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tedfud

John Williams....the force...and reverb

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Question:

 

Do you think the Maestro prefers his recordings to be much dryer than other Soundtracks and Classical recordings ? I can't help notice how bone dry and in your face so many of them are. It's very obvious when you compare them to either other peoples readings ( Debney, Kunzel, Gerhardt et al . ) The Brass especially. Very little in the way of depth . Bizarrely his Performance with the Boston Pops of Mars IS quite wet. And sounds very similar in depth to Dorati's ( possibly my fav ). I also find his panning's extreme. Fiddles way over on the left sometimes....

 

Thoughts ?

 

T

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14 minutes ago, tedfud said:

Question:

 

Do you think the Maestro prefers his recordings to be much dryer than other Soundtracks and Classical recordings ? I can't help notice how bone dry and in your face so many of them are. It's very obvious when you compare them to either other peoples readings ( Debney, Kunzel, Gerhardt et al . ) The Brass especially. Very little in the way of depth . Bizarrely his Performance with the Boston Pops of Mars IS quite wet. And sounds very similar in depth to Dorati's ( possibly my fav ). I also find his panning's extreme. Fiddles way over on the left sometimes....

 

Thoughts ?

 

T

 

I think it varies from score to score.  Some are pretty swimmy - the first Potter, for example.  The "panning" is I'm sure a result of the combinations of mics that they use.  The tree is a little closer than usual so the stereo field is more extreme, or something like that.

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Really depends on the recording (and sometimes on the specific release). The ANH SE is extremely dry, for instance. Superman is pretty dry, too, but less so in the Blue Box set because modern reverb was applied. Generally, newer recordings of his seem wetter. Personally, I'm a big fan of the sound of TPM. It's got some nice room sound (artificial and/or otherwise, not sure) but it's still very clear and not at all muddled.

 

When I listen to ANH or ESB these days, I listen to my own version of the SEs with reverb carefully applied. (And some stereo widening and EQ for ESB, which has quite a narrow stereo field on the SE.)

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the older it is , the dryer it is certainly . But he's so exacting a composer in every way i suspect it must be a choice. Superman compared to the Debney sounds tiny. Almost a smaller orchestra. Which it might have  been I don't know.

T

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I think the brass in TFA is on the drier side, but sounds so damn good. It's very immediate and I prefer TFA's version of the Main Title than the one used in the PT. For me, a drier sound makes it feel like I am sitting with the orchestra in person. 

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2 hours ago, TheGreyPilgrim said:

 

I think it varies from score to score.  Some are pretty swimmy - the first Potter, for example.  The "panning" is I'm sure a result of the combinations of mics that they use.  The tree is a little closer than usual so the stereo field is more extreme, or something like that.

Well, HPPS was recorded by Simon Rhodes, who's done pretty wet classical recordings for HMV. 

I wouldn't really call Murphy's recordings dry though. His good ones are direct, but with a nice close reverb. His bad ones are drained. 

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1 hour ago, tedfud said:

oh the new stuff sounds great. I'm talking 70's 80's really. And it's really the overall reverb. 

 

t

 

In both cinematic and classical recordings, stuff from that period was quite often pretty dry.  I reckon there's probably some interesting reasons you could trace for that, having to do with Stowkowski maybe.  And also, think of the way that people were writing then, including Williams.  I can't imagine something like Fantastic Voyage recorded with even a drip of reverb.  It'd be mush!  Changing writing styles leads to changing recording styles?  Maybe there's more music written now that has clearer, more delineated textures, which lends itself to more reverb than the densely polyphonic stuff of the tail end of the last century.  And even something like the first Potter has its dense moments, but maybe Williams has come to like the resultant "mush" of that and now prefers wetness whether or not he's writing streamlined music?

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well that's not reflected in the classical recordings. It's a subtle thing. And yes I guess Goldsmith's Star Trek TMP isn't significantly wetter than star wars but it IS wetter. I'm sure JW just prefers it dry.  Fantastic Voyage is musically very dense already so it would suffer definitely . And maybe it was a style thing then . Lord knows the eighties where about reverb in pop music certainly because the microchip allowed it. Trevor Horn is swamped in the stuff . But i hear a definite    absence of it in William's. As if the whole recording is 40 feet closer than his peers.

 

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I disagree that Fantastic Voyage would be obliterated by reverb--artificial reverb sure, but not intelligent ambient miking. Of course you'd still need to spot mike the transients like xylophones, temple blocks, bongos and what-have-you. I've got Claudio Abbado's moderately wet recording with the Wiener Phil of Boulez's Notations I-IV (which inhabits a very similar soundworld to FV), and it works like gangbusters.

 

33 minutes ago, TheGreyPilgrim said:

 

In both cinematic and classical recordings, stuff from that period was quite often pretty dry.  I reckon there's probably some interesting reasons you could trace for that, having to do with Stowkowski maybe. 

 

But wasn't Leopold's sound considered wet in its day? He went to all kinds of lengths, from free bowing and strange seating arrangements to sound reflectors, baffles and resonators to create a huge, highly coloured tone in the orchestra.

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One thing to keep in mind is that the reverb in the film and on the OST are not the same. 

"We use multiple reverbs typically. We use a short dense reverb to sort of fill the spaces between the instruments, and we use a longer reverb to create a tail. We use it judiciously for film and music because we don't want the reverb to overcome the direct sound in terms of competition with sound effects and dialogue on the screen. We want the picture to represent the music on the screen accurately.  So multiple reverbs typically, not too much, for classical recording or sound track recording we typically add a little bit more reverb for the CD and typically a little bit more as well, because we want to make sure there is a good clarity and a good accuracy in music representation verses sound effects and dialogue on the screen."

- Shawn Murphy

 

You can also have close mic with a lot of reverb.  It will sound different (and fake) compared to far mic with little reverb.  The instruments have a characteristic "sweet spot" for their sound which isn't that close depending on the type of instrument.  So you usually get the best room sound from the tree and then just add some of the missing "sizzle" with close mics...but this is a generality and depends on many factors.

 

For me, the best quality sound are the remasters by Mike Matessino.  Empire of the Sun, A.I., Hook all sound fantastic in the remasters.

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6 hours ago, Stefancos said:

 

The brass on E.T. is beyond reproach! It sounds like the trumpets were actually made from solid gold for that one!

 

QFT. Absolutely love the sound of the brass in this score.

 

As for TFA, the horns and low brass are great. The trumpets I do not find exemplary. The writing, the recording techniques, and the input of the conductor can all influence this, of course, but for whatever reason...yeah, the TFA trumpets just don't "sing" for me the way I need them to.

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1 hour ago, Quintus said:

Even during The Resistance March? 

 

Not a very trumpet-heavy piece overall. Lots of strings and horns. The trumpets' contributions mainly come on near the end and they're not that impressive to me in and of themselves. They're not BAD or anything - they just don't have that brassy bravado you hear (to varying degrees) in many Williams scores pre-2008.

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53 minutes ago, Quintus said:

The fanfares at the end are so mean and swaggering in their command it feels like John Williams is literally walking up to me and placing his testicles into my mouth. And I let him do it. 

 

So it's not just me!

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3 minutes ago, Datameister said:

 

The trumpets' contributions mainly come on near the end and they're not that impressive to me in and of themselves. They're not BAD or anything - they just don't have that brassy bravado you hear (to varying degrees) in many Williams scores pre-2008.

 

You're dead to me. 

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I wonder if part of the...umm..Johnnygasms is due to the sadly decommissioned Todd-AO studio that goldsmith and Horner raved about too plus the fact that JW conducted the climactic sequence without the films rhythmic timing to contend with?

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I think it's a left over from his TV days. I suspect his ears favor a tighter more intimate sound because that's all they had to work with for Telly . 

 

but this is a wild guess. 

 

t

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Hook, TPM, HP1 and HP2 are pretty much the only Williams scores with Goldsmith-level miking and reverb I can name off the top of my head.

 

TPM is an absolutely brilliant recording, by the way. Perfect miking!

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Reverb technique, taste, and technology have evolved over time.  For example, this from the early 1980's:

You hear close mic lots of reverb in early Horner and that evolved quiet a bit during mid 1980's Horner.  This is the London Symphony Orchestra circa Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi which sounds completely different from this given those films vast budget.  This is a great and very fun score but the sound is very dated. 

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Krull was recorded at CTS Wembley, which was notorious for its dead acoustics in comparison to the legendary Bayswater studios (60s Barry and Mancini). Here's a partial list of scores recorded there.

 

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) - John Barry
The Omen (1976) - Jerry Goldsmith

Watership Down (1978) - Angela Morley
Superman II (1980) - Ken Thorne
Time Bandits (1981) - Mike Moran

For Your Eyes Only (1981) - Bill Conti
The Secret of NIMH (1982) - Jerry Goldsmith
Superman III (1983) - Ken Thorne
Krull (1983) - James Horner
Octopussy (1983) - John Barry
A Passage to India (1984) - Maurice Jarre
A View to a Kill (1985) - John Barry
Santa Claus the Movie (1985) - Henry Mancini
The Mission (1986) - Ennio Morricone
The Last Emperor (1987) - David Byrne, Ryûichi Sakamoto, Cong Su

The Living Daylights (1987) - John Barry
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) - Alan Silvestri
Batman (1989) - Danny Elfman

Licence to Kill (1989) - Michael Kamen
Henry V (1989) - Patrick Doyle
Year of the Comet (1992) - John Barry
Judge Dredd (1995) - Alan Silvestri
The Phantom (1996) - David Newman
Shakespeare in Love (1998) - Stephen Warbeck
The Cider House Rules (1999) - Rachel Portman
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) - Rachel Portman (The last score recorded at Wembley)

 

Quote

 

The three studios [at Wembley], in particular Studio 1, exhibited a markedly different acoustic from Bayswater. The design created a space that did not breathe as carpeted floors together with extensive baffles and absorbent surfaces deadened the sound. The control room was located 22 steps above the studio -- the projection booth to one side. This design meant that engineers would view the projection screen out of their window rather than musicians. In order to see the orchestra, a remote Sony camera was installed and operated from controls adjacent to the mixing console. The computerised console was custom made by Sound Techniques, the tape machines by Scully and monitoring was through Lockwood-Tannoy speakers. The microphone cabinet contained AKG and Neumann makes. Dave Siddle's vision also involved a patch-less control room 20 years prior to the time when such a means would become reality.

John Richards and his colleague, engineer Dick Lewzey, grappled with the suffocating acoustic and futuristic equipment. Management was eventually persuaded to invest in new Neve console and Studer tape decks to alleviate the burden.

The sound emanating from CTS aka The Music Centre, once appropriate equipment had been installed, became well recognised during the 1970s however it had only come about through necessity. Whereas violins at the Bayswater venue may have demanded two mikes, at a distance whereby section bloom was appropriately captured, Wembley necessitated a considerably greater mike count and exceptionally close placement.

This miking technique rapidly utilised every input in the mixing console of the day requiring doubling and tripling feeds to inputs. And as close miking often radically alters the timbre of instruments, equalisation and extensive artificial reverberation were tools used to create a more appealing sound with a sense of space. The trademark CTS Wembley slap-back echo was created by an array of EMT echo plates coupled with a delay -- of around 167 ms -- achieved via the physical gap between the record and reproduce heads on spare analog machines running at 15 IPS.

By the mid 1970s, CTS was equipped with 16-track Dolby A recording facilities and a (now classic) Neve 8038 console with 1073 EQ modules. 24-track analog recording was introduced sometime in late 1977.

 

 

http://www.malonedigital.com/studios-cts.htm#.VuHwLzH21xU

 

rb-orch-1.jpg

 

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1 hour ago, Alexander said:

Hook, TPM, HP1 and HP2 are pretty much the only Williams scores with Goldsmith-level miking and reverb I can name off the top of my head.

 

HP2 has always struck me as being a bit "soupy".  But then again, I'm not an audiophile.  

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Very cool information, sharky.  I thought that the Barry scores of that period had a similar sound.  It's definitely vintage.  It looks like Anvil and of course Abbey Road were much larger.  It is interesting that these sound so different given same orchestra and same engineer. 

1 hour ago, TheGreyPilgrim said:
2 hours ago, Sharky said:

 

rb-orch-1.jpg

 

Gah, what a box!  And people sitting in ridiculous places... nightmare.

 

 

 

I think that is not a symphonic seating but a big band symphonic seating ala James Bond.  Notice in this photo of John Barry's "You Only Live Twice" all winds to one side, all strings to the other and brass in the opposite direction.  It's explained in the "Music of James Bond" book how this style originated and was eventually abandoned. 

YOLT_barry.jpg

 

 

 

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On 9/3/2016 at 8:29 PM, tedfud said:

Question:

 

Do you think the Maestro prefers his recordings to be much dryer than other Soundtracks and Classical recordings ? I can't help notice how bone dry and in your face so many of them are. It's very obvious when you compare them to either other peoples readings ( Debney, Kunzel, Gerhardt et al . ) The Brass especially. Very little in the way of depth . Bizarrely his Performance with the Boston Pops of Mars IS quite wet. And sounds very similar in depth to Dorati's ( possibly my fav ). I also find his panning's extreme. Fiddles way over on the left sometimes....

 

Thoughts ?

 

T

You mean Dorati's overall recordings or Dorati's Planets ?, which I never saw ...

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