Joanna Staruch-Smolec (violin) and Krzysztof Potocznik (piano) record H. Robie/G. Rice: Dear Old Pal of Mine, under the supervision of recording engineer Duncan Miller, during the fourth symposium of the network, held at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London on 30th September 2022.
Listen to the transferred cylinder below:
Joanna and Krzysztof comment on the experience:
Joanna: This was my first experience of recording with acoustic technologies. Nevertheless, I watched last year’s symposium online, so I had an idea of the process based on it. I also had a chance to work with David Milsom before coming to London and I benefited from his advice during the preparation process.
Our interpretation of the song was based on a cylinder recording made by Belgian violinist Anthony Dubois in 1919. We analysed it in detail and went through an ‘emulation’ process. Once basic gestures were more or less assimilated into our playing, we decided to focus on music making during the recording.
I rehearsed playing with a loud, straight forward sound, knowing that this is a necessary effort for capturing on a cylinder. However, I unconsciously forced the sound even more during the rehearsal on the spot, because I couldn’t hear my sound well enough with the huge mass of piano sound behind me. I was very much concerned about little cracks in sound that this was producing, which would be a huge disadvantage in the modern recording setting. However, on the trial cylinder, these little imperfections in the sound appeared to be absent. This observation allowed me to let go my perfectionist mindset and focus more on a bigger musical picture.
While listening to the final version, I was surprised how some effects were vanished, but others sounded way more present than I imagined. In fact, I overdid certain gestures willing to ensure that it was well captured. I’m very grateful for the amazing material provided after the symposium. It will allow me to compare in detail modern and acoustic version of my playing as well as to come back to Dubois’s recording, hoping to better understand this phenomenon.
Krzysztof: For me it was the first experience of that kind; I have never done an acoustic recording. After the rehearsal it became clear that if as a pianist I want to be hearable at the recording, I have to play loud. During the final take, I tried to play simply as loud as I could by exaggerating all the dynamics (almost hitting the keyboard), focusing mainly on the bass part and ignoring for a moment the quality of the sound coming from the piano. As a result we can hear the piano part, however, the timbre of the instrument is harsh in the first part of the recording – something that could be relatively easy to soften up while maintaining a big, audible sound.
The recording session and the symposium in global made me realise that the recording process of the beginning of the 20th century is probably not that different from what we experience nowadays in terms of process of adapting to the conditions of the recording venue (e.g.taking into account the instrument on which we play, placement of the microphone, acoustic specificities and conditions in the recording venue…)