Part 1 PDF Part 2 PDF MASTERS OF SOUND workshop

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Blu-ray is the first domestic format in history that unites theatre movies and music sound in equally high quality. The musical advantage of Blu-ray is the high resolution for audio, and the convenience for the audience as one single player will handle music, films, their DVD-collection and their old library of traditional CD.

What we are seeing is a completely new conception of the musical experience. Recorded music is no longer a matter of a fixed two-dimensional setting, but rather a three-dimensional enveloping situation. Stereo can be described as a flat canvas, while surround sound is a sculpture that you can literally move around and relate to spatially; with surround you can move about in the aural space and choose angles, vantage points and positions.

By developing one common format the surround technology that we have been working with for years finally becomes accessible to the general public. Fairly soon almost all disc players will be Blu-ray devices, and already now a majority of the sound systems that come off the shelf are 5.1 surround systems. People buy the equipment for the sake of film entertainment, but with it they get access to the unique musical experience that we are offering. Stereo is still possible of course, but the fact is that the resistance towards surround is mostly based on ignorance. People just don’t know what they are missing out on.

A senior Norwegian HiFi journalist visited our studio recently. Prior to our listening session I explained to him how we recorded MOZART and DIVERTIMENTI with the orchestra in a circle, all musicians facing each other – surrounding the listener. He rose from his chair and wanted to leave. I begged him to listen - and he stayed for three hours; leaving us with the conclusion: “Now I need to go home and write an article apologising all my readers for the thirty years I have misguided them in stereo. Surround sound is the real thing.”

The musical and technical process of recording and editing are identical for SACD and Blu-ray. When I started as a recording engineer in 1990 there was no focus on surround sound in classical music. It was the introduction of SACD that made us aware of this magnificent perspective. Surround sound gave us the solution to the depth and spatial resolution we experienced live on stage in a concert house, but were not able to recreate in stereo.

We prefer to record in spacious acoustic venues; large concert halls, churches and cathedrals. This is actually where we can make the most intimate recordings. The qualities we seek in large rooms are not necessarily a big reverb, but openness due to the absence of close reflecting walls. Making an ambient and beautiful recording is the way of least resistance. Searching the fine edge between direct contact and openness; that’s the real challenge. A really good recording should be able to bodily move the listener. This core quality of audio production is made by choosing the right venue for the repertoire, and balancing the image in the placement of microphones and musicians relative to each other in that venue. Planning and discussions with the musicians create trust and a sense of occasion and excitement that translates onto the recordings. What we insist upon in the recording phase is time. We usually spend from four to six days of recording on a 60-minutes repertoire. In credit of the musicians I need to say that this is not in need of getting the score right, but in order to bring forward the right mood and dimensions. At most projects the entire first day is spent bringing the dimensions down from a 1500-people hall to the proximity encountered on a home-visit to your living room. The challenge of this process is to get the volume down, keeping the intensity and energy up, without being intrusive. There is no method available today to reproduce the exact perception of attending a live performance. That leaves us with the art of illusion when it comes to recording music. As recording engineers and producers we need to do exactly the same as any good musician; interpret the music and the composer’s intentions and adapt to the media where we perform.

More information: www.2L.no and www.lindberg.no

Monitoring provided for the workshop: www.pmc-speakers.com

Several of the listening examples used in the workshop are available in our free Test Bench as 5.1 surround FLAC in 96kHz/24bit.