (in cardioid) up close and personal.
April 13, 2012 - It's an Americas Society kind of week, as we find ourselves back there and recording the enthusiastic and promising young singers of the Domingo - Cafritz Young Artist Program. The concert featured six singers and two pianists from as far away as Russia, South Korea and Chile, and included two wonderful basses from the DC area (the program is part of the Washington National Opera, where Maestro Domingo is the music director). There was plenty of Verdi (who's got his bicentennial coming up next year), Mozart, and Donizetti, a bit of Bizet, and then some early 20th century pieces concluding with all hands on deck for "Liebe, du Himmel auf Erden" from Lehar's Paganini. And then the wine and cheese!
April 12, 2012 - In the studio with our good friend Sebastian Zubieta, working on remixes and mastering for the Americas Society 2012 compilation CD. It was a very good year, based on the music we're getting to listen to, and we've also gotten to dig back to earlier years for cuts from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Mary Jane Lamont, and Inti Illimani. We were ably assisted by Sebastian's young son Luca (when he wasn't busy with homework), and Sebastian said he'd been waiting all year (since we worked on the 2011 compilation) to have another porchetta sandwich from Eataly. Which we did. Except Luca.
April 3, 2012 - Right here in our studio we hosted composer Douglas Cuomo, who was being interviewed for Seth Boustead's new WFMT show Relevant Tones. Doug, perhaps best known for his work on Sex and the City, was in to talk about his opera Arjuna's Dilemma. It's drawn from a story in the Bhagavad Gita, and features Indian singers and a mixed ensemble of eastern and western instruments. Doug also talked about his latest work, a commission by Opera Minnesota slated to premier in January 2013. We're looking forward to hearing this and lots more from Doug - in part because it turns out we're neighbors in Brooklyn. By the way, this session gave us another chance to try out a Brauner VM-1, this time in cardioid and way up close. We're quite happy with the smooth & silky sound we got, and we can't wait to hear it on the radio.
March 29, 2012 - At the venerable Flea Theater on White Street in TriBeCa for a reading of Big Jim and the Small Time Investors, a new work by Eric Salzman. It's presented by the Center for Contemporary Opera as part of their 29th season, billed as NewOp Week. Big Jim... is told in reverse flashbacks, and is the sordid tale of an entrepreneur who swindles people with promises of unrealistic returns on their investments. Sound timely, but it was written in 1982! It's well presented here with a cast of about a dozen under the baton of Michael Fennelly and directed by Amy Leland.
We were hoping to try out the Brauners on the piano, just for kicks, but the lid was closed. And time was tight because at the last second we had to rig the mics from the grid, as the venue was a little too cozy to accommodate the mic stand just where we needed it. The Flea's TD, Liz Blessing, was the epitome of grace under pressure while getting the MKH40s rigged up in the nick of time. Maestro Fennelly was warming up with Rhapsody in Blue at the piano, and we found it the perfect underscore to our harried escapades of ladders and rigging and running cables. The show must go on!
March 20 & 21, 2012 - The first day of Spring and I'm back at the fabulous Frank Sinatra High School for Performing Arts in Astoria, Queens. My good friend Dexter Buell, who runs the program in theater crafts there, has invited me in to work with his students on audio design for their production of Carousel. They were just doing tech run-thrus so I didn't get to hear any of the musicians play, but the singers are quite good, and the ensemble chorus is very disciplined and sings clearly and in tune. The sets look great, and the whole place is buzzing with talented and earnest youngsters who make me feel good about our future. In particular the whole show is being mixed by Theater Tech senior Julien McCall, who handles all the chaos with calm aplomb.
From their well-stocked mic closet I pulled out 3 Sennheiser PZMs which we placed across the lip of the stage, and a pair of Shure KSM27s which we hid behind some upstage sand dunes. We put just a little of the Shures into speakers they have in the side box seats, and then all 5 of the on-stage mics we panned out to comprise a good chunk of the mix going to their video recording. Once Julien folds in the orchestra I think they'll be quite happy with what they hear.
March 20, 2012 - at America's Society for Stephanie Griffin and Cheryl Seltzer. We've worked with each of them a number of times as soloists and in various ensembles, but I think this is the first time we've gotten to work with them as a viola and piano duo. It was well worth the wait, for a thoughtful evening of pieces by Canadian Tim Brady, New Yorker Matthew Greenbaum, (a viola solo in memoriam for Milton Babbitt) then duo pieces by Babbitt and Milhaud, Part and Shostakovich. Yes, Shostakovich at the Americas Society. Did you know this building used to house the Soviet Mission to the UN? I suppose it's possible Shostakovich has been here, although maybe the Soviets came here a little after his time. Anyway, they sounded great, and we got to play with the Brauners again. Well, one Brauner anyway. Tonight's setup didn't allow us to put two pairs of mics onstage, but we put a Brauner over Stephanie to see how it would fare on viola, and so far we're quite happy. Don't tell Jim, but he might have to pry those mics from our cold dead fingers.
March 19, 2012 - We just finished the first round of edits on solo piano pieces by Laura Kaminsky, which we recorded with Idith Meshulam of Ensemble Pi in December. The piano sounds great, Idith played with power and finesse, and we're very excited to begin working on Laura's piano trio and her duo for cello and piano. The CD (possibly a 2 CD set!) is due for release later this year on the Parma label.
March 13th, 2012 - After the GCB concert I headed down to the East Village to catch up with my old buddy Ira Wong from the University of Hawai'i Music Department. Ira and his wife Leigh-Ann are having a whirlwind visit in NYC. He's now the band director at the UH Lab School in Manoa, and still on the scene as a drummer in Honolulu. It was a night for nostalgia, and it seems like Ira was able to fish a photo from his Facebook pages for every name that came up. He showed me Jimmy Borges and his daughter Steffanie, a very young Kurt Muroki, and a great photo of my high school band teacher Norman Baltazar tuxedo-ed out to play in a brass quintet! I was very sorry to hear of Mr. Baltazar's recent passing.
We were joined by another visitor from Hawai'i, Danny Asao, who's playing tuba with the Royal Hawai'ian Band. The RHB was founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III, and is the only band in the United States with a royal legacy. There's really nothing else like them, and if you ever have the chance you've got to check them out. Their new music director is Clarke Bright, another friend from my UH days. Clarke is the heir apparent to one of the great musical dynasties of Hawai'i. I remember him as an amazing percussionist and the kind of student who made the rest of us work that much harder. I'm sure the RHB is in excellent hands.
March 13th, 2012 - At Americas Society to record the Grupo de Compositores de Bahia. From the concert program: "The GCB was founded in Salvador in 1966 by Lindembergue Cardoso, Fernando Cerquiera, Alda de Oliveira, Jamary de Oliveira, Ilza Nogueira, and Ernst Widmer. This program will feature music written in the seminal years of the GCB, as well as newer pieces that illustrate the composers’ musical development."
Fernando Cerqueira, Metamorfose
Ilza Nogueira, Reminiscências
Alda de Oliveira, Widmeriana, Widmeriana II
Jamary Oliveira, Trio (1968)
Ernst Widmer, Sonatina for cello and piano, Op. 41
Mellissa Hughes, soprano
Emily Popham, violin
Yves Dharamraj, cello
Marina Radiushina, piano
It was a great concert, but we had extra fun experimenting with a pair of Brauner VM-1's on loan from Jim Anderson. We put them up right underneath our Sennheiser MKH 40's, both in ORTF, and then took the files back to the studio for an A-B listening comparison. We'll let you know what happened.
March 4th, 2012 - This grey and cool Sunday afternoon we're on the upper East Side of Manhattan, recording Mendelssohn's Elijah at St. James Episcopal Church. It's a beautiful (and abridged!) version for a small chorus of about 30 SATB voices featuring the Canterbury & Compostela Choirs with Christopher Jennings providing organ accompaniment on their 4 manual Schoenstein organ. Music director Davis Wortman is holding it all together. Baritone Drew Santini, an MSM and Juilliard alumnus, is singing an alluring Elijah and captivating an enthusiastic audience.
March 2nd, 2012 - An evening of Flamenco at America's Society. It was a nice day when we loaded in this morning, and it was raining when we loaded out tonight. But indoors the show was hot and sultry, and the house was packed to the rafters.
Four dancers from Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana gave us finesse, power, passion, and heart all night long. The dancers had several gorgeous costume changes during the show which gave the musicians ample time to stretch out and show us their talents. Yiyi Orozco just burned it up on cajon and sang with a beautiful, intense, pleading voice. And Gaspar Rodríguez spun swirling melodies on a lovely nylon stringed guitar.
The ensemble among the dancers and the musicians was jaw dropping. Percussion riffs between cajon and hands and feet and thighs and finger snaps were spectacular. I had a pair of Schoeps MK21s pointed at the dancers in anticipation of this kind of performance, and I can't wait to hear how they blend in with the musicians' mics. Some cuts are already slated for release on his year's America's Society CD, so we need to get busy right away on the mix.
We also ran PA for the house, and I'm so glad I insisted on dual subs (Meyer cabinets with dual 15" drivers) because they made sure everyone heard and felt that cajon. If you ever have a chance to check out Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana don't miss out.
Feb 27th, 2012 - Finished the last edits and final mix for Carla Auld, flute soloist with the Knights Chamber Orchestra. The piece was a theme and variations on the folk tune Red River Valley by David Amram. Look for this release very soon. This was part of a project we recorded a couple of years back at SUNY Purchase, most of which has already been released on Carla's very well received CD "Beauty in America". That CD also featured Carla and guitarist Ana María Rosado on Elliot Fisk's edition of Robert Beaser's "Mountain Songs" for flute and guitar, and looming on the horizon are more projects for Carla and Ana María.
Feb 24th, 2012 - I just came from Alice Tully Hall with my new friend, Tony Macaluso. Tony is the Director of Network Marketing & Syndication for WFMT radio in Chicago and was recently the marketing director for the Grant Park Summer Orchestra. We saw a wonderful performance presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, an interesting evening modeled on salon concerts once presented in the homes of celebrated patrons like w singer, who was an heiress to the singer sewing machine company. It was an eclectic and slightly Francophile evening - and there's nothing wrong with that! The concert began with Dowland songs, then a Stravinsky quintet, then Françaix, Debussy, DeFalla songs, and Faure Piano Quartet No.1. A generally younger lineup of musicians, abetted by some familiar veterans, gave a packed and attentive house plenty to cheer about, and had each ensemble return to the stage for repeated curtain calls after their performances.
Feb 6th, 2012- the Latin American Music Center from the Jacobs School of Music at IU came to the Americas Society tonight for a concert of works by living composers. The first piece, for string quartet, is by David Dzubay - the chair of the Composition Department at IU. The second piece, by Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz, added soprano Sharon Harms singing in the indigenous language of the Mayans, and had the string quartet playing tuned crotales. Both pieces portrayed the sky and the cosmos, one from a more contemporary perspective, and the other in a manner evocative of the rituals and observations of an ancient civilzation.
Feb 6th, 2012 - a voice over session with my favorite voice over talent, Lucy Hart. She was reading an intro and outro to go around the "I Have a Dream Speech" of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is being released as a children's book by Schwartz and Wade books. I'd never heard the entire speech by Dr. King, which runs over 15 minutes. It is an emotional experience and I can recommend this book to young and old alike.
Jan 28th, 2012 - the Batteries Duo at the DiMenna Center, as part of Juilliard's Focus! Festival 2012, which commemorated the centennial of John Cage. We ran a surround-sound PA system for what Alex Ross called "a dubstep-tinged collaboration between trumpeters Gareth Flowers and Josh Frank, with Lisa Bielawa (of the Philip Glass Ensemble) and Caleb Burhans."
See more about the Festival at: http://www.therestisnoise.com/2012/01/january-overload.html
Jan 13th, 2012 - at the 2012 conference of Chamber Music America, I moderated a panel on the role of a recording in the promotion and marketing of musicians, ensembles and arts organizations. I was joined on the panel by my producer, Josh Frank, and by manager Jeffrey James of Jeffrey James Arts Consulting, and by Rob LaPorta of independent record label MSR Classics, by Steve Robinson of WFMT Radio, and by Sebastian Zubieta, composer and Music Director of the Americas Society.
Here's me in my studio talking about the panel: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10100560772858612
Jan 3rd, 2012 - back at work at Digital Island Studios, with Steve Richman, conductor of Harmonie Ensemble, NY. Steve and the band recorded the Tchaikowsky Nutcracker Suite at the DiMenna Center back in November, and now we're combing through some terrific material and picking the best of the best takes for release on Harmonia Mundi. The Tchaikowsky will be paired on the CD with the Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcraker arrangment that was recorded, editing and mixed last year. If you don't know the Ellington you really should hear it, and this CD will make the perfect introduction.