Across the Transom: December 2022
I and We, Pandemic Touring, Saturation
Gahlord Dewald :: 12/28/22 :: New York City
Today I saw the Pinnochio exhibit at the MoMA and it was fantastic. All that craft, art, and technology in one place. It's a fantastic film and it was great to get a chance to pop in and see the artifacts in person. We were among very few people wearing masks but that's how the world is now.
Norns script: Gemini
Tried out a useful granulation script called Gemini. Load up the sample and then freeze it/move it for interesting texture. Pulling from the same sample is a great way of keeping things in a similar sound world. The two channel nature of it is great fun. Beautifully performance-minded with the arc encoders.
A friend of mine asked me to listen to a musical recording for a video. The friend was unsatisfied with the sound and hoping to get a better result through better technology. The following is my response:
The recording, to my ears, is clear and clean: the noise floor is low, we can hear the notes. There's a little blurriness from the room reflections interacting with the sounds coming from the instrument, but it's a natural sound. Overall feels a little bit brittle; I prefer a little more warmth/darkness in tone but I play bass haha.
These things are highly personal and what I think it sounds like doesn't truly matter. What matters is what you like. It's a taste thing and your own taste is a good guide.
Before buying anything I would recommend the following:
- To work on the blurriness, experiment with getting the microphone as close to the performer as possible. This might mean adjusting your camera angle or framing so the microphone can get closer. Or perhaps allowing a small amount of microphone to be visible on camera.
Another worthwhile approach is to get a heavy/sturdy/weighted microphone stand and place the microphone above the instrument pointing down towards it. A high quality stand is important for this as you do not want it to collapse into the instrument or performer. This is how many professional recordings are made, especially with video, as this is an unobtrusive way to get very close to the instrument. Again, experiment with camera framing to allow the mic to get as close as possible to the instrument. The mic will be off-camera above the picture frame.
- The least expensive thing that will improve things is to use some EQ. I know you aren't as interested in these things but please humor me. There are usually two parts to using EQ:
a) corrective adjustments and
b) sound sweetening.
Corrective adjustments are applied to every recording ever released. What is being "corrected" is the technical nature of how microphones work and how the other technology in music recordings work, not the performer/performance/instrument.
It consists of removing tones below 40Hz and above 20kHz and also correcting for how microphones "hear" sound. Sometimes the cutoff points are a little different. With a higher instrument like the violin we can remove tones from a larger swath of the lower audio spectrum in solo recordings.
Removing these low tones and very high tones makes the recording clearer because things like air conditioning hum and room noise (which are very apparent on occasion in that hall) are reduced.
Every microphone has an audio pickup pattern that is unique. This is why corrective EQ adjustments are useful. Below is a graphic that shows the pattern of the AT8022. The dotted line is in effect when the HPF filter switch on the microphone is engaged.
The technical goal in microphones is to have that line be flat. Only very rarely is a microphone truly flat.
In addition to general corrective adjustments of cutting below about 40Hz and above about 20kHz, in order to correct for how the AT8022 gathers audio I would put a small (maybe -3db) high shelf cut beginning at 2kHz. I wouldn't bother with boosting the high end between 10kHz and 20kHz unless the recording sounded too dull.
If I was recording a high pitched instrument without piano I would engage the HPF switch on the microphone.
Sound sweetening I won't describe because you've noted you're not interested in enhancements. I will say, however, there are no professional recordings made without it.
Once those two things (or just the one if I haven't been convincing enough in the need for corrective eq) have been tried, I would shed a tear for my bank account and...
- With your budget I would try very hard to save a little bit more and purchase a single Schoeps Colette CMC6 Microphone Amp and MK4 Cardioid Condenser Capsule. While expensive, this is among the finest microphones available for a clear, clean, modern sound. I would get a very sturdy stand and possibly sandbags/weights (or save more and get the entire thing as a package known as the "RC Set Violin") so that I could place the microphone above the violin pointing straight down at it from just off camera (above the picture), as close as possible to the performer.
For comparison, this is the frequency response chart for the Schoeps MK2 capsule:
Ironically, a frequency response this flat may result in more corrective EQ being necessary as the room noise may be much more apparent. But the theory here is that is it's much easier to cut what is too much than it is to boost what isn't there.
- I would get a 4 channel interface so I could record with the AT8022 (and Cloudlifter) and the Schoeps at the same time. These things come up on the 2nd hand market all the time and I wouldn't worry too much about getting one used.
- I would mix so that the Schoeps is the most prominent sound and the AT8022 is quieter, just providing enough sound to give the reverb of the hall and create the stereo image. Both microphones would get corrective EQ applied. One benefit of this way of recording is that the sound of the instrument can be much more focused and the room mic (in this case the AT8022) can be placed much further away for a more open reverb/hall and then mixed to taste.
- I would experiment with microphone placement for the Schoeps. Different placements will result in brighter or darker sound.
That's what I'd do. I realize that the entirety of these things is not cheap and the end result would be a more complicated recording setup and process. However it's the best quality upgrade and keeps your existing 8022 in service usefully.
Something that does fit your budget and current process would be:
Replace your AT8022 & Cloudlifter with Austrian Audio CC8 Stereo Set Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone (Matched Pair). You will want to get these microphones as close to the performer as possible. I have not used this set of microphones but the manufacturers are very well regarded and I expect this mic to perform well. Here is the frequency plot (it has 2 settings for the high pass filter, the 120Hz is what I'd use for higher pitched instruments):
Tyler Etters has made an exceptionally useful video about setting up a development environment for working with norns (a very handy small music computer). The key items are: connect to norns in such a way that it behaves just like a hard drive, use a text editor that integrates a Terminal window, use Github to backup/remote access/share with others for feedback, use ssh so you're not constantly logging in with passwords etc.
Gave an artist talk Photo: Sondra Lapage at Bogliasco Foundation today, a review of my work in relation to material culture, physical culture, and social culture. Plus a tour of some of the solo, duo, and electronic music I make with a preview of some of the things I'm working on with the the Timbre of Starlight project.
Prepping for an artist talk for Bogliasco Foundation guests and fellows.
Video about programing that leads towards live-code. Gets especially good at the Program Representation point. Jack Rusher, "Stop Writing Dead Programs," from Strange Loops 2022.
They sell you the surveillance but what you need is the connection.
Making CDs, for me, at this point is entirely for the reviewers/press who still prefer them. The leftovers come along to live shows to sell and (more likely) give to other performers/organizers. I do love the opportunity they give for lengthy liner notes and text context though.
But in the free improv/noise/experimental scene there is still an appetite for them.
I can't help but consider how the above quote is simultaneously incredibly myopic and also relatively true. The tools we use to create are not tremendously relevant to the ways in which we think and document our work. If we replaced "EDM" with "Concert Hall" and "Ableton" with "violins" the myopia becomes more obvious.
The rhetorical construction of "we're all using the same tools in these two different places therefore we must be doing the same thing" fails to take into account the meaning, structure, and placemaking that occurs in two different places. While I wholeheartedly agree that people and activities occurring in EDM clubs and PhD programs are equal in terms of intrinsic human value, the idea that what is happening in both of these very different contexts becoming equivalent simply because the same tools are used in both is, to me anyway, kind of absurd.
There are differences of network, longevity, and productive output that the different institutions of the EDM club and the PhD program leverage. There are contexts in which that leverage results in continued ability to produce creative work. The PhD program doesn't qualify someone to headline an EDM festival. The EDM club doesn't qualify someone to teach semester long undergraduate courses in music.
Equating the tools and ignoring the institutional context is a mistake and I'm not sure why someone would promote that way of thinking, especially since context and place are probably more important in terms of continuing to make creative work.
Photographing and making more Bogliasco covers for the cassette mail art project.
Photographing covers and making recordings for Bogliasco Vol 1 & 2 mail art tapes.
Saturation in audio recordings, a starter
I saw a question today by someone looking to get into adding saturation to their audio recordings. It's a wide and deep topic but I think a good way to learn about it is to dig in and try it.
One of the best ways to explore saturation is to run audio through different transformers and different circuits, hitting things just a little harder than necessary (see Ramping through mic pres below). I find that the DIYRE Colour format is great for exploring this: many low-cost options, simple controls.
Making a system that is inexpensive and responsive encourages more sound explorations. Once you find some transformers or circuits that you tend to like then you can look for pricier gear that includes those transformers or similar circuits.
A Twitter thread/discussion on using "I" vs "We" in writing, touching on clarity, intent, collaboration (and who is doing the collaborating).