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.’”