This is my view for most of this week:
I’m making a recording with Tucson Chamber Artists — all world-premiere recordings of music by American composer Stephen Paulus. It’s going very well so far. I enjoy the intensive, focused work that recording demands. It’s completely different from my usual performing experience. I’m in sneakers and jeans, making the very best sound I can at each moment, trading the spontaneity of connecting with a live audience for inner focus on musicality and perfection.
You’ve seen recording sessions in movies and videos; when you think of making a recording you probably imagine the musicians in a studio, wearing headphones and performing behind a glass wall, like in the great ’80s video We Are the World. That’s not how it works in the classical music world.
Classical music is usually recorded on-site in a concert hall or church. This week we’re at Catalina Foothills High School’s beautiful auditorium, the best small hall in Tucson. No one but the producer and recording engineer are wearing headphones. There are A LOT of microphones scattered about the stage:
The engineers will later be able to do some mixing of how much sound from each mic is used, but it’s not like pop music, where you can record one instrument at a time. Everyone plays or sings everything on every take. It’s exhausting but exhilarating too.
Our GRAMMY-winning producer Peter Rutenberg sits behind stage with the engineers and calls out his feedback and requests over a speaker, his disembodied voice commanding us to take it again, this time with more/less/better/higher/lower/softer/louder whatever. Peter requested several modifications to our usual mode of singing, including silent clothing and jewelry (no taffeta or jingly earrings!) and covering our stands with towels to reduce page-turning noise.
Breaks are crucial to give the voice, legs, and brain a rest. There’s plenty of socializing and laughing during breaks, but sometimes we’re quiet too. Even during a one-minute pause when Peter and Tucson Chamber Artists’ conductor Eric Holtan discuss something, we plop down to go somewhere else mentally for a moment.
I must confess, I have spent a fair number of free minutes vegging out with this (darn you, Candy Crush, why are you so addictive?):
One more day to go. I’m looking forward to the words “it’s a wrap!”, to celebrating with my colleagues tonight, and especially to hearing the album when it’s released this fall.