Thursday, 20 December 2012

Interview with Dave Fisher (former Director of the Tonmeister Course)

Last December I interviewed Dave Fisher as part of this project and that interview has now been published online by the Journal on the Art of Record Production.

Link to interview transcription

          Dave Fisher has worked at the BBC and The University of Surrey. At the latter he was Director of the renowned Tonmeister course in Music and Sound Recording from 1983 until his retirement, as Emeritus Professor of Sound Recording, in 2011. During that time he undertook a wide range of lecturing duties, including teaching recording techniques to students in each year of their course. This interview, which took place in the Audio Lab at the University of York in January 2012, was undertaken as part of the ‘Is Recording Engineering?’ project, supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Transcript of the first consultation event

Just a quick update about the project website: I've completed and uploaded the transcription of the first consultation event that was held between year 12/13, undergraduate and postgraduate students, along with academics and audio professionals. You can access this from the project index here

There will be transcriptions of the events held at other institutions over the coming months.

Monday, 1 October 2012

A view from computer science

Even though the fellowship has come to an end, I will still be updating this blog with news and additional resources which have arisen from the project.

I'm very pleased to be able to present some thoughts on this topic from Olivia Leonardi. Olivia works with the online resource What follows is Olivia's own take on this topic and doesn't necessarily reflect my views, but that's been a main theme of this project: harvesting and hearing about other people's views on this subject. Thanks Olivia!


A July post attempted to answer the question of whether recording equates to engineering by examining the characteristics that define each discipline. Today’s post builds on the point made in the previous article that engineers and those who record music share some aims with their respective jobs, particularly when it comes to the design and use of digital recording devices. In this post, Olivia Leonardi discusses some of the ways in which software engineering applications have contributed to and significantly changed the audio recording process. Olivia is an expert in computer science who writes for an online resource that offers information about the field, including where people in related fields can find computer science open courseware.

Advances in Computer Science and Audio Engineering Have Permanently Changed the Music Industry

Audio engineering is one of the most dynamic industries of the professional world. In just the last 20 years, compressed MP3 files have replaced cassette tapes and CDs, while software programs have largely taken the place of analog recording equipment. Today, various technologies are available to help engineers optimize vocals, instrumentation, and recording quality.

Contemporary audio engineering can be defined by the difference between tracks recorded in the studio and those assembled using computer software. Some artists prefer the traditional methods, scorning those who attempt to reach musical perfection with electronic tweaking methods; others appreciate the convenience and relatively low cost of making music on a computer. Regardless, most listeners cannot differentiate between the two methods. As a result, many studios have closed their doors – and many musicians have created makeshift recording spaces in their own homes. In a recent New York Times article, rapper Aesop Rock, electronic musician Moby and indie rockers the Eels all described their experiences with home recording.“One of the greatest luxuries is having a permanent small studio space that's always waiting for me,”Moby said. “It's secure when I leave, and it sits there waiting patiently for me when I get home. It's the perfect companion.”

The home recording movement that has overtaken the music industry would not be possible without small-scale, user-friendly technology and equipment. The most notable change of the last few years relate to the advancement of computer programs that function as digital audio workstations (DAW), which are integral to recording, editing, and playing back music. Ironically, the first software-based DAW – Digidesign’s Pro Tools – first appeared more than two decades ago, and is still widely used today. Other popular computer-based DAWs include Acid Pro, Adobe Audition, Mixcraft, Paris and Sony Sound Forge. While recording studio space and services can cost musicians thousands of dollars, software DAWs are relatively cheap; the 32-track Pro Tools LE system, for instance, costs less than $500.

It gets easier, too. With the rise of smartphones and tablet devices, on-the-go musicians can even record tracks using mobile audio workstations (MAWs), which are typically available as downloadable apps. Some of the leading MAW brands include Cubase, FL Studio and V-Control Pro. Open-source audio workstations are another popular trend with home musicians. These non-commercial programs, such as Audacity and Rosegarden, feature a variety of plug-ins and accessories, and can be accessed using Mac, Windows and Linux platforms.

While many musicians have embraced DAW and MAW interfaces that essentially replicate traditional equipment, other engineers have approached the recording process with a more creative mindset. One example is Tristan Shone of metal band Author & Punisher, who was recently profiled in Wired. Shone personally designed and built each instrument and piece of recording equipment used to create unique sounds for his musical endeavors. His inventions include dub machines (rendered using the open-source program, Arduino) that create loops and rhythms; a keyboard-like device that enables him to manipulate samples; and ‘Rails’, an invention that functions much the same as a slide trombone. As quickly as software companies and app developers churn out audio workstation interfaces to emulate existing sounds, innovators like Shone are creating new sounds altogether.

As current as these technologies seem, the nature of digital recording dictates that they will become outdated in a matter of years (or less), only to be replaced with newer, more advanced equipment. But for the time being, musicians around the world are not only writing songs and playing instruments, but also moonlighting as home-based audio engineers. 

Olivia Leonardi

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

So, is recording engineering?

*drum roll*

*opening of gold envelope*

....and the answer is......."it can be".

Wait! Before you shout "fix!" or "cop out!" and march off, that really is the best short answer to the question (honest!). Having over the last eleven months spoken to over two hundred people about this, and delved into pages and pages existing writing on the subjects of engineering and recording, it was very unlikely that there was going to be a single, unanimous answer which would fit into a single sentence.

A longer answer is to be found in all of the articles, papers, interview transcripts etc. which can be found at the project web resource here. Although the Fellowship formally finishes tonight (just two hours left to go, sniff!) this resource will be a permanent record of the work that's been done. As you can see there still more to be posted there, and this will happen over the next few months. As I said in this morning's post this is really just the start of the public engagement with this subject. When I was first planning about this was something I was interested in and really felt needed some time and energy spent on it, now I'm passionate about making people think more about the engineering which is responsible for so much of the world that we live in, and the recording industry which provides so much of the soundtrack to it.

Before I sign off for the last time during this fellowship, I'll give you a medium-sized answer in the form of a top 10 thoughts that people have shared with me, or that I've come to realise myself as this project has gone on.

1. If your definition of an engineer is strictly someone who is a chartered engineer, then recording isn't engineering. Most people who work in recording studios aren't chartered and there is no organisation that I, or anyone I spoke to, is aware that is able to charter people based on their recording work.

2. For others engineers are those are apply numeracy an scientific knowledge to solve human problems and create things......

3......but engineering seems to have been around longer than science, so perhaps we have to be more general and replace that with some form of organised corpus of knowledge. I think that what this implies is rationality, an attempt to move beyond what "feels right" and what is explained by magic. That there is a structure and ordered behaviour of the physical world around us and engineering is the acceptance of this. 'Faith in the rational', if you like.

4. For one well known engineering academic of the last century, engineering is elevated above craft by the intellectual skills required for, e.g. "a computer software system". Can recording situations present the same challenge? Sometimes? Always? Never?

5. For another, writing  around the same time, this is the distinction: "Craft is the power to produce a preconceived result by consciously controlled action: the craftsman always knows what he wants to make in advance [whereas the engineer does not]".

6. For many who work in the studio, getting the best recording is not the most important thing, getting a recording of the best performance is the most important thing. If there is engineering, it serves to capture the music. The music does not exist solely to provide raw materials for engineering.

7. Engineers use existing methods and tools where they represent a satisfactory solution (they do not reinvent the wheel) but they are able to design and verify new solutions where necessary and possible. They do not just follow 'cookbook recipes'.

8. The accumulation of scientific knowledge is via experimentation however engineers use this knowledge in a systematic way to arrive at the best solution quickly. Trial and error, with no understanding of the underlying physical processes, takes longer than this.

9.Certain recording, and many live sound, scenarios require the design of systems for audio capture and/or reproduction. For some this is audio engineering (i.e. relating to the design and production of sound recording equipment) for others it is a part of recording engineering.

10. A useful way of categorising knowledge and ability in the studio might be to make the distinction between operator (can operate machinery, but does not understand how it works or the principles on which it functions), craftsperson (can assemble and use recording systems according to experience, and has sufficient understanding of the tools to experiment) and engineer (understands the physical laws of sound production and capture, understands the design and function of the equipment they use, can design and explain, new methods and systems for new recording challenges in a methodical and systematic way).

None of this is set in stone but is, I believe,  a useful set of ideas for applying to the work that you do, or aspire to do.

Does it resonate with you?

The last day

It's the last day of July and the last day of the fellowship! I'm on my way down to London (we just zoomed through Doncaster) for one last bit of media and public engagement training. Last night I completed the first draft of a journal paper on engineering and sound recording in higher education in the UK.

So does this mean that there's no more work to be done? Not at all, the fellowship formally comes to an end at midnight tonight, but really this is just the start. I've spent the last eleven months listening, talking, writing and doing lots of things relating to recording and how it intersects with engineering. I've now arrived at a point where I'm ready to put my findings into practice: to describe, advise, explain and demonstrate how recording and engineering are, or could be, connected. I've already got engagement events booked for the autumn, there are articles to get ready for publication, Dave Beer (my collaborator from Sociology) has a book planned. So we really are just at the beginning of the process of sharing our findings.

I'll start that process tonight with a post on this blog that, finally, tells you a little of what I've discovered over the last eleven months in response to the question Is Recording Engineering?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A podcast all about panning

One of the plugins that I've written as part of this fellowship is a tool which allows two different panning methods to be explored: FranPan. I've just finished a 15 minute podcast which explains these two different panning methods and how they work.

Please help yourselves and share with other people you think might be interested.

Your comments, as ever, are welcome.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

New improved versions of Science in the Studio plugins

I've just posted new versions of FranPan and FlexDelay which fix the annoying noise that you may have heard when stopping and then going back into play in your host application. This was an oversight on my part - for a hardware delay working genuinely in real time, then the samples that are stored in memory are constantly being updated and so old audio is constantly being replaced with new, even when audio isn't playing back. But for a VST plugin delay when 'stop' is pressed in the host application, time itself stops for the plugin too. This means that when it's restarted anything that was stored in the delay now gets spat out when it starts working again because it wasn't replaced with silence when the host was stopped.

Any plug-in that has memory (i.e. stores previous sounds for future playback) must deal with this and, I must admit, I forgot. This is a poor example of software engineering, because this kind of behaviour should have been stated in the requirements specification against which the plug-in would have been tested, and found to fail, the first time around. Ah well, I guess this episode does highlight the need for good engineering in many different aspects of audio!

(For those of you who are interested in VST programming, I've fixed the problem by flushing the buffers within suspend resume methods - a pretty basic step I should have taken first time around).

The new versions can be downloaded via the old links, which are here.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

ISEE how recording fits into engineering and how engineering fits into recording

Sorry, the title is a terrible pun on ISEE: the International Symposium on Engineering Education which I spoke at today. This is a bi-annual event where academics in engineering get together (this year at the University of Sheffield) to share ideas about teaching practice.

There were lots of really interesting and controversial presentations (the title of one of this afternoon's talks was Is attending lectures relevant anymore in engineering education?). I was presenting my thoughts on where in the recording studio engineering can (or does) take place. The paper that I wrote to accompany this presentation will soon be posted on the ISEE 2012 web site and I'll also put it on the dedicated web resource that will one of the legacies of this project. I focused on three areas of recording/processing: time-domain effects, dynamic-range control (particularly for mastering) and microphone array design.

The presentation was really well received (or maybe they just applauded at the end because I was the last to go on before lunch and their hunger - mine too, to be honest - was getting the better of them). I had lots of interesting questions and comments during lunch. Although sound recording is not something they usually cover at ISEE, it seemed to pique people's interest and I'm really grateful to all the delegates for their warm response and useful comments.

The paper writing doesn't finish there: I'm currently finishing off an interview for the Journal on the Art of Record Production and will then be starting on an article for an engineering journal. Before that I'm back at ISEE tomorrow to hear some more opinions and ideas on engineering and engineering education.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The final month!

Well, my eleven months on this fellowship are nearly up and, now that the teaching year has finished, the work rate for this project has now stepped up a gear from 'busy' to 'very busy'! Dave Beer and I are both writing up research outputs and I've been carrying on with interviews (most recently with four hugely influential figures in recording, see here), public engagement (most recently at the Big Bang Fair in York) and speaking at conferences about the project.

We've acquired many hours of interview and focus group data from well over two hundred people and this will live on after the fellowship in the form of an archive of transcriptions, papers and articles.

Right, better get back to work. I'll be back on here soon with details of how to access the archive and the latest news as the fellowship draws to a close.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Another free VST plugin for you...

Hi all

Another month, another plugin. As part of the Fellowship I'm releasing some free VST plugins that enable users to explore important areas of sound processing theory and practice. Last month it was panning, this month it's delay - an effect which recording engineers need to thoroughly understand if they are to be able to develop their own time domain processing tools (such as chorus and flanging units) from scratch. You can find the plugin (yes, it's free!) and the documentation here. Help yourself and let me know what you think!

Monday, 7 May 2012

There's more than one way to pan a source.....

One of the ways I want to engage people with the engineering that happens in recording studios is to provide free audio processing software that offers insight into commonly used tools that we might take for granted. For those who have any experience with recording, the pan control (short for 'panoramic potentiometer', believe it or not) seems a pretty much 'bread and butter' tool - it performs a basic, yet essential task for anyone not working in mono (i.e. the vast majority of us). It's one of those things that we don't usually think much about, but there is more than one way in which they can work and this has an effect on the quality of the 'spatialisation' that we do.

I've just finished a free VST plug-in (Windows only at present I'm afraid) which offers combined level and time based panning  (most, although not all, panners only offer level based control of source position). It's ready for use as a studio tool but also intended to be used for educational/experimental investigations into how panning actually works and the psychoacoustics behind it. In the accompanying documentation for the plugin there's some of the scientific background to the (apparently simple, you might have thought) task of moving a sound between two loudspeakers, along with some ideas for experiments and tests. You can download it from here.

Please give it try and let others know about it - whether they are teaching, learning or doing sound engineering. Feedback, as always, is welcome.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Things I'm learning

Last Friday I visited LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts) to run a focus group with 3rd year Sound and Music Technology students. It was a fascinating session with lots of insights and ideas that haven't cropped up before. I learned a lot from these guys - which is the whole point of these sessions, so I'm really grateful to them and to LIPA for giving me the opportunity to chat to them.

This week I'm in Bristol for a four day course run by the Science Communication Unit at UWE, hopefully the embodiment of the adage that you're never too old to learn new things. Communicating via new media tools and podcasting techniques are amongst the things on the menu.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Your views

My piece in April's Sound on Sound has generated some really interesting responses. You can read the article here: When is an Engineer not an Engineer?

and here are some of the responses I've had, they are each fascinating and thought-provoking, just the kind of thing I was after. Dig in!

"Going back to the early seventies, it was not uncommon to find sound engineers wearing white coats - IBC and Lansdowne, Abbey Road, CTS spring to mind.

Certainly I think that the role of an 'engineer' has changed dramatically.  Back in the early seventies, a studio engineer was not expected to be or encouraged to be creative - that was the job of the 'producer'.  This itself was a similar bone of contention as many engineers resented the 'producer' and considered that the end result was totally the work of the engineer.  To emphasise the point, some would give the producer a fader labelled 'DFA' to influence the outcome . . . . (often justifiably!).

My first experience of working (as producer) was with one engineer at Lansdowne who simply refused to write any text on the channels on the mixing side of the desk on the basis that if I didn't figure out where things were appearing, I should not be sitting there in the first place.  I learned fast!

Also, apart from the core hardware, they knew how to mike up any instrument that was thrown at them.  There was also a training path of sorts through the 'tape op' system - that of course does not exist these days.

Most of the engineers that worked with at the time knew quite a lot about audio and recording, microphone techniques, etc - (they read electronic mags, not Q) and given that studio hardware was possibly less reliable back then, if anything stopped working, they needed to have sufficient understanding to fix the problem.  The more adventurous of them did indeed develop their own techniques to achieve astounding results - but this was more about impressing their peers than their clients!

Disc cutting engineers were even more technically savvy - which i think goes with the technology that they were working with  - and their coats were even whiter!

BBC sound engineers wre totally 'electronic engineers' and had no creative credentials, talents or musicality (actually there were a rare few who had musical abilities) and it still amazes me today that the BBC are totally unable to record and balance a rock concert satisfactorily - you can always tell when it a BBC recording - no vocals - maybe all bass or no bass at all - all hi-hat/no hi-hat - utterly lifeless and a travesty.  I dread to think how many rock concerts the Beeb has ruined over the years . . .

So, the blurring of the role of the engineer and the producer has taken place, plus it seems that with digital recording you can get away with far mor - or to look at it another way, get away with knowing far less.

There is much more of 'fix it in the mix' attitude than in former times.

Back in the early seventies, the company I worked for used to record six titles per session - and I had just four hours to mix twelve titles (from 8 or 16 track) - recently I had the miserable experience of working in a west end studio where it took the two house 'engineers' over two hours to set up the miking of a drum kit and routing stuff through the desk . . . . . . yes, times have indeed changed . . . ." (George Barker)

My training is in research science, but I’ve always had a keen interest in music; starting from the childhood piano lessons, through playing guitar in indie bands, until I discovered deep house music and moving more into production and putting together a home studio. I am currently an assistant professor in virology, but continue to produce EDM. I like to think I’m the only person who’s worked at biosafety level 4 and has a label deal!

To begin with, I have no problem with the use of the term engineer in an audio recording context, regardless of whether someone has a degree or attained chartered status. You can be a great artist without going to art college, and look at the great science that has been done in the past by hobbyists, and the clergy in particular. George Stephenson lacked any scientific education, invented the safety lamp by trial and error and was fairly convincing at designing steam locomotives. I think the current sociological climate, where so many have access to university, has made a lot of people think that, if you don’t have a degree, you can’t possibly be considered equal to those that do.

I also think that the person you quoted in the article who said “the audio ‘engineers’ you describe are generally not scientifically trained”. I don’t know of any engineers who are scientifically trained; that is not their job, and it shouldn’t be.

Science is an abstract concept, which uses experiment to derive a set of conclusions, which establish a working theoretical framework. Engineering is concrete; engineers take this framework and apply the knowledge to a tangible output. The scientists come up with the rules of fluid dynamics, the engineers build the plane, the scientists work out the laws governing transmission of forces, the engineers build the bridge. Building a bridge is not a place for experiment.

As for Drew Daniels’ comment about miking a guitar amp, for from being non-scientific, that is the essence of scientific discovery. Pure experimentation is what science is. If you look at the philosophy of the scientific method as put forward by people like Karl Popper, knowledge can only come through experience. If you don’t try that other mic at that other distance at that particular angle off the axis, you can’t know if it will sound better or not.

The major sticking point I see with the term ‘engineer’, is that is purely, and perhaps arbitrarily used to define the people either side of the glass. You can make a very convincing argument that hearing a guitar part and knowing that it needs a 3 dB peaking cut at 2.6 kHz and that compression from a Distressor will sound better than an 1176 is an artistic skill, rather than an engineering one.

My own personal thoughts are that the recording engineer is artist, engineer and scientist; it takes intuition, technical knowledge and knowing how to experiment to do the job. Engineer is just a job title. They may not be able to play the musical parts, they may not be able to build a mixing desk, they perhaps inhabit the middle ground, maybe they should be ‘artineers’…" (Fynn Callum)

"I am an artist, not an engineer.

I have owned 7 and currently own 5 mixing desks. I am self taught but that means learning from everybody I work with and from reading listening and watching. I try not to describe my self as a sound engineer, but the moniker chases me around. I also feel the word musician to be rather grand in my own case. However, I get paid to play in bands alongside excellent musicians and record and mix, and teach as good audio practice as I can. As long as I am honest and my skill level is sufficient for what I attempt, I am ok. God help me if I ever stop learning.

For a week, some years ago, I worked as the designated sound engineer on a youth project at Abbey Road. I looked cluelessly at the huge consoles in the two studios we used, never having encountered anything on that scale before. When introducing myself to the house assistant, he said "Ah, so you are the sound engineer", and I  knew I was in trouble and out of my depth. I soon earned his scorn, and if I won it back it was by project managing, getting my hands on when appropriate and leaving them off for most of the time. I did a good job but the title of sound engineer was the wrong one. A misnomer.

I met John Oram recently. I absolutely consider him an engineer. He knows what goes on under the hood and at the controls. I am still a something though. I am more of a creative contributor who uses recording and mixing. Perhaps I am a sound designer. 4 years at art college and a masters degree in sonic arts would seem to make that a far better title and helps to expose the engineer myth. Mind you, I drive a car. I neither engineered it nor designed it. Maybe I am a sound navigator. Who really cares? 

Last year I made a sound art piece on my computer, uploaded it to the net and it went viral. The original blogger described me as a DJ. Something of an assumption, but more honestly it was a journalistic device to help describe me, where he could perhaps have said  'sound artist'. One subsequent critic said "where do these DJs get off?" Well I did not call myself a DJ at all.  So if you want to call me a sound engineer, feel free, I can't stop you. And you can't stop me messing with mixing desks." (Paul Chivers)

"First off, you need to know that I am from Canada, in the province of Quebec, where we have an association called the Ordre des Ingénieurs du Québec (roughly the Quebec Engineers Board) that protects the use of the term Engineer. To become anengineer, you have to obtain credentials that are approved by Canadian Council of Professional Engineers that define the study program required to use the title. This protection has made it impossible for people to call themselvesSound engineer in Quebec (the Council does not have a Canadian program for that, to my knowledge) and, as an example, Microsoft was forced to retire the term Microsoft Certified System Engineer (that I have passed) in Quebec (although MCSE is tolerated). I myself have studied Electrical Engineering and am part of the OIQ.
As you could guess from my reading of Sound on Sound, to which I actually subscribe, I am also deeply interested in sound and music. Actually, I originally had studied in engineering because I dreamed of designing and manufacturing sound synthesizers. The opportunities that followed my degree made it that I became a computer systems consultants and I worked very successfully for over 20 years in that field, until I thought I needed some change so I went back to school in 2008 to study audioengineering at a college level.

During this 20 years career though, I was passionate enough about music to educate myself and learn the tools of the craft: I had a personal computer running what was then Cakewalk sequencers in 1988. It must have been version 2 running on Windows! So I started with outboard synths, MIDI and grew progressively has the software upgrades got to market (Cakewalk Pro, then Cakewalk Pro Audio, and then Sonar) to learn about all the technical stuff involved in recording, mixing, mastering music using these tools.

And so in 2008 Im back on the school bench with kids 20 years younger than me, mostly interested in producingbeats with at best a secondary degree (which turns out to be 11 years of school here) so with very little technical, mathematical and scientific knowledge; and teachers just about my age (sometimes younger obviously) with no degree whatsoever but that had had a career (or something resembling it) in producing music in the Quebec music industry. I took this decision with the intention of changing career and make a living in something I loved. This is the place I understood the difference between engineers and non-engineers.

Most of the teachers were really musicians that had learned to use audio gear and computers to record their own music first and then work in studio to record others. They were pretty good at that and I enjoyed learning from them in general. But, I was told falsity more often than not when the course were very technical (think of artsies presenting the Nyquist theorem, acoustical principles, or digital compression techniques to an engineer). And also, these folks had a very negative opinions of engineers in general. They tend to look at me as too technical and notusing my ears enough to a point where I sometimes felt they were condescending toward the profession.

What I found the difference is, is a matter of efficiency. People that approach recording, mixing and mastering from amusical perspectiveear the results they want to get, but they will do a lot of tweaking and trial and error to get there; sometimes taking path that are actually pulling them away from the result. Evidently, people get better with experience, so I could not compete with the teachers in terms of efficiency. But humbly I could get a recording, a mix or a mastering job done in a quarter of the time my colleague would. Thats because engineers, to the contrary I think, will try to define a path to get to the results and follow that path, making changes as required in the process. The former are more exploratory, sometimes giving birth to very good ideas that we engineer will not find, but at the expense of taking much more time in the process.

It might not be the same everywhere, but to me it was a revelation.

After finishing the course, I tried to get a job into recording studios or gaming production facilities, but I could not compete with the low wages that my colleagues were commanding. So I decided to continue doing music as an hobbyist and pursue my former career in technology. After all, it is not so bad being an engineer, even if it is not an audio one!" (Sylvain Roy)

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Final call for consultations

Since I last updated the blog temperatures are back on the right side of freezing - bringing blossom, birds and slightly longer reverberation times to my part of the world.

I've got two more consultation events in the diary: one at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, where I'm also going to give a talk on the latest research that we're up to in the Audio Lab research group at York, and the second at University of Surrey with students of their Tonmeister course. It will soon be time to shut up shop on this part of the Fellowship and move on to the next phase of writing up and analysing everything I've gathered at these events. If you think you'd like to host one of these at your institution then please let me know via email, but hurry because time is running out to get these organised.

In other news I'm off to the CoDE (Cultures of the Digital Economy) conference in Cambridge next week to present a paper about Engineering in the Digital Recording Studio and I've had an opinion piece relating to the project published in Sound in Sound. On Thursday I hosted sessions for school children from Halifax and County Durham on 'The Science Of The Studio" as part of the University's annual Science Trail event. We looked at how time delays and energy differences between loudspeakers create 'phantom images' between them.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

F-f-f-f-f-fellowship news

Hello from a f-f-f-f-freezing cold York. It got down to -15 degrees Celsius near here the other night. OK, I know that's tame compared some parts of this planet but I like things to be above freezing at least. Had you been making a recording in York Minster at that temperature the reverberation time would be 0.5 seconds longer than it would be at usual room temperature (20 degrees C) because of the lower speed of sound in cold air!

The fellowship is still speeding along nicely, despite the arctic temperatures: Dave Fisher, emeritus professor of Sound Recording for the Tonmeister course, gave me a fascinating hour-long interview last month and more industry luminaries have said they'd like to contribute their thoughts: multiple award winning classical recording engineer Tony Faulkner, Tony Platt (who's worked with artists including Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin) and John Emmit (a supervisor at Thames Television and Oscar-winning broadcast designer).

Sound on Sound magazine are publishing a piece I've written about the project in April, I'm currently putting something together for Physics Review and I'm giving a public lecture in York on Sound Recording and Reproduction at the end of this month. Hopefully by then temperatures and reverberation times will be back to something approaching normal!

(P.S. The Royal Academy of Engineering have started up a blog about engagement and engineering. Take a look here.)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

New Year Update

Happy New Year!

A lot has been happening on the project over the last few weeks. The first public consultation event that was held here at the Audio Lab in York on 7th December and was a great success - the venue was full to capacity and we had professionals, university students and year 12/13 in attendance, with some travelling over from the north-west of the country to be at the event. There was a lively debate, with all sorts of opinions expressed and Leslie Gaston gave a fascinating presentation about employment in the audio industry in the States.

Yesterday (10th January) I visited Glyndŵr University in Wrexham, Wales and ran two sessions with students there, as well as giving a presentation about some of the other research I do into audio separation and processing. Again, there were some fascinating contributions - some of which corresponded with opinions expressed in York, others which gave new insights. There is a focus on live sound, as well as recording, technology at Glyndŵr which was evident in some of the responses and it's interesting to have views on sound recording from people working in this related area too.

Tomorrow I'm interviewing Dave Fisher, emeritus professor of sound recording for the University of Surrey's Tonmeister course. It will be interesting to hear from him about where he thinks the skills and identity of the modern sound recordist are aligned and I look forward to sharing his insights in due course.