I just finished up a fantastic project with Immediate Music. When I was brought on to produce this release after pre-production, our initial conversations revolved around this project being a flagship release for them.
We explored the concept of using other recording halls but after hearing some of the mock ups we decided to record at Abbey Road in London. This was perfect as Immediate had great success there before when they recorded the legendary “Themes for Orchestra and Choir 2”. Abbey Road touts itself as the world’s finest recording studio. I now know why. It is such an experience recording in London from the ‘look right’ signs on the streets to the quaint dialect. The Brits I work with are always happy to remind me that I only speak American.
The first thing I noticed upon arrival is how accessible the studio is from the street. Almost everybody knows Abbey Road and you can basically walk right up to the door; no massive security checkpoints, no armed guards. And once you get inside you come upon Studio One. There is epic, then there is Studio One at Abbey Road. Can we talk about the “bloom” of that studio for a minute? In case you have not experienced a “bloom,” it is the acoustic phenomenon when an orchestra stops playing, the sound of the last chord becomes noticeably louder after the fact. At Abbey Road the music seems to rise to the ceiling and circle around for another 2-3 seconds and grows in dynamic before it dissipates. We attempt this with digital reverb when we mix, however it’s a whole different experience when you can achieve it with natural acoustics.
The writing is so wonderfully complex. I chose to record the orchestra all together at the same time for this extremely difficult adventure music. We then took passes after the main take to split the sections for greater flexibility in the mix. This methodology makes for a very musical environment. Everybody in the band hears what the individual articulations are as well as the intonation center and dynamics. A great way to work…. not in a vacuum where everybody is in separate sessions. A better end result, in my opinion.
In the mix I continued to develop a process that is advancing the concept of orchestral recording and mixing for me. I say ‘develop’ because there is no precedent that I know of that incorporates this specific approach and my approach is still evolving. I am calling it “Phase Correlating” — It is a complex set of measurements that calculate time and phase for ALL the mics in the room based on their proximity to one another. It takes me 3-4 hours to construct this mass web of advanced calculations. Honestly, it hurts my head, but when I am finished and go back to an un-altered playlist, and A/B the “Phase Correlated” one, the difference is absolutely astonishing. You have the benefit of the size of a hall with all the mics acting as one. It is amazing to hear the difference.
After I am done with nearly an entire day of system design and technical calculations, I am finally ready to be musical. In my world I do my best to separate technical design and musicality. The moment I am thinking technically, I am not clearly visualizing what a piece of music wants to be emotionally or where the power center lies. I am always growing in my technique when it comes to producing a mix for a trailer release. This record was no exception. The intricate writing and playing required a nuanced approach, so blasting each section with room mics was not going to work here. I was constantly changing the focus of what I wanted the listener to hear. Sometimes larger than life, hugely grand in scope, other times direct precise and powerful.
In the end the core of this record is not about special effects, it is about a group of incredibly talented American composers and London musicians that brought all they have to every bar of music in front of them. I sought to bring all I had to each and every bar of music as well in the production. Enjoy the massively dynamic and powerful preview. The purity of the music and the world class musicianship speak for themselves.