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Advice sought - Wandelweiser program, reverberant space
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
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Advice sought - Wandelweiser program, reverberant space

Hello all,

Just hoping to get a few thoughts from anyone who cares to chime in regarding a concert I'll be recording in about two weeks. The music is of the Wandelweiser school, featuring some very delicate and nuanced textures at low volume -- some superficial parallels with, for example, Morton Feldman for those who may not be acquainted with this largely European movement.

The piece will be performed in a hall that is part of a museum, the acoustic is roughly comparable to that of a reflective chapel. High (30' +) ceilings, hard surfaces, etc.

I have at my disposal:
1 pair Schoeps CMC62
1 pair Shure KSM 141
and some Line Audio CM3's
8 channels total

The ensemble will be about 10 musicians, and as I said, the overall musical fabric is sparse and quiet (think mp = absolute max volume), so I am primarily concerned with capturing as much detail and nuance as possible, with the limitation that I will only be able to use 6 spot mics maximum after accounting for a main pair. Refreshingly, I will have great freedom in where the mics are placed (i.e. performers are unconcerned with optics of the equipment).

One approach that seems logical would be to use the CMC62's for main pickup, using the KSM141's in cardioid along with CM3's to spot instruments in pairs/trios according to type and relative level output -- there will be a range of instruments, some (e.g. cello) likely requiring support, and others (e.g. piano) quite possibly being adequately picked up by the mains.

The variables of this particular occasion are a little different than anything else I've had to record thus far, so my main concern is erring on the side of caution to ensure a respectable recording even if a couple performers are less than ideally audible. From this point of view, it is also tempting to try something like a cardioid + omni phased array for main pickup and live with only four spots to make do as best as I can...

The museum regulations for using the space are limited and mean that I will not have much time to try a variety of mic positions -- hence my eagerness to think ahead with gratitude to anyone who'd like to share some thoughts.

Cheers!
Luke
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
Here for the gear
 

I'm just a field recordist, but I listen to a lot of Wandelweiser and have seen a fair amount of their pieces performed on the West Coast of the United States.

While the group is much too diverse to speak of anything like a coherent approach to composition and performance, I think it's helpful to keep in mind that motivating a lot of this group's aesthetic values are Cage and his late number pieces. In other words, many of these composers have learned not to be so conventional in distinguishing music from noise.

How is this helpful for recording them? Well, I think these scores can tolerate a fair amount of room reverberation and reflection. I would suggest giving the main array a very good shot at covering it all before bringing in the spots. Perhaps first see if omni AB works by itself, adjusting with cards as needed. This depends, of course, on the amount of timbral detail called for by the score, but I think less detail is better than too much.

I would not be surprised if many of the composers in the group find the job of the recordist to be essential to the performance of the piece. In fact, some have written scores where the recordist is featured as the performer. Moreover, I'm sure they'd be open to discussing your recording, so you might think of shooting them an email.

I'm happy to talk more, if you like. Just keep in mind that my heterodox opinions come from recording nature and being hugely influenced by this group, rather than from any professional expertise in music capture.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
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Thanks very much for your thoughts! Much appreciated. It's interesting that you bring up the Cage element and also the emphasis on group effect rather than individual detail. I have felt a certain amount of concern from performers that the micro-detail be captured as much as possible, but I suspect this would not best serve the music, when (as you suggest) an organic portrayal of the ensemble performance, with a certain amount of reverb and/or ambience is to be accepted (embraced, even) as part of the aesthetic.

Also, yes, as you have indicated, I am being given a great deal of freedom to participate in the performance, at least in the sense of how the documentation can best serve the music.

I am leaning more and more towards an omnis + cardioids main array to get the best possible capture of the complete ensemble, ideally without even needing any spots that I set up... we'll see what happens!

Thank you again for this -- far from heterodox, I think you probably have an unusually authoritative background to weigh in on this rather esoteric question. Plus, per Cage, in some sense what could be better than "imitating Nature in its manner of operation" than RECORDING Nature in its manner of operation
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
Faulkner 4-mic array would be good as a main 'pair' here. You can mix/blend afterwards and have 'zoom in' possibility.
4 spot mics left. should work. You don't want to go too close with the spots when the main sound has a completely different colour because of the wet reverb.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Glad to be of some service!
One thing that might be helpful is to check out samples of recordings that establish some appropriate limits of proximity and diffuseness in this context. I think many recordings on the another timbre label go for nearness and detail, whereas some recordings on Radu Malfatti's b-boim label seem quite distant, in a lovely sort of way. For a good compromise, I think Wandelweiser's in house label does a wonderful job.
Your phrase "some very delicate and nuanced textures at low volume" is very nicely put, and I think the project is in good hands! One thing to consider: the music is, or can be very soft, so there's really no reason to make the final recording louder than the performance. This can sometimes happen when, for instance, perceived detail seems lacking and so the natural response is to raise levels. But the detail is there, it's the listener who must participate and put in a little effort to search for it.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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lukedamrosch's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
apotheosis: completely agree. Planning to go with Faulkner 4-mic array, or similar, and make the best of it with spots. Hoping I'll be able to take advantage of ensemble seating/orientation to reduce the need for this as much as possible.

foresttones: good suggestion, thanks. The piece to be performed is composed by Antoine Beuger, so I have mostly acquainted myself with the character of the Wandelweiser and Another Timbre catalogs, but will investigate b-boim in particular, which I am not familiar with. The point about artificially raising the loudness is also well taken.

Thanks again to you both for your thoughts.
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