The Chiltern Suite, University of Westminster, London - 17-18 September 2005

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Saturday 17 September 2005
Sunday 18 September 2005



Colin Lawson

Royal College of Music

'The most original Beethoven yet recorded': fantasies, realities and the microphone

It is now a decade since Taruskin observed that ‘historical’ performance is not really historical and that a thin veneer of historicism clothes a performance style that is completely of its own time, and is in fact the most modern style around. As Taruskin’s views have found more widespread acceptance, the convergence of early music with global communication, air travel and the microphone has produced singular results. At the beginning of his introduction to Christopher Hogwood’s complete Mozart symphony recordings, Neal Zaslaw in 1978 made reference to Burney’s celebrated characterisation of the Mannheim orchestra: ‘Its forte is like thunder, its crescendo like a great waterfall, its diminuendo the splashing of a crystalline river disappearing into the distance, its piano a breath of spring…’. Yet six years later, the reviewer Eric van Tassel was praising Hogwood for his minimalist approach that produced performances that were not merely under-interpreted but uninterpreted, thus providing an experience ‘of unequalled authenticity…’.

In 1980 Howard Mayer Brown in The New Grove bemoaned the practical difficulties of assembling a period orchestra for Beethoven, yet a mere couple of years later The Hanover Band produced an acclaimed recording of the First Piano Concerto and First Symphony that initiated the Band’s colourful relationship with the Nimbus label. Nimbus has controversially been a champion of long takes and single microphone balances and its results were distinctive and often exciting. But by 1992 Clive Brown was issuing a warning that the characteristics of some of the instruments and equipment employed in Beethoven cycles by The Hanover Band, Hogwood and Norrington would certainly not have been familiar to the musicians in Beethoven’s Vienna and that the public was in danger of being offered attractively packaged but unripe fruit.

What has been the contribution of the microphone to an early music culture that has routinely been ruthlessly selective, sometimes decidedly unhistorical and occasionally unimaginative in its approach to the primary evidence?

Colin Lawson is Director of the Royal College of Music. He taught at Aberdeen and Sheffield Universities before moving to Thames Valley University as Pro Vice-Chancellor/Dean (2001-5). He has an international profile as a period clarinettist and has played in most of Britain's leading period orchestras, notably The Hanover Band, The English Concert and the London Classical Players, with whom he has recorded extensively and toured world-wide. Described recently as 'a brilliant, absolutely world-class player' (Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung) and ‘the doyen of period clarinettists’ (BBC Music Magazine), he has appeared as soloist in many international venues, including London's major concert halls and New York's Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. His discography comprises concertos by Fasch, Hook, Mahon, Mozart, Spohr, Telemann, Vivaldi and Weber, as well as a considerable variety of chamber music. Among his most recent recording is a highly-acclaimed disc of basset horn trios by Mozart and Stadler and a recital disc entitled ‘100 Years of the Simple-System Clarinet’.

Colin has published widely, especially for Cambridge University Press. He is editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet and author of Cambridge Handbooks to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet. He is co-editor of a series of Cambridge Handbooks to the Historical Performance of Music, for which he has co-authored an introductory volume (1999) and a book on the early clarinet (2000). He is also editor of the recent Cambridge Companion to the Orchestra (2003).

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Donald Greig

Professional singer

'Sing to the mike': authenticity and performance in early music recording

Recording sessions take place behind locked doors. In a church in the middle of rural England the perceived risk is that a member of the public will interrupt a vital 'take'. In a recording studio in West London someone may gain access to a jealously guarded, much-anticipated 'second' album.

But beyond privacy and secrecy lie other reasons for such exclusion. At its most mundane recording is often about the elimination of error and the search for perfection will often not admit to its process. At its most cynical such secrecy is a necessary corollary to the marketing department's control over myth and reality and an eager music press. In all cases it is clear that the image of the group is paramount and that in some way recording - and more importantly, accounts of the recording process - are potentially disruptive. In short, access to the authentic experience of recording is severely compromised. Control over the performer's discourse is loosened over time (sometimes simply contractually), but even then access to the performer's motivations and choices is tainted by a combination of unreliable memory, the lure of anecdote and, simply, ego. Yet recordings are one of the most valuable tools available to academic study of performance trends and also form the most concrete testament to evanescent performance. How, though, do we use the first-hand experience of performers and of what value are such subjective accounts? In short, can we believe anything a performer says?

Donald Greig, a former lecturer in Film Studies, is a professional singer. He is particularly associated with the world of early music where he is a founder member of The Orlando Consort and a regular member of such groups as The Tallis Scholars and the Gabrieli Consort. He is also active in the world of session singing, both in the fields of pop music and musical theatre. He has given papers at various conferences and has written for journals such as Screen, Early Music and Musical Times.

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Simon Frith

University of Stirling

The myth of the producer

In this paper I will be concerned with two kinds of question: first, why and how the record producer became the object of attention in the development of rock criticism; second, why were some producers/productions understood in terms of their creativity but others not. What interests me, in short, is not simply how critics contributed to the emerging ideology of record production but also why particular producers’ work was or was not recognised by record reviewers.

Simon Frith is Professor of Film and Media at the University of Stirling, and editor of Screen, and chairs the judges of the Mercury Music Prize. His most recent book, edited with Lee Marshall, is Music and Copyright (Edinburgh University Press). In January 2006 he will move to Edinburgh University to take up the Tovey Chair of Music.

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Michael Haas

Independent produceer

The recording producer as musicological filter

The Classical Recording producer is generally the custodian of what is regarded as “art” music in its process of being committed to recorded medium. Yet, what does this custodianship actually entail and what are the musicological implications? A&R responsibilities inevitably have musicological responsibilities whether recording a work from the past; establishing a new repertoire undertaking or selecting a young artist. Both the executive producer and the recording supervisor need to be sensitive to the judgment of history and future scholars when recording. This can be as basic as deciding on the most appropriate constellation of the figured bass in a Mozart opera or as difficult as unpicking a bit of orchestration which does not record convincingly in Gurrelieder. Contemporary works with the composer in attendance have their own musicological validity, yet for those of us who have experienced such things it raises the question of how much credence the composer’s participation actually provides. And if issues can be unclear with the composer attending sessions, how much less clear are they when the composer has been dead for centuries? Is it the producer’s responsibility even to activate musicological credibility into sessions? And with all of the technical tools now available, to what extent are we now even accurately documenting the expertise of today’s generation of interpreters?

Almost 30 years of recording experience have given me an opportunity of exploring these issues which I hope, in the above paper, to address in a constructive rather than theoretical fashion.

Michael Haas is an independent producer with more than 20 years experience as an executive and recording producer for both Universal Music Group’s Decca/London and the Sony Classical labels. He was producer for Sir Georg Solti for over 10 years winning several Grammies, before leaving for Sony to work with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic as well as working in 1994 as Vice President of A&R in New York.

Now independent, Mr Haas spends his time developing his own recordings and projects in addition to lectures, writing, festivals and conferences. These have included his work with the Forum for Suppressed Music and the Jewish Music Institute, and the position of Music Director of the Musica Prohibita Festival of Entartete Musik in Barcelona.

In 2002, Mr Haas was awarded the 2002 JMI (Jewish Music Institute) David Uri Fellowship in recognition of his work and research in music banned by the Third Reich. In addition, he was recently appointed Music Curator of the Jewish Museum of Vienna.

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CHARM Panel: Towards a musicology of production

Chair: Nicholas Cook (Royal Holloway College, University of London)

Panellists: Andrew Blake (University of Winchester), Michael Haas (Independent producer), Serge Lacasse (Laval University, Québec), Colin Lawson (Royal College of Music), David Patmore (University of Sheffield), Albin Zak (University at Albany, NY)

As musicology becomes increasingly oriented to music as a performing art, so recordings are increasingly understood as vital historical documents. But they are not the snapshots of past performance as which they are often treated. With the development of tape, multitracking, and hard disc recording, the role of the producer became increasingly more important in determining the nature of the final product, seen less as the reproduction of a real performance than as the construction of a virtual one: recording has became an art form increasingly distinct from live performance. To date, however, musicology has not given serious attention to this development. The aim of this round table, promoted by CHARM, is to focus on the producer as a key creative figure in musical culture, classical as well as pop, and to consider the analytical, critical, and historical dimensions of a musicology of production.

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Timothy Day

British Library Sound Archive

Microphones in choirs and places where they sing

A sense of space and the precise nature of the acoustic of a very large building in which a choir or a choir and an organ were performing could only be captured with post-war technology such as full frequency-range recording, magnetic tape and microgroove discs. Clearly in such complicated acoustics a particular sound source can yield very different effects to listeners standing in different parts of the building. Recording in such locations as St Paul’s Cathedral or York Minster provides particular challenges of interpretation to producers and engineers.

Should the recording try to reproduce the effect experienced by a listener in one particular position? Should the recording seek to clarify the sounds while at the same time attempting to convey the vastness of the space? Or should the performance of William Byrd or Jonathan Harvey be re-imagined for the microphone, as John Culshaw re-imagined Wagner for the microphone? Should the aim be to eavesdrop on a ritual, or to allow the listener to partake in a ritual? What is the object of recording at all in such a building as ‘that musically unsavoury substance, the acoustic of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge’, as one critic considered it? Is the object to create a ‘sensual’ or an ’intellectual’ effect as one listener expressed it, to assist the performers of Tallis’s Spem in alium reveal ‘the whole architectonic structure’ of the work and the miraculous complexity of the part-writing, or to give the listeners an ‘incense-laden’ experience? How are these issues approached? Do choir directors or record producers make final decisions?

These questions will be examined drawing on commercial discs, broadcasts, and a collection recently donated to the British Library of more than fifty hours of recordings privately made in the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge between 1955 and 1959.

Timothy Day is Curator of Classical Music Recordings in the British Library and Chair of the Academic Advisory Board of CHARM, the AHRC Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music.

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Paschall de Paor

University of Glamorgan

Shadows on the cave wall - seducing the producer (and other dark tales)

The act of producing is a multi-faceted engagement with many, often diverse, agents within the music production paradigm. The consequences of this interaction is wide-ranging and its impact has considerable influence in both generic and specialised genres. Due to this complex and dynamic nexus, there are some difficulties in trying to approach and understand key issues in the producing discipline. This paper highlights some of the more pressing issues, and suggests possible ways to redress the imbalance between scholarly understanding and commercial producing priorities.

Paschall de Paor is a Principal Lecturer in Sound and Music Technologies at the University of Glamorgan, Wales. He leads the postgraduate programmes in music engineering and production, and is driving the development of a research centre for music producing. Current PhD work from the centre is focussed on generic music producing, remixing, social psychology of music producing, and several philosophical approaches to music producing. He also leads the PhD route for professional producers. A former master glassblower of Waterford Crystal, his musical background straddles experimental electroacoustic music through to mainstream electro-pop remixing.

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David Patmore

University of Sheffield

John Culshaw and the recording as art work

During his time as producer with Decca Records in the 1950s and 1960s, John Culshaw developed a coherent philosophy of the recording as an art work in its own right, for instance equal and parallel to film. Using Culshaw’s own writings, which remain largely scattered among contemporary record magazines, and interviews with those who worked closely with him, such as the producer and engineer Gordon Parry and the head of marketing at Decca at this time, Jack Boyce (both recently deceased), and a significant successor producer, James Mallinson, all originally generated in connection with research into the career of the conductor Sir Georg Solti, this presentation will seek to describe the development of Culshaw’s philosophy of recording and its articulation through specific recordings, the majority of which were conducted by Solti. In addition the reasons for the decline of Culshaw’s philosophy, including the influence of emergent technologies and stronger rival discourses, will be considered. The presentation will be illustrated with relevant film and sound recordings involving at first hand the major players in this story.

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Albin Zak

University at Albany, New York State

Low fidelity: sound consciousness and 1950s Rock and Roll

This paper explores the shift in conventional conceptions of musical sound brought about by 1950s rock and roll records. Limited technical resources, a quest for novelty, and a lack of established aesthetic criteria made for a steady issue of rough and ready musical production often bordering on the inept. Yet, as the sounds of records thoroughly at odds with recognized standards of sonic representation found widespread public acceptance, the public’s sonic consciousness underwent a gradual sea change. The transformed soundscape represents an accumulation of the distinctive traces of hit recordings. This presentation examines specific records from the 1950s, noting their contribution to the development of rock and roll’s style matrix, to present evidence for their foundational place in the collective sonic aesthetic of succeeding generations of pop musicians and fans.

Albin Zak holds degrees in composition and performance from New England Conservatory, and a PhD in musicology from the City University of New York. He has taught at the City College of New York and the University of Michigan, and is currently chair of the Music Department at the State University of New York at Albany. His publications include two books - The Velvet Underground Companion (Schirmer) and The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks Making Records (California). He is currently working on a book about popular music of the late 1940s through the early 1960s.

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Andrew Blake

University of Winchester

Towards a musicology of early-mid 1960s EMI recordings produced by Suvi Raj Grubb

‘Who is that black man over there?’ asked, predictably enough, Herbert von Karajan, during a rehearsal for an early-1960s recording session. In assessing the career of Suvi Raj Grubb (who became Walter Legge’s assistant in 1960, and arguably EMI’s most important classical music producer after Legge’s precipitate resignation in 1964), this very preliminary exploration will discuss some of his best-known recordings as sonic statements important to the evolution of the common values of commercial stereo; but it will also, necessarily, begin to map race/ethnicity and empire onto the sonic values expressed by this important register of musical whiteness.

Andrew Blake is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Winchester. An occasional saxophonist and composer, his writings include The Music Business (1992); The Land without Music: Music, Culture and Society in Twentieth-Century Britain (1997); the edited collection Living through Pop (1999); and a contribution to Cook and Pople, eds, The Cambridge History of Twentieth Century Music (2004). He is also the author of books on sport, fiction, and consumer culture, including The Irresistible Rise of Harry Potter (2002).

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Serge Lacasse

Laval University, Québec

Persona, emotions and technology: the phonographic staging of the popular music voice

Voice is of course central in recorded popular music: more than just a vehicle for the lyrics, it acts, through the partial exposition of the singer’s body, as the aural index of the artist’s persona and represented emotions (notably through the use of paralinguistic features). In that context, recording technology becomes the primary mediator of the popular music voice. This process of mediation might be better approached through the concept of ‘phonographic staging’.

Derived from the work of William Moylan (1992; 2002), this model aims to describe the effects of the manipulation of four main categories of sound perception through recording technology: dynamics (sound level vs performance intensity, compression, fading, etc.); space (stereo or surround imaging, environment, distance, etc.); timbre (filtering, phasing effects, distortion, etc.); and time (editing effects, speed variation, overdubbing, etc.).

In this paper, I wish to discuss examples taken from the popular music repertoire and analyze how phonographic staging might contribute to the expression of vocal performances. Although effects may slightly vary from one style to another, or from one artist to another, there seems to be a rather transversal coherence in the way phonographic staging is used to help support and enhance the voice, partly explainable by historical and psychoacoustic factors. The discussion will include examples from Peter Gabriel, Tori Amos, Camille Dalmais, and others.

A popular music specialist, Serge Lacasse is Assistant Professor at Laval University, Québec City, where he teaches popular music theory and history as well as song writing. He is also Adjunct Professor at the School for Studies in Art and Culture (Carleton University), and was previously an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Music, University of Western Ontario (2000-2002). In addition to his teaching activities, Serge is a researcher and member of the Executive for both the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la littérature et la culture québécoises (CRILCQ) and the Observatoire international sur la création musicale (OICM), as well as the French Editor for the Canadian University Music Review. He is also member of the Executive and webmaster for the Canadian branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-Canada). Favouring an interdisciplinary approach, his research projects deal with many aspects of recorded popular music aesthetics and culture: analysis of text-music relations in a song by Peter Gabriel (M.A. thesis, 1995); phonographic staging of voice (Ph.D. dissertation, 2000); intertextuality in recorded popular music (SSHRC 2001-2004); narratology and the recorded voice (FQRSC 2003-2006); cultural history of Québec’s recorded popular music (“Penser l’histoire de la vie culturelle québécoise”, FQRSC 2003-2006); the culture of mix tapes; etc. He published many chapters and articles, co-edited (with Patrick Roy) ‘Une étoile qui danse’: Mélanges à la mémoire de Roger Chamberland (Presses de l’Université Laval, 2005), and is currently editing a book on popular music and intertextuality (Incestuous Pop: Intertextuality in Recorded Popular Music). Besides his academic career, he is still active in the recording industry as a producer, songwriter, and arranger.

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