Audio geekout at Esplanade on May Day..
Last week, I got a chance to do something I have been wanting to do since the 1st time I stepped inside the Esplanade; stand behind their audio consoles! (warning! nerdy post ahead…)
Thanks to references from by some family friends, I got a chance to “consult” the Esplanade sounds engineers during a concert last week. It was a North Indian (Hindustani) Classical Musical concert organized by Engage: Consumer Interfaces, an events organization founded by two (I believe) IIM alumni. Engage has been bringing many great artists from India to Singapore for concerts for the past few years.
I went a few hours before the concert for sounds checks. Now, if you have ever been backstage at Esplanade, you’d know that place is a freaking maze. There is no way anyone can figure out the place without a map. I did get lost.. a few times. Luckily, thanks to this pass, I had free access to the backstage for two days!
The concert was held at the Recital Studio of Esplanade. The stage was just being miced up as I arrived. They were using a Sennheiser EW series wireless mic for the main vocals. A Sennheiser 441 for the Tabla, a Shure SM58 for the Harmonium and Shure SM57s for everything else form the electronic Tanpuras to the Manjiras. The Sound Engineer knew his Indian instruments and told me that he had chosen those mics on purpose, considering the sound of the instruments, the room and the atmosphere that was needed.
Next, we did the leveling on the console. The console was a Soundcraft Vi6. Here are some pictures of it.
The console totally blew me away. The I/O capabilities are totally unheard of, and the control surface itself had 40 motorized fades, 5 Vistonics II touch screens, and loads of stuff I did not even know about. I was just too fascinated by the flying faders for the 1st few minutes to look at any other details.
The Vistonics II screens allowed the selection of any part of the signal chain, which then showed up on faders for detailed control. The Vistonics II touch screens also had knobs and buttons to do more settings. The configuration options were unbelievable and totally confusing. And finally it had an awesome glow in the darkly lit Recital Studio.
The levels for Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar‘s concert were set too hot IMO. But he insisted on them. The classic sound engineer’s dilemma; Artist Expression or Audiences’ Ears? The levels for Dr. Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande concert were set nicely. Though she tended to move away from the mic, causing issues later during the concert.
After the sound check I went out for a break, and came back just before the concert itself.
All through out the concert, the Sound Engineer kept adjusting the levels and the gains for the various instruments by himself, and according my suggestion (which as my “job”). However, around 30mins in, he pulled up a screen using the Vistonics II touch screens for a effects processor module which he had placed in the signal chain. It was a reverb module from one of Lexicon’s effect processors.
Here are some shots of the screen.
The amazing thing about this module was the fact that it could use the current BPM information, which had to be fed in either using a know or tapping a button on the beat, to improve the reverb processing. It also had parameters like room size, room type and more to control the reverb effect. While the Recital Studio itself had been deadened using curtains and all, the reverb processor was being used to bring warmth to the sound..
Both the concerts totally rocked. Though I personally preferred Dr. Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande’s recital. Her voice, the music and the atmosphere was totally mesmerizing.
It was a great experience for me both from musical and technical perspective. Oh and I also got to share a car ride home with Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar :D.
I am hoping to do such stints again, and hopefully one day learn to professionally handle such consoles and mic such concerts…. It’s when great technology meets great music, the magic happens..