A Bridge of Sound Between Musicians and Their Audience
Prof. Martha de Francisco
A note to the audience
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear
students of Mini Music,
Thank you for your participation
in my talk and in particular for the many questions you handed
in. There were many interesting questions on your cards that
remained unanswered after the talk. I have selected a few here
and I will give you my answers below.
For me it was a wonderful
experience to talk to you. I hope you enjoyed Mini Music!
Martha de Francisco
1- Would you explain the editing
process? When editing + mixing do you cut and paste? Eg. cut out
a phase that doesn’t sound so great and replace it with one done
at another time that sounds better? Is this done a lot?
Editing constitutes an important
part of the postproduction activities of music recording.
Editing may involve as little as trimming the beginning and
ending of an otherwise unmodified run-through of a musical work.
It may also involve a varying amount of exchange from one
recorded segment to the next. In a typical studio recording of
classical music, it is usual to record one or more run-throughs
of the music, as well as shorter “takes” in which certain
passages of the work are being played again. With the help of
increasingly sophisticated editing technology we are able to
replace segments of the music from different takes to form a
continuously flowing unity. Live recordings are often edited
between different performances, sometimes between performance
with an audience and the rehearsal without anybody present.
The best results are achieved when
the continuity of the music can be maintained. The great
majority of classical music recordings are edited. Music editing
is an art. If done properly, editing can enhance a performance
and make the recording arrive at a higher level of technical and
musical perfection. If done poorly, the recording may sound
boring and uninteresting. This may reflect badly on the
2- When you edit, can you take out
the breathing sounds of vocalists or woodwind players (i.e.
We can, but we should not! Some
noise is an integral part of the music and taking it away may
make the music sound unnatural, artificial. On one occasion I
edited an aria for two singers, removing on their specific wish
the breathing before every new phrase. The results were
terrible! We opted for bringing back some of the breathing and
the music sounded naturally again. But yes, generally we try to
remove the most disturbing unrelated noises that may happen
during a performance. Since recordings give the opportunity to
listen to the music repeatedly, we try to avoid the flow of the
music being interrupted and disturbed by the same big noise
every time you listen to that passage!
3 - How hard is to record music when
the audience is present: They make noises like coughing, paper
unwrapping. Can you edit them?
We have access to very advanced
editing technology that allows almost magic ways of
electronically removing audience noises, for instance coughs. If
we have a choice of a second performance or rehearsal of the
same music that was recorded in the same hall, we may want to
edit the corresponding segments of music together, avoiding the
noise. Of course if a noise is very loud or if it takes a long
time before it is over, then there is not much one can do. I
remember an instance of a live recording where a cellular phone
set on standby caused electrical interference on the microphone
signals. Long stretches of two songs were entirely ruined! That
is why, like on airplanes, cell phones need to be turned off
where recordings are being done.
Recordings with an audience are
sometimes patched with retakes done without an audience. The
empty hall usually sounds more reverberant than the full hall.
Besides, listeners cause the sound to be reflected differently
in the hall. In most occasions live recordings sound duller than
recordings without an audience. There is the need to fine-tune
the sound to make it regain its character. Multitrack recording
and mixing are useful tools for that purpose: In the mix, the
amount of ambient sound can be adjusted accordingly, sound
differences can be compensated and necessary edits made
inaudible. I can affirm that we have incredible tools -and the
know-how to go with them- that allow us to make wonderfully
spontaneous, yet somehow controlled and noise-free
4 - How do you recommend we set up
the sound system in an ordinary living room?
Ideally the two loudspeakers and the
listener should be configured as the points of an equilateral
triangle. This gives the optimum listening pleasure since in
music recording a lot happens “between the speakers”. We operate
with virtual sound sources that come from both speakers.
Loudspeakers should be allowed enough space around them,
avoiding in particular the high frequencies to be absorbed by
curtains or pieces of furniture right around them. Most people
do not have much choice in the place where they can place their
loudspeakers in their living rooms. But I would recommend you to
listen critically to various options and choose what sounds
best, not just what looks best or what is the most practical
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