AHRC Online Conference

Classical Music Hyper Production and Practice As Research

Learning to perform in the studio

I believe that all Classical music students should be better prepared for the recording studio. There is a fundamental misunderstanding in Classical music that musicians can simply take the performance of the concert hall and replicate it in the recording studio to produce a successful outcome.  Performing for a recording is completely different to performing live. We spend thousands of hours preparing for the concert platform, but comparatively little time learning how to translate that performance for the recording studio. 

I teach a course at the Royal Academy of Music called Studio Performance in which postgraduate students  learn to look critically at the concepts, issues, and processes relating to recording, and gain practical experience of performing and producing in a studio environment. The introductory seminars address the aesthetics and history of recording, and the roles of the performer, producer, sound engineer and editor (including input from invited speakers). They  then attend a mock-up recording session and field trips in order to consider the different contexts for performance. Finally, they go into the studio to make their own recording (including making their  own editing choices), and act as producer for one of their  peers. By experiencing and questioning the act of studio performance, and by changing roles from performer to producer, they get a rare chance to experience the challenges and opportunities of recording from both sides of the control room glass.

What is interesting and possibly most important about this teaching set-up is the fact that the students are  producing each other, and so gain experience from both sides of the musician/production team fence. This understanding of each party's challenges and priorities makes a huge difference to their experience in the studio and understanding of the process. Courses like this are gaining momentum as the classical music education community is recognizing that as the old systems no longer exist performers are increasingly going to have to organize and curate their own recording projects. To this end, I have been asked to create a post-Masters professional diploma at my institution, a Professional Diploma in Collaborative Recording Production, a year-long post-Master's course which will prepare high-level performers to face this brave new world of recording. They will need to know enough about all aspects of the process to collaborate more closely with the producer or sound engineer they have hired, and very possibly make their own decisions about takes and complete their own editing, as well as marketing the product or finding a company to deal with the distribution. 

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  • I agree and it's good to hear of classical performance students experiencing the roles of both performer and producer. In this day and age I think an understanding of the studio (from both sides of the desk if possible) are essential for classical performers and composers. At Western Sydney University, my institution, sound technology is a compulsory first year subject so all students, classical and popular (and world music) have a basis for playing in the studio, by end of first year. They can then elect to continue with sound technology through the degree. We're not a conservatorium style music performance program so have a range of student musical interests and different approaches to teaching performance. The popular musicians grab the opportunity to perform in the studio and bring their bands in (or form student bands), working behind the desk and performing - for many, that's their dream. Classical musicians do as well but this is a newer idea. Frankly, I think classical musicians can learn much from the way popular musicians are in and out of the studio, fund their own CDs, market themselves etc.

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