Additionally, check out this great history of broadcast processing article, including some really interesting history on the AP4.
Additionally, check out this great history of broadcast processing article, including some really interesting history on the AP4.
Audio Ease of The Netherlands make a fantastic reverb program called Altiverb. This application takes what I’ll call an “audio photograph” of an acoustic space and allows you to simulate the sound of this space in your audio recording software. Take, for instance, a recorded guitar and apply Altiverb. Voila, it sounds like a guitar being played in a room! The proper name for this “photograph” is impulse response (IR), and in 2007 I created one of the Satsop nuclear reactor cooling tower.
After five years this IR is now officially available from Audio Ease, and my name gets to be on their home page for a little bit!
This past August Paul Kikuchi asked me out to record one of the performances he curated at the Seattle Union Station, partially motivated by its 2010 centennial anniversary. Glance at the included photos and it should be easy to see where the remainder of his motivation came from, as well as why I was thrilled to accept the offer. It’s an immense room, beautifully ornamented and well lit with a rich, dense reverberation. Click on the image thumbnails at the foot of the post to check out the uncropped larger format photos while you listen to the audio clip. They do the space worlds more justice than the preview images on this page.
For the fellow audio enthusiasts: This ensemble consisted of percussion, guitar, trombone, and french horn, all set up in a semi-circle and facing each other. Being allotted minimal set up time, I placed a couple sets of mics fairly quickly: a pair of Neumann KM86s close to floor level in Blumlein at the center of the group and a roughly ORTF Schoeps MK64 pair overhead. With the former, the direct to reverb blend was very nice and the stereo imaging of this technique was fantastic as always. However, after reviewing the tracks, the Schoeps win out, presenting a fuller and more detailed sound, and deeper soundstage. This latter pair is what you’re hearing in the included sound clip.
My standard practice is to monitor through the headphones to keep an ear on the recording, but this time I left the excellent Paul Miller, assisting me at the performance, to watch the board while I found a spot to sit down and let the music and the space capture my senses: The natural hue of sunlight through the windowed ceiling, fellow audience members similarly captivated, and first class musicians performing in a rich and encompassing acoustic space.
The interview happened while K was at its previous home a few blocks away from where we currently are. The studio was in “The Big Room”, an old Olympia High School gymnasium peppered with graffiti, the legacy of students attending during the late 30s and early 40s. Maroon velour drapes split the room into 3 smaller sections, the studio occupied the center section and the racks of musical instruments were in the backmost space. True to its moniker, the room really was quite big and was lined most of the way around with single paned windows which presented little resistance to any noise or coldness that might have been happening outside. The ever-raucous seagulls loved to congregate on the rooftop just outside the Big Room and the only heat was from two big gas blowers which only a rock band could drown out; takes would happen between the moments when the heaters were running.
I’ll leave my commentary at this and let the article do the rest of the talking. It’s split into two parts, the first is with Calvin Johnson and the second with Phil Elverum. Enjoy!
Meet The French Quarter, from Phoenix, AZ. They’re a three piece band fronted by Stephen Steinbrink, master of amazing vocal harmonies, and guitar riffs with a really strong groove. He’s accompanied by Chase and Preston, masters of very tasteful and also very grooving drums and bass, respectively. They took a few days break from touring to track an album at Olympia’s Dub Narcotic recording studio this May. The Pacific Northwest had the fortune of some really nice spring weather for the duration of their stay and while we only got to sit out in the backyard for snacks a few times, we made up for it in the studio by putting down a solid ten songs in three days.
This band has been high up on the list of most spins on my record and CD players over the past couple years, I’m really excited to be recording them and it sounds like we’re all really happy with how things are sounding so far. Mixes are in process and we’ll have a new album before too long!
In fall ’07 I got a call from a someone who wanted to talk to me about some location work. He’d gotten my number through another audio geek friend, this friend was originally going to be doing the recording himself but ended moving out of town before session plans congealed. Upon talking to the guy organizing the sessions it was revealed to me that they were looking for someone to facilitate the location recordings of a couple different experimental music projects in, of all places, a nuclear reactor cooling tower, about 30 miles outside of Olympia. The artists would then create their own compsitions out of the raw tracks.
The tower, and in fact, entire nuclear facility were never put into service. From www.environmentalaesthetics.org, the organization coordinating the sessions:
“In the late 1970′s, the U.S. was more than 20 years into its nuclear power program. In Washington, a consortium of public utilities began what was to be the largest single nuclear power project in the country’s history. Five reactors, divided between sites located near the cities of Hanford and Satsop, were intended to be a solution to projected energy demands of the rapidly growing region. Three years and several billion dollars into the endeavor, the remaining members of the Washington Public Power Supply System ceased construction of the nearly completed plants. Poor oversight, material miscalculations and the turning of public opinion with regards to nuclear power left the agency with no other option than to cut its losses, leaving the massive remnants of their futurist daydreaming to rest against the backdrop of rural Washington. “
Needless to say, I quickly accepted the offer and met them a few weeks later to survey and get a feel for the site. I was totally unprepared for the acoustic experience that awaited me. The cooling tower is about 500 feet in diameter, and just as tall or taller. The delay time of an acoustic event might travel away from its point of genesis, reflect off of any number of concrete surfaces, and make their ways back to the sound source anywhere up to a second later. And this is just for the initial reflections. Where most spaces have flat wall surfaces and sound waves would normally just travel progressively upward and be lost, the curved surface of this structure’s interior serves to focus sound waves. They echo back and forth and back down to a listener. The result? By far the most incredible acoustic space I have ever encountered, and may ever encounter again. A car door slam that sounds as much like thunder as anything I’ve ever heard, resounding from every direction around me. Footsteps crunching in the gravel, amplified, and sung back out as if played back from some mad scientist’s infinitely enclosing surround sound and delay system.
The EA website linked to above has some compositions from, I believe, just the first year of recording. Definitely check them out. Additionally, below are a couple quick soundclips which I feel really display the sonic signature of this space. The first is a rock being thrown, some talking, and a handful of gravel being thrown. The second is a guitar, strummed and then muted. There are no post production effects applied. What you’re hearing is the space.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, I did three consecutive years of work with EA and haven’t heard from them for a while now. I suspect the project never entirely got off enough momentum to get onto its own feet, so to speak. I wish the organizers luck in future endeavors as well as a thank you for inviting me into this space they’d gotten access to and for making the results available to listeners who may never have the fortune to experience this sort of environment in person.
I just finished installation of an assortment of acoustic treatment panels for the Dub Narcotic Studio. For a detailed description of the construction of the QRDs check out this post. I’ll just give a brief written overview here and let the photos do the rest of the talking.
The studio is a one room space. On the mix side, five QRD panels behind the mix area to scatter sound as it’s reflecting off the back wall from the speakers, as well as mitigating a nasty flutter echo between this wall and the far wall (about a 40′ length). Four polycylindricals above the area in front of the console (where people will normally stand) to scatter sound from the speakers heading toward the back wall and also to help control floor to ceiling resonance. Four 5 1/2″ deep rockwool/703 fiberglass above the console to catch first reflections off the ceiling and probably also helps with some resonances between the console and ceiling.
On the tracking side, four more polycylindrical panels over the area where the drums normally go, and an array of seven QRDs scattered about the rest of the ceiling area.
The pictures don’t show it too well but there’s not much wall space to hang these panels which is why they mostly ended up on the ceiling. There is also all sorts of shelving around the periphery of the room which probably does a reasonable job of scattering sound, or at least better than the flat ceiling surface did.
Mixed an album last week and things were sounding great! I still want address some measured low end resonances in the mix area, notably, a peak with resonant decay at about 70hz (probably floor to ceiling, about 9′), and a good scoop around 150 hz or so. However, depsite what unevenness there is, I felt I could hear it well and was able to compensate accordingly. I’m really happy with how the mixes came out. The room on a whole has a lot airier sound and I’m excited to do some tracking as well!
Of late I’ve refrained from any recording related posts as I’ve been in the middle of a number of projects with nothing terribly interesting to write about or many photos to post, hence the unrelated photo. It’s me and plum wine. At at this point however, I’ve got a lot going on and don’t want to get too backlogged in my posting, so here’s a brief overview:
I just finished mixing an album with AIDS Wolf which we tracked last fall at Dub Narcotic. We had a lot of material to work with and with a leaning toward mix perfection, it took a while to get final mixes for everything. The album is coming out on Love Pump United, and as it turns out, on double LP. Two additional songs are going on a 7″ which I think AIDS Wolf is self releasing. The recordings turned out really great, sort of mid-fi with a LOT of character. Their heavy and driving sound is translated really well I feel.
To be finished pretty soon, the mixing of a full length album for Olympian experimental cellist Derek Johnson. Four songs with a wide variety of energies and feels, some really cool compositions, and out on LP on I can’t remember which label, but I’ll make a post once it’s all finished up.
I just began recording with Briana Marela of Olympia for an album to be coming out on Bicycle. We have a few songs started so far and I’m taking on a slightly stronger co-producing role here than I often do, which is fun. Me and her have some pretty synchronistic ideas for how to take her newer and somewhat mellower electronic/tape loop/found sound based compositions and give them a more driving/beat oriented feel, I’m excited to continue working once she’s got time away from school responsibilities.
I’m in the middle of mixing an album with Ryan Clover, banjo and singing music hailing from New York state. This’ll be out on Bicycle later this year.
Upcoming dates include a Dub Narcotic mixing session with Cosmetics from Vancouver BC for an album on Captured Tracks, a solo album with Jordan ‘O Jordan, the banjo strumming third of Olympia folk supergroup Polka Dot Dot Dot, and an album at Dub Narcotic that I’m extremely excited about with one of my recent favorite musicians/bands, French Quarter from Phoenix.
More descriptions and photos to follow as all of these projects develop!
-Update on 4/18/11: Check out the completed installation of this first round of treatment.
After weeks of building with various delays, assembly time that exceeded my original estimate by two or three times, and a lot of late night carpentry sessions, I have completed construction of 12 quadratic residue diffusor panels for the Dub Narcotic Studio at K Records.
A quick definition of QRD: A sound wave which is traveling along through the air and comes upon a flat wall (or ceiling or floor) surface is reflected, for the most part at an equal and opposite angle of that which it arrived by. A QRD is an acoustic treatment element which is designed to scatter sound over a wide degree of angles. The well depths are derived from a mathematical formula which is based off of any prime number. These panels are based off of the prime numbers 7, 11, and 13, I built four of each. A sound wave that meets this type of diffusor is very effectively scattered across large number of angles.
A description of how the sound quality of a diffuse acoustic environment compares to an untreated room might be somewhat subjective, but I’d qualify the former as more open, airy, smoother sounding in relation to the latter. An additional and measurable benefit is the mitigation or elimination of flutter echo (a repeating echo between two parallel surfaces).
Facilitating my design of these panels was an excellent freeware application called QRDude.
They’re up and installed at the studio which means I can now shift my focus to building 8 additional diffusor panels of a different type (polycylindrical diffusors). There’ll be some absorptive panels installed as well. Photos of the studio and installed treatment to follow as soon as that all’s complete.
A few weeks back I packed my gear up and headed to make a recording for Seattle’s Open Graves, a collaborative project including a friend of mine, Paul Kikuchi (on drums and other percussion). The project is a joint effort with Jesse Olsen (guitar and percussion, here 2nd from left) and this show also included Christopher DeLaurenti (electronics), and Stuart Dempster (trombone).
The show took place at the Chapel Space at the Good Shepard Center, a really wonderful old chapel space at the top of a 5 story building in Wallingford. It’s got nice tall ceilings, beautiful stained glass windows down the long sides of the room, and an overall pleasing sound. Note the 24″ 1940′s bass drum with a calf skin resonant head. It sounded amazing in the room!