In the latest production of L.A.’s The Industry, the traditional stage is jettisoned in favor of a larger and less restrictive venue: Downtown L.A.‘s iconic Union Station. This past Saturday saw the world premiere of “Invisible Cities”, a new opera written by composer Chris Cerrone, inspired by Italo Colvino’s 1972 novel of the same name.
The Industry, a young and progressive opera company founded by director Yuval Sharon, has a mission to bring new relevancy to operatic presentations by using inspiration from contemporary experimental theater and performance art pieces. The Industry was founded three years ago, and this is only their second major production here in L.A. Partnered with L.A. Dance Project, founded by noted dancer Benjamin Millpied, “Invisible Cities” incorporates a well-rounded collection of disciplines, both traditional and technical, to fascinating effect.
Calvino’s novel imagines a meeting between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo during which the Khan asks Polo for descriptions of various cities in his empire. Polo’s lyrical and imaginative responses make up the context for the opera, providing composer Cerrone with ample opportunity for inspirational color and creative flight. The music itself was superb, blending elements of the traditional with thoroughly modern techniques incorporating found objects as instruments along with elements of playback; a contemporary yet accessible score, and at a length of 70 minutes, also perfect for the contemporary attention span.
To bring “Invisible Cities” fully into the present tense, wireless technology and an unusual venue were the key drivers. Downtown L.A.‘s Union Station, the largest rail terminal in the western U.S., provides the backdrop for “Invisible Cities”, and made no pretense of maintaining business as usual as performers wove their narrative through crowds of travelers waiting for trains or buses. The only thing that differentiates anyone who happens to be in the station from an audience member is a pair of wireless headphones. You see, “Invisible Cities” unique identifier is that it is the world’s first wireless opera, delivering all audio directly to each audience member through personal headphones. The performers are untethered from a traditional stage, and the audience is free to wander around and view any aspect of the performance they might find intriguing; creating a highly personalized experience for each audience member.
Thanks to partner Sennheiser, the technological aspect of the production was pulled off without a hitch when I attended a dress rehearsal in mid-October. While modern live performance and wireless tech are old bedfellows at this point, there is no question that the demands of this performance had some unique wrinkles. Specifically, given that each audience member requires a pair of headphones, a strong broadcast signal had to be maintained through a large part of Union Station to prevent any dropouts or weaknesses in the audio signal.
To accomplish this, Bexel, based in Burbank, CA, was brought on board to custom build a managed antenna system to supplement broadcast coverage for both the headphone system and the wireless microphones and in-ear monitors used by the performers. Coupled with Sennheiser’s new Digital 9000 wireless system, there was nary a flaw in sound quality.
While the performance takes place and actively moves around the venue, an 11-piece orchestra provided live accompaniment from another unused part of the station, 1,000 feet from the main performance areas.
The opera begins with the overture, which the audience is invited to watch the orchestra perform; and it’s unusual for sure to be standing in the same room, yet still listening through headphones. Given that the orchestra remains stationary for the duration of the opera, a traditional setup could be employed: A DigiCo D-Rack took all the microphone feeds over fiber, through the garage beneath the station, directly into the control room (in this case an old bagel shop) to be mixed along with all of the wireless signals through a DigiCo SD11 console.
Upon completion of the overture, the audience is invited to walk anywhere they like within the areas of the station where full broadcast signal is achieved. This encompassed quite a bit of real estate, and initially, the audience needed to do a little legwork to figure out where exactly key elements of the performance were actually taking place. This was definitely where the experience became individualized, between four major characters, four additional singers, and eight dancers, there was plenty of intrigue to be experienced; all of which could be heard clearly if not always seen.
One might be concerned that the technical aspects of “Invisible Cities” might detract from the ability to take it at face value. This was definitely not the case. Everything seemed to work flawlessly during my experience, and it was exciting to be able to choose exactly what I wanted to take in from the performance at any given moment. However, at times, this could make taking in the narrative thread a challenge.
There were moments when I found myself wondering if I had just missed something important or exciting. Left to their own devices, I wonder if it might have been easier for the audience to take in the performance had there been a slightly more formalized structure to the staging. Having limitless access to a myriad of stimuli at times seemed to create a lack of ability to focus on the real star of the show: the music.
All that said though, “Invisible Cities” was an unquestionably exciting and unique experience that I would highly recommend checking out.
(Invisible Cities was to be performed in a limited run through Friday, November 8, 2013. However, 5 more performances have been added due to high demand. For more information and tickets visit www.invisiblecitiesopera.com)
LA is going to get an earful this Saturday. The occasion is the Pensado Vintage Gear Expo 2013, taking place this Saturday, July 20, 2013, from 10am-4pm. The venue is Vintage King Los Angeles (VKLA), 1176 W. Sunset Blvd. in sunny Los Angeles CA, 90012.
Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick of Pensado’s Place will be joined by a who’s who of producers, mixers, engineers, composers and audio inventors will be on hand, along with a plethora of manufacturer’s reps. Attendees will be able to check out and demo gear, get gear-expo only deals, chow from food trucks, indulge in vintage vinyl, listen to live music, and more.
Attendance is free, but advance registration is required. Sign in here. Now check out all the details, from Vintage King here:
Pensado’s Place & Vintage King are teaming up to produce the hottest gear and music-making expo of the summer. Patrons will be able to demo gear, talk directly w/ manufacturer reps, watch live interviews, mingle with the celebrity guests and meet Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick of Pensado’s Place.
SPECIAL GUEST APPEARANCES BY:
Dave Pensado & Herb Trawick – Pensado’s Place
Alex da Kid – Musician/Producer/Songwriter – Eminem, Imagine Dragons
François Tétaz – Film composer/Music producer – Gotye, Kimbra, Architecture in Helsinki
Manny Marroquin – Grammy winning mixing engineer – Rolling Stones, Alicia Keys, Kanye West
Printz Board – Musician/Producer/Songwriter – Black Eyed Peas
Robert Duncan - Television and Film Composer - Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Castle
Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins – Songwriter/Producer/Musician – Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jackson
Ryan Hewitt – Engineer/Mixer/Producer – The Avett Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Side Brain & Paul Dateh – Musicians/Composers
Steven Slate – Owner Steven Slate and Slate Digital
MANUFACTURER REPS ONSITE (confirmed):
A Designs Audio
Lynx Studio Technology
Along with the arrival of spring, change is in the air in Los Angeles.
The latest development comes from The Record Plant Recording Studios, which announced that Jason Carson has been named to the post of Vice President/General Manager.
In making the announcement, the facility’s President, Rose Mann-Cherney noted that Carson will work closely with her and C.E.O. Rick Stevens as the team continues to implement their strategic business plan of growth and expansion. Carson will also continue to oversee all aspects of the Record Plant’s operations, engineering, staff and finance.
A graduate of Berklee College of Music where he earned a BA in Music Production and Engineering, Carson kicked off his audio career in classic fashion, starting at the Record Plant Recording Studios in 2001 as a “runner,” and then assistant engineer. He was named Chief Engineer there in 2005.
A cornerstone of West Coast recording since the 1960’s, Record Plant’s credits include Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Black Sabbath, The Eagles, AC/DC, Michael Jackson, Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Tom Waits, Stevie Wonder, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rolling Stones, Whitney Houston, Guns N’ Roses, Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, Maroon 5, will.i.am, Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, and Swedish House Mafia, among many others.
M&A activity is alive and well on the studio level.
Along those lines, Infrasonic Sound Recording Inc., the audio mastering and recording company owned by Pete Lyman and Jeff Ehrenberg, announced today that Studio Manager Eric Palmquist has purchased and acquired the brand’s recording facility.
Loyal clients of the recording studios will be relieved to know that the 16/24 track facility will remain in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles. As well, Infrasonic Mastering, which relocated to their custom-built mastering suites in Echo Park last spring, will continue to operate under the direction of its co-owners Ehrneberg and Lyman, the latter of which also serves as the studio’s Principal Mastering Engineer.
Infrasonic was initially built in 2004, from a ground-up construction in a former motorcycle paint shop. Early clients included The Mars Volta and No Age, while Lyman built up Infrasonic Mastering, studying under the well-established engineer Richard Simpson. Staff additions since their launch include GRAMMY award-winning mastering engineer John Greenham.
According to Infrasonic, client growth has been constant and made an expanded infrastructure a necessity. “We have been focusing on the expansion of Infrasonic Mastering, thanks to the increase in vinyl sales over the past three years and the rapid growth of our audio mastering services,” says Pete Lyman, Co-Owner and Principal Mastering Engineer. “In 2012, we relocated to our new Echo Park studio at 1176 Sunset Blvd, and brought on new staff to meet the demands of a bigger client roster. This year, we’re including Infrasonic Studios in our development plans. Eric Palmquist has served as our studio manager for three years. Now, as both the owner and operator of the studio, he’ll bring new ideas to the table for our growing company.”
Palmquist will operate under the name “Palmquist Studios at Infrasonic Sound.” Recent highlights for Palmquist include the albums Leave No Trace by Fool’s Gold, 2012′s 119 by Trash Talk on Odd Future Recordings, and Life Sux by Wavves (named in Rolling Stone’s Top 50 of 2011).
Palmquist will continue to operate on the studio’s Trident 80C 32-ch console, 24-track tape machine and extensive outboard gear, including Black Box Analog’s Mic Pres.
“The opportunity to take on the recording studio was very exciting for me. The 1,200 square foot live room is a rare find in a city like Los Angeles, it allows for some great sounds that can’t be found many places,” says Palmquist, “This acquisition is the best of both worlds in that I will continue working with and expanding my Infrasonic clients, but also increase the studio’s offerings with our new B-Room production facilities and hopefully even more to come.”
Competition in the LA pro audio retail sector is intensifying. No sooner does Vintage King unveil a purpose-built showplace on Sunset Boulevard, then Guitar Center Professional responds with a salesroom salvo of their own.
How has GC Pro upped the ante? With a new custom recording/listening demo facility at the Hollywood Guitar Center location, also on Sunset Boulevard. The facility is open to the public, GC Pro affiliate partners, and manufacturers, and is equipped with plenty of gear, including a Neve Genesys console and custom Ocean Way monitors tuned by their creator, Allen Sides.
Also on hand are studio monitors from Genelec, ADAM, Focal and more, as well as custom-designed photo-embedded acoustic treatment from Auralex, and a large selection of vintage and new outboard gear.
According to GC Pro, the sound quality in the room is “superb,” providing a full range of options for today’s producer, engineer, artist or musician. This state-of-the-art recording/listening studio also features a signature look different from any other facility in the GC Pro organization.
Here’s some more info on the new facility, as stated by GC Pro:
“’This new facility opens up a number of opportunities for GC Pro, for both demonstrating music and recording it,” stated GC Pro Vice President Rick Plushner. “The Hollywood location also houses our custom-built live sound stage, which is used to tape our acclaimed GC Sessions video series, and with the addition of the recording room, a fully-integrated facility is emerging – bridging the worlds of live sound, recording and AV production. The patch bays have been fully customized, designed by the Malvicino Design Group (one of our GC Pro Affiliates), and we can now fully track GC Sessions performances and other events, with the full arsenal of modern studio wizardry at our fingertips, including editing, effects and overdubs. We are raising the bar for what we can accomplish production-wise, and we will be passing that content onto the audio community at large.’
Other different kinds of programs based on the room are in the works, to further expand GC Pro’s reach and offer enrichment sessions/classes for the audio community. Manufacturer/vendors will be invited to participate in demonstrations, providing expert perspective – presentations that will be taped and posted on GC Pro’s website.
Allen Sides, GRAMMY Award-winning engineer, producer and mixer who founded Ocean Way Recording, stated, ‘It’s great to have a room where you can actually hear what gear sounds like. We were excited to be involved with the acoustics and design of this great space, and to also provide a set of our new Ocean Way AS1 monitors. Critical listening is the only way to judge what gear sounds like, and in most retail environments you haven’t a clue until you get it home. This is a wonderful addition to GC Pro Hollywood.’
Horacio Malvicino of the Malvicino Design Group noted, ‘Installation of the new audio demo room at GC Pro was handled with the same approach we take with a regular studio installation. The console is fully wired to a total of four Audio Accessories TT 96 point patch bays, which allow access to all of the console features. We also added a sixteen-tie line panel in the control room to allow for quick interface of external gear, as well as a sixteen-input mic panel with Ethercon ports to interface a multi fold-back system.’”
MOUNT KISCO, NY: In lands near and not so very far away something sonic has been brewing. Boutique audio gear manufacturers – from cables to compressors — are proliferating at a nice pace in the New York Metro area, and monitors are no exception.
For multiple GRAMMY-winning mixer Mick Guzauski (Madonna, Michael Jackson, Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera) and studio designer Larry Swist (Tainted Blue Studios, Quad Recording Studios, Eargasm Studios, Cloud 9 Mixing Stages), a near-lifelong musical partnership has led to an ambitious system for critical listening.
This particular brainchild is Guzauski-Swist Audio Systems, producing stereo, 2.1 and 5.1 Surround monitoring systems created expressly to satisfy their own exacting standards. Based upstate in bucolic Mount Kisco, their main offering is the GS-3a active 3-way speaker, which sports an intriguingly flexible design with high performance for both tracking and mixing.
At $12,000/pair (with G-S amp) it’s a more serious investment, but with installs in NYC, Nashville and Rochester, their expectations of an appreciative audience in the market have been validated. Larry Swist explained how the pair’s passion for audio and massive mutual respect made the G-S project – and the daunting challenges of boutique manufacturing — a calling he couldn’t refuse.
What first got you thinking about creating the G-S speakers?
It started with a phone call from Mick. He and I have known each other since we were in our late teens, and back then we were building PA systems and speakers. Mick was doing recording in his basement, and I thought, “This guy’s a savant, I gotta learn what he does and put my bass down.” I fell in love with sound for the first time.
We’ve been working together since then, but we also got our own careers going. I got involved with Spyro Gyra and jazz. He mixed every chick ballad in the world and sold a gazillion copies. But he called me a while back and said, “Are you still into speaker design? I’ve been using the Tannoys, I can’t get them reconed, and they’re running out of gas on me. Are you into it?”
And the answer was, “Yes!” I take it?
It started as a science project. We looked at design philosophies, thinking back over the years, and what were the best speakers we ever heard — boxes, three-way systems – and we came out with a goal of what kind of performance we wanted.
We spent about 18 months trying drivers, amplification processes, DSP, and then we came up with something Mick was willing to put into his control room and put his mixes on. We kind of fell in love with it. It was our child, but the big thing was it sounded great, and everyone’s reaction to it was incredibly enthusiastic.
So we said, “Maybe we can produce these. We’re two audio geeks that have been mixing records and designing studios. We can really do this.” So we’re in that stage of being a company, producing our flagship model the GS-3, and we’ve now got Chris Bubacz involved as a third partner. He’s been in the industry a bunch of years also and brings the organizational structure and business mind to the company.
I’m excited about this company, and I get that way again every time I listen to these speakers. That’s why I got into audio. It had gotten to the point where everything I was hearing was not dynamic enough, or ran out of gas too fast.
Another aspect of that is that Mick mixes in them. They had to have accuracy so they translated, but they also have a robustness so you can also track on them. In a smaller studio, this is the only speaker you’d need – they’re a Swiss Army knife, because they enhance the sound, but you still get all the accuracy out of a speaker that you need to mix on.
As you’ve built up the company, what are you finding out not just about speaker design, but about being a manufacturer?
We learned not to be satisfied. You have to be very uncompromising. You want to be able to say, “OK, let’s just do this the best we can and go on to the next stage.” But you can’t do that. It can be tempting to say, “Let’s use that component, or this one, because it’ll be cheaper,” but Mick’s hearing is a big factor in preventing those decisions. He’s a savant when it comes to that, and I trust him when he says we have to take a certain path to maintain the sound quality.
Of course, Money is always a big issue. Mick and I do other things that bring income in, and then the monitors are what we invest in: buying parts and doing R&D. The frustration comes when you try and market something. Getting something out there when you have the Genelecs of the world to compete with – it’s hard to have the budgets to do that.
We’ve had shootouts with very small groups of people up to this point. It’s gratifying when we do have these demonstrations and they win, but then people need to have the money to buy them. That said, they are a reasonably-priced speaker system compared to Genelecs or ATCs, for example.
How would you characterize the current monitor market that you’re competing in?
There’s the home/project studio that’s always going to have real budget constraints. People get great amps, great mics, great gear, and then listen through something substandard, so they can’t really benefit from all that other equipment. That’s unfortunate, in my opinion, because after the room, the monitors are the most important thing you’re hearing. Keeping this in mind, we believe people will stretch their budgets slightly once they hear our speakers.
I do think there is a market of commercial and high-end personal studio facilities that do a lot of tracking and writing, and are a little more endowed, and these hit that market perfectly. We’re also going after THX certification for the post world. We have all the dynamic and level requirements for good mixing of film and video, especially 5.1.
It seems to me that getting people to switch their main monitors is a pretty big proposition. How do you get people to consider such a drastic change in their setup?
I think you’re absolutely right. Any pro or serious amateur will get to know their monitors after a time, and they adjust their mixing habits accordingly. For example, they’ll know their monitors are down in the low range and so they’ll compensate for that.
When one top engineer heard these monitors in Nashville, he said to us, “I’ve been using ‘X’ monitors and I really understand them, but it would be nice to have monitors like this so that when I go into mastering, I wouldn’t have to hear all the things that I missed!” So for someone who listens on a constant basis, they’d be willing to say, “OK, here’s something that could make my work easier or better.”
I do think that takes a little bit of courage to say, “I’m going to leap from my current monitors to these new ones, especially after having had success with the first ones.” But I think the Guzauski-Swist speakers are enough of a jump above what people are using that they would be willing to make that change.
As you pointed out, you and Mick have been a team for a long time. How would you characterize the chemistry that the two of you have developed?
Mick and I bring slightly different abilities to the table. Mick’s ears are his greatest asset, and he’s respected across the board by his colleagues. But I bring stuff that Mick can’t do: I bring the mechanical end together. I construct prototypes and build very solid working enclosures that are acoustically a jump from something that Mick might not have thought of.
So the respect is back and forth. I’ll refer to what he’s hearing, but he may be looking too closely at something. So the combination is really about mutual respect, his ears and my mechanical abilities.
Does being an NYC area-based manufacturer help and/or hurt your efforts in any significant way?
NYC has a broad range of our potential users. The way we’re marketing these now is to have listening demos in studios, or with anybody who wants to check them out. Just get on our Website and email us, and we’ll arrange a demo.
That’s a big factor in helping these to sell, initially — the sheer amount of people and population here. We’re doing it in L.A., too, but we live here. This is our town. We feel we’re part of the community.
I talk to people all the time who want to take the plunge, and produce the “better mousetrap” that they’ve built – whether it’s cables, limiters, compressors, etc… What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into boutique manufacturing for audio?
The first thing I would do is make sure you have something better than anything else out there. Do something that sounds better, so the music benefits from your efforts. Then it’s worth the agony of what you’re trying to get out there – because you really believe in it.
– David Weiss
The wins are:
– Best Choral Performance: Again, Tom Lazarus (Engineer/Mixer) and David Frost (Producer) are credited on the 2009 Recording of Verdi’s “Requiem”. Stadium Red is also credited.
– Producer Of The Year, Classical: David Frost (Producer) is Classical Producer Of The Year. Four of the five projects that were associated with the award credited team member Tom Lazarus (Engineer/Mixer) and Stadium Red.
Song: “Into The Sun” (Bad Decision Mix) – Lord Huron (free, legal download available HERE)
Why I Luv It: Ben Schneider absorbed more than the sunlight once he touched down in Los Angeles. The Michigan transplant’s beautiful Caribbean-inflected songwriting is sunshine incarnate as Lord Huron and has produced two lovely EPs: Mighty & Into The Sun. He makes all sounds on the records by himself but tours backed by a full band.
The song “Into The Sun” has been remixed by many an up-and-coming producer, but it is Brooklyn-based Bad Decision‘s (Gavin Royce & Arvin Ajamian) version that is the most successful of the bunch. While the original is infused with a gentle swaying tropicalia, BD’s slightly danced-up re-tweak is dominated by a steel drum boogie and looped vocal phrases that swirl around you until the dark night gets bright and the sun is forced to rise.
They maintain the summery vibe but pile on enough BPMs to get you off your beach blanket and gathering around the bonfire to live it up with the rest of the outdoor revelers. The track is not unlike Animal Collective or Panda Bear if they admitted to knowing that people were actually listening. An early morning orgy of sun, sand and melancholy hedonism, “Into The Sun” is the soundtrack to the last party on earth.
Scene I Can See It In: This remix is a genre unto itself: upbeat yet mellow, introspective yet dancey, serious yet fun-loving. Upon a first look at the title and initial listen, it might be tempting to synch this to a spot for a cruise line or vacation getaway:
“Tell my family I had to leave.
I’m going away, tell my friends for me.
They’d all agree I gotta get out of here.”
While it’s certainly possible to use just a portion of the track to support a brand’s uber-positive getaway philosophy (and hey, who’s gonna stop em?), the upbeat instrumentation and initially happy lyrics belie a deadly serious sentiment:
“I’m gonna sail that boat right into the sun
‘Cause everybody knows that’s how it’s done.
Now don’t you cry and don’t you wait
If I meet my end, well that’d be my fate”
This song is too involved to be interpreted on mood alone and would benefit from a brand taking a chance on a more complex yet rewarding spot. To me, it would fit perfectly for a narrative, almost short film-like spot of an unhappy person imagining what the world would be like without them but choosing instead not to find out. This could be for a dating site or a new anti-depressant or anything in between. How tired are we all of seeing the oft-parodied prescription drug spots of random images followed by a series of quickly spoken warnings? A happy couple! People playing softball!! A man playing with a DOG!!! A more story oriented spot could really breathe new life into a stale genre beginning with this synch.
Stuck at their desk at a miserable job or completely alone at home, wishing to get away and find their happiness but NOT sailing off into the sun forever. The monotony of the introductory beats set the scene as the character is stuck in a rut of unimaginable depths at their job or in their relationship and as the steel drums enter and the vocals loop, they are catapulted into their fantasy as the music explodes and the lyrics begin.
The clouds somehow clear and the sun appears and the hero discovers the aforementioned beach party where none of their problems can touch them anymore. They come out of their fantasy as the same vocal refrain that sent them into their fantasy brings them out and the steel drums re-enter. The person has now sampled the happiness they desired and is ready to change their lives and has paid the lyrics off. That — or the theme song to that Joe Versus The Volcano reboot we won’t soon be seeing. Either or, really.