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Mike Richter wrote:
> Bob Olhsson wrote:
>
>> I got hired around ten years ago to record a woman who turned out to 
>> have
>> played flute in both the NBC Symphony and the New York Philharmonic 
>> where
>> she met her husband who played clarinet. Before leaving, we sat down 
>> with
>> the couple and had a conversation about the recording and 
>> broadcasting of
>> those orchestras. After some wonderful anecdotes about Toscanini and
>> Stokowski, I was shocked to hear them say they believed "recordings 
>> improved
>> so much after the modern technique of using lots of microphones 
>> instead of
>> only one started to be used."
>
> What else would a flautist say? That is, she would probably have been 
> unable to hear herself in the ensemble with only one or two mikes. 
> When she has one all to herself - or to the winds as a group - she 
> would perceive her contribution more easily. Whether that microscopic 
> view and the resulting clarity of inner voices aids the overall effect 
> is up to producer, conductor and engineers (in no particular order).
>
> Note, too, that musicians may be poor judges of recorded sound; in 
> general, they are not looking for the same things that make a 
> recording effective to the home listener. In addition, they do not 
> know what the orchestra sounds like when they hear it from within the 
> group.
>
> I have had very good results with limited experience recording with a 
> pair of cardioid electrets crossed and mounted somewhat above the 
> stage, one-third back and horizontally centered in a small hall. But 
> whether that would satisfy the performers I cannot guess; it may have 
> sounded too 'realistic'.
>
> Mike
This is a very interesting thread, though no more likely to lead to 
consensus than a discussion of "historically correct" performance. I see 
that some would advocate going back to the score and trying to divine 
the composer's intentions so that the recording setup can be optimized 
to reproduce what Johannes or Wolfgang heard in his head. There are real 
limits on how far this can be pursued. Who is to say that the composer 
was imagining the concert-goer in Row H when he put ink on paper (or 
fiddled with his Sibelius software)? Maybe his internal ear was located 
directly on the podium or in the center of the ensemble or on some 
other, totally artificial, cerebral sphere. Frankly, I have worked with 
many composers who found that the experience of hearing their work 
performed was a revelation and not at all what they heard inside their 
head while creating. There is no one "right" sonic perspective. I have 
spent most of my life inside of ensembles as a performer and that has 
had a tremendous impact on how I perceive the sound of orchestral and 
chamber music. This might not be in sync with Joe Audiencemember or Mary 
Recordlistener but is it "wrong"? Is it farther away from the concept of 
the creator of the music or just refracted differently? I think that one 
can make qualitative judgments on recorded sound, but it seems foolish 
to me to say one way of capturing sound is more correct in absolute 
terms. I know good when I hear it since it pleases my ear (and deeper 
recesses), but it ain't good just because the team of performers and 
recorders has read the composer's mind. Listen to the Glenn Gould 
recordings of Sibelius piano music where he has engineered the acoustic 
perspective to an extreme degree. You may totally hate it (I have 
experienced various reactions to it myself), but there is a point. The 
performer and the listener are living organisms in a changeable 
environment and there is nothing fixed and absolute about the notes in 
the score that is violated when the parameters of performance and 
environment are altered. In my mind, if I follow some of the arguments 
about microphone placement and mixing, there would be only one perfect 
seat located in a unique venue to listen to music.

Multi-miking may lead to excesses of bad taste and I love the old 
Mercury (and other 2 and 3 mike) recordings, but I have no problem with 
putting on a CD or LP that sets me in the center of the action and 
reveals details that might have blurred in a large concert hall.

New Year's best to all,

Peter Hirsch