New Approaches to Classical Music Production

Aside from a few isolated exceptions, the classical (art music) recording industry has taken a more conservative approach to the presentation of musical sound than has occurred with electronic and pop production. The techniques and technologies applied in classical production are highly sophisticated, leading to excellent outcomes, yet the outcome rarely deviates from established and narrow norms. There are differences between what the ‘composition’ and the ‘production’ represent in pop and classical recording (for example, new recordings of works by classical composers are never referred to as ‘cover versions’). A significant practical difference is that performances of classical works often occur simultaneously (even if multi-mic’ed and subsequently edited) in reverberant spaces, whereas many pop recordings are made in a piecemeal fashion by the gathering different components (overdubbing) which are then assembled and often altered in striking and acoustically implausible ways.

This project examines new technologies that enable greater separation of individual components from recordings of simultaneous ensemble recording. Recent activities include recordings of I Fagiolini (directed by Robert Hollingworth) with a thirty-two channel Eigenmicrophone. The signals from this microphone can be processed to create highly directional and optimisable virtual microphones. The current research uses information from score and ensemble layout to create optimised recordings of each performer.

Another strand is the overt application of signal processing techniques to augment acoustic instruments (such as of Peter Reynold's Cippyn, on the Naxos release One Hundred Years of British Piano Miniatures, co-produced and engineered by Jez Wells). Footnotes is an outcome of an ongoing project with composer Bill Brooks and guitarist Stefan Östersjö that uses signal processing to create different senses of place and time. It is discussed in detail in Voices, Bodies, Practices - Performing Musical Subjectivities published by the Leuven University Press.