Monday, August 31, 2009

Sony PCM

I've run all the music audio captured by the PCM during the two church services onto the Tascam 2488, panned it all, and tried to normalize the volume across the 32 tracks. At Oak Chapel the PCM seemed to accentuate the treble, and when Kyle Gann mentioned in this post he was using one, I took the opportunity to ask him in the comments what he thought about that issue. His response made me think the issue was more in my head than the PCM, and judging by how it did at Macedonia, I think he's right.

Acoustics and audio seem deeply mysterious to me, surely in part because I'm a beginner with both. Paying attention to them and becoming more familiar with them is helping in a left brain sort of way, but appreciation and application seems to require a lot of right brain and/or solid intuitions as well. Getting a good recording and mastering the audio for a CD is a complex art that has tremendous effect on the music the audience/listener hears.

Stewart Weaver is the audio engineer who mastered Mantra Mountain for us, and early in that project I hired him to come by my home studio to give me a clue about how to make and mix a CD. One of the things he said was to listen to a mix on a number of different machines because they'll all color it differently, and that is astonishingly correct and obvious once you realize it.

Something else he said was to put on the mix in one room and go to another to listen to it. Right now that's what I'm doing with the freshly made CD for the players of the recent church performances. I'd thought the alto sax too high in the mix at Oak Chapel when playing the tenor line against the trombone playing the soprano line in the four part hymns, largely because it was up an octave to suit the range, putting it above the trombone. Steve the trombone player said he hadn't noticed that at the time when I asked him about it, and now, listening to it in the other room the mix sounds just fine. 

On the straight acoustics part of things, the sound from Macedonia is much warmer and well blended, mostly, I think, because it's a smaller space and there's a gallery up over the back pews that serves to nicely enhance the blend of timbres.

The thing that's critical about the PCM when using the on board mics is placement. Mentally conceptualizing how the sound is going to work in a space should be only the first step. I need to remember to have the players warm up while I move around, listening closely to how where I am in the space affects the mix and then use that info to place the PCM.

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