Four Pianists Study
The article about this study is currently being prepared, hence the brevity here. This is just a general overview of what we did, with only some recordings presented. The interviews and videos will be shared later in the year. Stay tuned, and if you would like some information about this session please contact me.
Piano: Sebastian Bausch, Laura Granero, Peter Hill, Inja Stanović
Instrument: Broadwood (1910)
Mechanical equipment: Edison Fireside – model B; Edison New recorder (1901) – glass diagram; narrow zinc horn, 130 mm by 890 mm
Digital equipment: pair of AKG414 microphones; pair of Neuman 184 microphones; Steinberg UR22 soundcard; DAW
I am more than aware that my research is inevitably subjective, and effectively I continue to use my self as ginny pig. Because my reactions to mechanical recording session can be radically different to somebody else’s, it was my dream come true to include fellow pianists on the project. Luckily three amazing pianists agreed to be a part of this project, and I am more than grateful for their time, beautiful interpretations advice and insights. Peter Hill, Sebastian Bausch, Laura Granero and me recorded on the same day, under same conditions – using same identical equipment and the instrument, under the same conditions.
The first part of this study was that we all record the same piece – Chopin’s Mazurka in G Minor. It goes without saying that different pianists will have a different perspective on a musical piece, interpretational and technically. End result here was not our preoccupation, and all pianists involved had their own vision of the piece. Laura Granero, Sebastian Bausch and me were experimenting with the late nineteenth century techniques, while Peter Hill had more contemporary approach to the piece. Of course, the recordings are very different, but as you will see later in the text – our observations were very similar. Hearing about other pianists’ experience was incredibly interesting to me, but the most rewarding part of this session was to observe the process! To hear an interpretation in the room, and soon after to be able to hear the registered cylinder was priceless.
The recording session was straightforward in context of equipment. We used already tried out Edison Fireside (model B), Edison New recorder (1901) with glass diagram, and narrow zinc horn (130 mm by 890 mm). The digital equipment used was pair of AKG414 microphones, pair of Neuman 184 microphones, Steinberg UR22 soundcard and DAW.
The set up was the same throughout the day, and everybody used David Milsom’s Broadwood upright from 1910. The idea was that we all record Chopin’s Mazurka Op. 67 No. 2, and an another piece if there are some wax blanks left.
This recording session was not only intriguing because we produced amazing cylinders and now we are in position to compare and analyse them. It was learning about musicians’ experience during the process that made this study irreplaceable. I conducted interviews with all the participants at the end, asking them about their experience. The information was gathered as soon as they are done with a recording session, while the impressions are fresh. These will be shared as transcripts later in the year.
Just a thought to conclude
Musicians who had a possibility to record like this all said that this experience changed the ways they hear early recordings, and also that the awkwardness of the recording process made them include the technical aspect of a recording process into their interpretation. Everybody who recorded had to significantly change their interpretation, and this showed that the technological and reconstructive contexts clearly form a redefinition of how we use the early recordings in performance practice research.
The point of this project is to raise an awareness of technical aspects of recordings, and how incredibly important they are in the artistic process. Sometimes the machines work for us, sometimes against us – but we always react to them. Making new takes on the old machines make us see that, and appreciate technologies as a vital part of registered performances.