Slau takes you behind the scenes at BeSharp, a recording studio in New York City. Listen to excerpts from sessions, gear reviews and equipment shootouts.

Think about how worked up we get as engineers and musicians over which mic to use, placement, the acoustics, etc. Think about how much time and energy is exerted in these endeavors. Now, imagine multiplying that by a factor of 60 to record an orchestra. That's where I was about 15 years ago when I was asked to record an orchestra for the first time. I had recorded several ensembles up to that point but nothing at all on the scale of 60 or so musicians. Like any good engineer would do, when asked if I could handle such a project, I naturally said, "Of course, no problem, piece of cake." Man, was I ever flying by the seat of my pants.To be completely honest here, as is often the case, I was referred to the executive producer by a mutual friend and the only reason I got the gig was because the orchestra we were going to record was located in Kiev, Ukraine and, since I'm fairly fluent in Ukrainian, I got the gig. Late last year, I got another one of those phone calls informing me that another orchestral project was coming up. I can't tell you how excited I get whenever these projects come up. First of all, they really take good care of me, make all the arrangements, book the flights and hotels, provide meals, transportation—I essentially have nothing to worry about except capturing the performance of the orchestra. Further, it is an enormous challenge but I love that challenge and I have a team of people to rely upon to get the job done. It's really a completely different sensation to be involved on a project with a hundred people than one with a few people in a room. In the past, we used to record these orchestras at the Dovzhenko Film Studio, the largest film lot in Europe. It's a very old and sort of run-down place that served the purpose, I suppose but, this time around, we were going to be using a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Kiev known as DZZ, short for "Deem Zvukozapis" which means house of sound recording. Allow me to give you a brief explanation about the purpose of these recordings. You see, there's a dance ensemble in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada named "Shumka," (http://www.shumka.com) which means whirlwind. This year is their 50th anniversary. This ensemble used to tour with a live 30-piece orchestra. In the late eighties and early nineties, it became prohibitively expensive to tour with a live orchestra. So they decided to use recordings of orchestras for playback in the venues where they were performing. Thing is, these recordings didn't seem to sound all that great in the large venues where they danced. In my discussions with Michael Sulyma, the producer of the Shumka tours, I explained to him that the main problem was that the recordings they were using probably had natural or synthesized reverberation in the mix and, when being played back in a large venue, the auditorium itself was imparting reverberation, resulting in a wash of unfocused, muddy sound. I explained that the recordings needed to be as dry as possible and, in addition, the individual tracks for spot mics needed to be delayed to compensate for microphone distances according to the speed of sound. All of this, of course, made sense to Michael and I'm sure I impressed him with my knowledge and confidence. what he didn't know was that I was essentially talking out of my ass. Well, not exactly, but most of what I was saying was theory and I had no actual proof or experience. Oh well, I guess I was taking a huge risk and could've failed miserably but, honestly, based on my experience thus far and my research (and imagine: I didn't have Internet access back then!), I was confident that I could pull it off. Anyway, in the end, as you might have gathered, I did, in fact, pull it off quite successfully, such that I've been invited back to do it several more times. This time around, it was to record several pieces for their 50th anniversary show to be held in Edmonton. As I mentioned before,

Direct download: SWS010-Orchestral_Recording.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 1:57pm EST

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Header Photograph by Roman Iwasiwka
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