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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001194.txt from 2003/06

From: "Benjamin Maas" <benmaas@-----.com>
Subj: RE: [kl] Electronic Acoustical Performance (long... from the Engineer's point of view)
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 14:06:10 -0400

Ooh boy... Where to begin with this thread... I agree with some and I
absolutely disagree with other parts.

In short, acoustic music does often need amplification. It really =
depends
on the style and the venue. Even a string quartet needs it sometimes. =
That
said, a regular orchestral performance doesn't need it (usually).

If your engineers are making things so loud that you are in discomfort,
there is obviously something wrong. Sometimes amplification is needed =
to
"fill out" the sound in a room. When I do jazz work, I often amplify
everything to make it work in a room. The amount of amplification is
usually very small, but things will often not work if they aren't =
amplified.

Let me break it down

When you have a very small ensemble in a very large room amplification =
is
usually needed. The Kronos Quartet travels with a sound guy who =
amplifies
everything for every piece. The reason is when they are in a 3000 seat
hall, they need to be heard clearly at the back. Classical guitarists =
were
brought up... They usually travel with a little amp because otherwise =
even
in a small room, they usually aren't heard. If they solo with =
orchestra,
they are *ALWAYS* amplified in one way or another.

Point of view/perspective- when you are amplifying part of an ensemble =
and
not the whole thing, the unamplified instruments don't sound like they
belong. When I've worked with jazz groups, I find that sometimes I even
need to amplify the drums because when the group is amp'd and the drums
aren't, they don't sound like part of the ensemble. This is especially =
true
when the drummer goes to brushes. They are not necessarily turned up, =
but
they need to be present in the sound system.

Balance issues: As I'm sure many have noticed, over the years charts =
have
changed a lot to reflect the differences in the technical approach to =
music.
In the days when players were expected to balance each other, the charts
were written in such a way that everything worked. Today, it is =
expected
that there will be a mic on every player and the job of balance has =
changed
from the musician to the engineer. An example- when you play a Benny
Goodman chart, everything works. When you play a Tom Kubis chart, you
expect to need to have parts of the band amplified to be heard. There =
is
nothing wrong with the writing, but it is a stylistic and orchestration
issue. When the trumpets are all playing above the staff, the bones =
have
"ff" written, the drums are blasting and you have an electric bass, the
saxes and piano *are* going to get lost. =20

It is the same issues when you look at film scores and other commercial
music. In film, the early writers like Alfred Newman and Bernard Herman
wrote scores that worked as concert pieces... Everything was =
orchestrated to
work as a single ensemble. Today, the scores are written so that they =
have
a sound that depends on having 40+ microphones out in the ensemble to
balance things out. There is some great music, but it relies on =
technology
to work on tape. There are still a few composers that write very good
scores that balance. Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein come to mind =
for
this...

Venue:

Some venues for these ensembles need amplification. Obviously if you =
are
outside playing for 6,000 people you need a sound system. However, =
things
go into a gray area when you have smaller venues and more traditional
ensembles. Saturday, I worked with an orchestra where we ended up using
amplification for some, but not all of the people involved. We had a
children's choir soloing with 50 people behind them. They were not =
heard at
all without a bit of help. Same with some of the vocal soloists we had. =
The
classically trained singers didn't need anything, however some of the
less-trained singers doing the Broadway charts absolutely needed help.

It is the job of the sound engineer to work inside the confines of the
music. Some music requires extensive amplification. Some doesn't. =
When I
work with acoustic music, I try not to hear the sound system. Sometimes =
it
is necessary, but it really depends on the ensemble. For those in LA, =
come
to the Mancini Institute concerts at UCLA. You'll hear a 70 piece =
orchestra
be amplified (a little), and other ensembles that will absolutely =
require it
or the music won't work. When I have 8 strings (violin/viola/cello) =
playing
with a Latin rhythm section (including timbales, congas, bass, piano,
etc...), you better believe that they will have a lot of mics up to =
balance
them out.

Because of the influence of Rock music, many believe that if there are =
mics
up, it must be loud. Some musicians even require it (if you don't like
loud, don't go hear Flora Purim sing solo). Many in the audience =
believe
that too... I get people bitching about levels when they see mics out. =
The
amusing thing is to tell them that the thing they are complaining is too
loud isn't being amplified. :P

Anyways, I guess my point is all this complaining about the way that =
things
must be because that is what you think they must be is a load of $***. =
As
with anything musical, the moment you work on dogma rather than common =
sense
in a given situation, you are sunk. Music must be amplified sometimes.
Music must NOT be amplified sometimes. To say things can only be one =
way is
just foolish.

--Ben

Benjamin Maas
Fifth Circle Audio
Los Angeles, CA
http://www.fifthcircle.com

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