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So I just recorded John Cage's 4'33"...
Old 12th November 2008
  #1
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Talking So I just recorded John Cage's 4'33"...

and I realized no matter how good the equipment is and how low the noise figures are, there will never be a live recording of 4'33" that isn't contaminated by electrical noise of some sort.

That's kind of a let down, isn't it?

Anyone else happen to have the opportunity to record this piece? This was the encore to a new music recital. Any special ways you went about it?
Old 12th November 2008
  #2
You must have had the gain on the preamp set WAY too high. But a question...

How did you know when it was over?

Are the players looking at a stopwatch, or what?
Old 12th November 2008
  #3
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They start to bow!
Old 12th November 2008
  #4
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The gain was the same as the concert previously. But there is still just a lot of "electronic noise," since of course theoretically I think preamps have a minimum -127dB noise figure or some such. I also don't have super-nice preamps, and the Earthworks mics I was using didn't help much.

Anyway, I haven't checked the timing, but he didn't have any assistive devices. But on the original performance a stop watch was surreptiously used.

There's even three movements heh
Old 12th November 2008
  #5
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In fact, I think the "spirit" of the composition would be better served to at least turn up the gain on this piece so you can hear the environment more. But of course this will be amping the noise too which really irks me.
Old 12th November 2008
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
and I realized no matter how good the equipment is and how low the noise figures are, there will never be a live recording of 4'33" that isn't contaminated by electrical noise of some sort.

That's kind of a let down, isn't it?

Anyone else happen to have the opportunity to record this piece? This was the encore to a new music recital. Any special ways you went about it?
I find it rather refreshing. At least there's something left that can only be performed live. I'm working on an electronic version myself, at the moment. I'm having some technical difficulties, so the working title is 60 Cycle Hum. That's an improvement. It used to be called Fluorescent Light Ballast with Ground Loop obligatto.

Here's a clip, complete with sports announcers to properly frame the event for you. Somehow they managed to stretch it out to 9'23". I think it's the extended dance mix. I appreciate the coughing between movements. I wish someone's cell phone had gone off. For the life of me I can't understand the standing ovation.



And here's Cage discussing silence. Being a New Yorker, I believe his concept of silence is a little different than mine. I always suspected the reason he wrote 4'33" was because the concert hall was the only place he could hear it.



And, as an aside, Midori is touring Cage's Six Melodies now. The audience is not getting it. It's too bad, because I think she's actually a lot better at the modern material than the classical or romantic.
Old 12th November 2008
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
There's even three movements heh
I would have guessed there is very little movement, shows what I know.
Old 12th November 2008
  #8
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Now I'm freaked out...

I just did ridiculous amounts of noise reduction. Check this out (and don't forget to turn the volume up a little).

Oh and watch out for the clapping!
Attached Files

4'33''.mp3 (5.02 MB, 449 views)

Old 12th November 2008
  #9
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I think the noise is fine, and completely in keeping with the spirit of the piece. OK... you're not presenting an accurate representation of how things sounded in the hall. But Cage would be just as happy listening to your system noise as he would the events transpiring during the performance.
Old 12th November 2008
  #10
YES

Noise in the piece should be left in! If you can remove recording artifacts, great, but don't destroy the liveness!

When I recorded 4'33", I think it involved a giant stuffed panda bear or something. Some type of duet if I remember correctly...
Old 12th November 2008
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorseHorse View Post
When I recorded 4'33", I think it involved a giant stuffed panda bear or something. Some type of duet if I remember correctly...
Old 12th November 2008
  #12
I have had the pleasure of recording a number of John Cage pieces, but not 4'33"

One that really stands out was a percussion piece done at the Ear to the Earth Festival last month by So Percussion that just blew me away. I think it was called Third Construction.

I don't mean to tear this thread off-topic, but Cage was just such a creative genius. Even if you don't agree with his ideas, they are just SO original and so eclectic.
Old 12th November 2008
  #13
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I've never recorded anything anywhere where the background noise of the hall, audience, traffic, wind, helicopters and airliners, airconditioning, etc etc didn't far outweigh any system noise. I don't think I've ever seen the meters go below -60dB during a concert where the actual performance peaked to around -1dB (I like to live dangerously!). I don't understand therefore how you can say "there will never be a live recording of 4'33" that isn't contaminated by electrical noise of some sort." The replay and recording gain should be unchanged from whatever other works were performed, otherwise you're messing with the natural dynamic range. And if you can hear any kind of system noise under those conditions, something is seriously amiss somewhere.
Old 12th November 2008
  #14
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Some years ago I did a studio recording of this wonderful piece. I played and conducted all the parts myself and, as I remember, it was rather difficult to get the timing right (especially on the more quit parts).

I did it with a click trak so I could pretty much nail it timewise - As I recall, I spended countless hours programming the tempo changes to get it all perfect.

I too had problems with keeping the "noise" down - maybe I should'nt have brickwall'd the 40+ tracks the way I did.
Old 12th November 2008
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozpeter View Post
I've never recorded anything anywhere where the background noise of the hall, audience, traffic, wind, helicopters and airliners, airconditioning, etc etc didn't far outweigh any system noise. I don't think I've ever seen the meters go below -60dB during a concert where the actual performance peaked to around -1dB (I like to live dangerously!). I don't understand therefore how you can say "there will never be a live recording of 4'33" that isn't contaminated by electrical noise of some sort." The replay and recording gain should be unchanged from whatever other works were performed, otherwise you're messing with the natural dynamic range. And if you can hear any kind of system noise under those conditions, something is seriously amiss somewhere.
If you are recording "complete silence," you necessarily must turn up the gain a little at least to get some more of the ambient noise that is normally far below the threshhold of hearing in a good recording. When you add up a few db and really start listening the system noise has in fact become fairly clear, to me. I could leave the gain low and have silence pretty much BUT you are supposed to listen to the environment in this piece...

I'm a perfectionist in recording though so it might be almost imperceptible but I still get annoyed!
Old 12th November 2008
  #16
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Quote:
If you are recording "complete silence," you necessarily must turn up the gain a little at least to get some more of the ambient noise that is normally far below the threshhold of hearing in a good recording.
If you are recording complete silence, then you should reproduce complete silence, not 'amplified complete silence'. Your argument is one that leads to such abominations as increasing the level of quiet passages in classical music and reducing the levels of the loud parts, lest, horror of horrors, the listener should be exposed to the full dynamic range of the performance.

If the composer wished the ambience to be amplified, how is that accomplished for the audience in the concert hall?

Joking aside, this reveals some very important issues.
Old 12th November 2008
  #17
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No no no...I didn't say amplify the "quiet parts." Amplify the whole thing, to give more of the audience noise and stuff. As in, if you record a huge Mahler symphony in the same concert as a very quiet oboe concerto, would you not raise the volume of the concerto to come closer to "normalized" so there is not a huge volume discrepancy? I know I will change volumes to be more uniform throughout a concert (but no, I don't normalize to the same volume overall).

Forgive me if I've missed this, but you do know what 4'33" is right?
Old 12th November 2008
  #18
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When I read the post title, I thought it was a joke... ;-)

After reading, I see that this is a legitimate task, and a very intriguing one from the recordist point of view.

What i want to say though is, that if there is a piece of music that does not need to be recorded, it's probably 4'33"... furthermore, perhaps it should not be recorded. Anyone can perform it. I do performances of 4'33" with my students on a regular basis, and of course the conceptual foundation of the piece is that it IS different every time: in every unique location, time etc. so recording it: "fixing" the piece seems contradictory to it's nature.

Having said that. I think recording of any ambiance is interesting as an artistic/musical gesture, and of course the discussion of methodology has it's merits!

Nice thread.

p.

PS
I posted it in another thread, but here it is, just for reference:
Attached Thumbnails
So I just recorded John Cage's 4'33"...-cage_4_33_score.jpg  
Old 12th November 2008
  #19
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Weird timing

I just recorded a 4:33 last night myself, along with that piece for 12 radios and 24 perfomers. Last semester I recorded a 10:30 minute version of 4:33. I asked the performer if I could edit out 5 minutes or so to make the concert fit on a CD. I was just mentioning that story to our director last night!

George Crumb piece was on the program also with his Christmas music. Scary. I dont think I'll be playing that one for the in laws! Gotta love comtemporary classical. Gives you things to think about.


Lance
Old 12th November 2008
  #20
I told my favorite story about recording the music of John Cage in this thread.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 12th November 2008
  #21
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Quote:
As in, if you record a huge Mahler symphony in the same concert as a very quiet oboe concerto, would you not raise the volume of the concerto to come closer to "normalized" so there is not a huge volume discrepancy?
Of course not. That would be a preposterous thing to do, if the concert is to be reproduced as a whole. You said at the outset that this was an encore and presumably it would be reproduced as such. Therefore, there should be no change in the levels.

If you make level changes during a concert recording, then you are requiring the listener to jump up and compensate for them by varying amplifier volume during replay, for obvious reasons. That's not a kind thing to do.

Quote:
Forgive me if I've missed this, but you do know what 4'33" is right?
Of course. Just because the work is essentially silent doesn't mean that one suddenly throws out the principles of good sound recording and reproduction, thus leading to the poor result you described at the outset.

Quote:
Anyone else happen to have the opportunity to record this piece? This was the encore to a new music recital. Any special ways you went about it?
If your view is that the general noise in the auditorium is an essential component in the piece, then what is required is appropriate microphone technique to capture it (eg additional ambient mics placed in the audience), thus reducing the need to apply excessive gain. Even so, the correctness of that approach is debatable.
Old 13th November 2008
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozpeter View Post
If your view is that the general noise in the auditorium is an essential component in the piece, then what is required is appropriate microphone technique to capture it (eg additional ambient mics placed in the audience), thus reducing the need to apply excessive gain. Even so, the correctness of that approach is debatable.
Now that I can agree with. However in this instance that was impossible unfortunately (request from the performer). But, it works anyway, I am just anal-retentive about system noise.
Old 13th November 2008
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazo Audio View Post
I just recorded a 4:33 last night myself, along with that piece for 12 radios and 24 perfomers. Last semester I recorded a 10:30 minute version of 4:33. I asked the performer if I could edit out 5 minutes or so to make the concert fit on a CD. I was just mentioning that story to our director last night!
Wow, did he say yes? That's funny - don't you hate when the program is 81 minutes?!
Old 14th November 2008
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
Wow, did he say yes? That's funny - don't you hate when the program is 81 minutes?!

Well, "He" was a "she"! and did not have a problem with it. Things are pretty cool here. But it seemed everyone was giving each other a knowing "wink" over this affair.

Yeah trying to deal with CD's 80 min. limit sure can be a bit of a pain when you put out several concerts a week. Keeps me on my toes trying to cut seconds between movements, shorten applause, etc.
Old 14th November 2008
  #25
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HARD DRIVE= NO LIMIT
Old 14th November 2008
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DannyMac View Post
HARD DRIVE= NO LIMIT
Hard drive = not a popular delivery medium.
Old 14th November 2008
  #27
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Reading comprehension!

CD =/= HD
Old 14th November 2008
  #28
Whatever.

I just got a new hard drive player installed in my car!

Sure, it's bigger than a cassette tape, but I don't have to flip it!
Old 14th November 2008
  #29
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You know you are probably describing the future...
Old 14th November 2008
  #30
I hate it when the future happens...
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