Phil Legard writes:
Since 2009 I’ve been involved behind the scenes on Sounding the Deep, supporting the project in a wide range of capacities. Therefore, it was unfortunate that I was unable to make it to the première performance! A small consolation has, however, been to work with the recordings of the rehearsals and live performances and to listen to them in detail.
The recordings were made by Dr. Robert Mackay of Scarborough University using a Soundfield microphone and 4-channel recorder positioned at the back of the hall. The Soundfield microphone isn’t a single microphone, but an array of four capsules that are designed to capture sound as special B-Format audio. One of the most exciting things about the B-Format is that it is incredibly flexible: from a B-Format recording one can mix to standard stereo, quadraphonic or even 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 sound.
The most intriguing thing about the format is that the four channels can be combined in different ways to simulate a number of microphone setups after the event. In fact the sounds can be mixed as though there were a virtual microphone pointing in any direction you can think of! The B-Format recordings were mixed into stereo and edited in the recording studios at Leeds Metropolitan University. There was, however, a significant amount of listening to be done before I could begin.
I had received recordings of Shoals both in dress rehearsal and live performance. Alongside this were recordings of the two live performances of Sounding the Deep. In total this was at least three hours worth of material, which was also recorded in less than ideal circumstances.
The pieces comprising Shoals were fairly straightforward to edit, mainly relying on the dress rehearsal recordings with some elements from the live performances incorporated when absolutely necessary.
For Sounding the Deep the intention was to present the piece in as concise a manner as possible. Practically, this meant that sections adversely affected by transient ambient sounds - those coughs and sneezes and rustling programmes that are to be expected in a live performance – could be edited out. A full live recording is of course a valuable archival document for the composer and orchestra, but in terms of conveying the essence of the project another approach was necessary.
The result was a sort of montage, condensing the 35 minutes of performance down to nine-and-a-half minutes. I listened carefully (relaxed, eyes closed for the most part!) to the first performance several times, choosing – by ear – a number of appealing sections from each movement. Comparing these sections in each performance meant that a number of them could be discounted due to insurmountable problems with the archival recording. The ‘best’ versions of the remaining sections were pooled and then edited together with an alert ear open for opportunities to create smooth transitions between each section.
The result, presented below, works well. The most memorable sections such as the Sousa-influenced march, the mysterious vocalise passages conveying Beebe’s wordless wonder at his descent, and the dramatic rolling of the Bathysphere, are well represented alongside a number of other moments that give a balanced overview of the unique sound-world of Sounding the Deep.
We have just finished adding live recordings of Shoals to YouTube! The videos are embedded below, roughly in the sequence of their performance at the premiere of Sounding the Deep on March 17th. The only major difference is that the five movements of Blaze were split up to create ‘interludes’ between each piece.
A montage of music from the central orchestral work, Sounding the Deep, will follow shortly!
Deep Sea Diver
Performed by Yu Min Lim and Alexandra Hazard (sopranos), Graziana Presicce (piano)
Conducted by Chris Sykes
Performed by the East Riding Senior Percussion Ensemble (Laura Bradford, Louis Clark, Lottie Dodd, Katie Dodsworth, Sarah Massey, Ruairi Sinkler, Matthew Taylor, Benjamin Wadsworth)
Never Day and Under Night
Conducted by Glenis Malkin
Performed by the Lincolnshire Youth Cello Ensemble (Penny James, Charlotte Lincoln, Maia Howell, Emilia Pearce, Rosie Spinks, Beth Read, Emma Gorst, Harriet Grainger Harvey Adcock, Madeleine Dwyer, Molly Welling, Grace Wilson, Sophia McGill, Mollie Zalas, Matthew Tuball, Georgina Lambe, Alexandra Burkitt, Gaia Pitt-Judd, Lewis Brown,William Cherry, Johanna Valkamo, Rebecca Seamer, Chris Duncombe)
Weird Water Land
Conducted by Andrew Penny
Performed by the Albermarle Wind Quintet (Katie Newton – fl, Ruby Orlowska – ob, Peter Goodwin – cl, George Maynard – fr.hn, Katherine Carter – bsn)
To the Dark Unseen
Conducted by Bob Mitchell
Performed by the East Riding String Dectet (Qianyi Liu, Jacob Phillipson, Grace Sansom, Xiao Yuan Wang – vns; Chloe Salvidge, Philippa Lathan – vas; Bryony Owen, Sophie Walker – vcs; Jonathan Taylor, Frances Tibble – dbs)
Into the Green Inverted Dawn
Conducted by Andrew Penny
Performed by the Cranbrook String Quartet (Conor King, Kieran Lynch – vns; Rachael Windass – va; Felicity Green – vc)
All of the ensembles were recorded during dress rehearsal and performance by Dr. Robert Mackay of Hull University, using a Soundfield microphone and a Sonosax 4 channel recorder.
The electroacoustic treatments were by Niall Thomas, Ben Fowler, Tom Wright and Macon Holt.
The recordings were edited and produced for YouTube by Phil Legard.
Nigel Morgan and the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra would like to thank all those who attended the premiere of Sounding the Deep! Many thanks are also due to those who played in or worked behind the scenes on a night that brought the project to a successful conclusion. Special thanks are also due to the Wildlife Conservation Society for granting us license to use photos from their archive at short notice.
Until then, here are some images from the dress rehearsals on Friday and Saturday that might give a hint as to what’s in store.
Welcome to the Sounding the Deep website at www.soundingthedeep.co.uk. Have a look around the site where we will continue to add news, blog posts, audio files and educational resources. Soon you will be able to register for tickets for the special performance on March 17, 2012 during the Cultural Olympiad. Make sure you leave a comment on any of the blog posts!
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