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Posts from — August 2018

More Gryphon Restoration

As I not­ed pre­vi­ous­ly, there are some tech­ni­cal chal­lenges asso­ci­at­ed with recov­er­ing the record­ings of the band Gryphon that I made in July 1974 dur­ing their land­mark per­for­mance at the Old Vic.

A notable prob­lem was the fact that there was a bass DI in the main PA mix (which was the basis for the record­ing, with the addi­tion of a coin­ci­dent pair of ambi­ent mics) and this was often extreme­ly loud in the bal­ance — some­times enough to cause inter­mod­u­la­tion dis­tor­tion with the rest of the mix (it’s pos­si­ble that this was over­loaded on the recording).

To give you an insight into the results of this fac­tor, here’s anoth­er piece from the Old Vic tapes. This is Open­ing Num­ber, the band’s, er, open­ing num­ber. Note the effect of the bass entry about half-way through.

This is an exam­ple of why it may not be pos­si­ble to get an album’s worth of tunes out of this record­ing. How­ev­er it will be worth our try­ing to recov­er the stereo mas­ter tapes to see if the dis­tor­tion is on there too (these trans­fers are from a copy).

August 21, 2018   No Comments

Restoring an Ancient Gryphon

This month has seen the release of the new album by old friends of mine, Gryphon. The album, ReIn­ven­tion, is their first for 41 years: the band, re-formed and aug­ment­ed, though now with­out the pres­ence of co-founder Richard Har­vey, is poised, at the time of writ­ing, to per­form the new album in the Union Chapel.

In hon­our of the new release I thought it might be inter­est­ing to attempt to res­ur­rect what is the first record­ing I ever made of the band (I was their sound engi­neer in the stu­dio and on the road from 1974–5, cul­mi­nat­ing in the record­ing of the Rain­dance album across Mid­sum­mer 1975, which I engi­neered and co-pro­duced). This was a record­ing of the live per­for­mance giv­en at the Old Vic on 14 July 1974 – the first and, I believe the only, rock con­cert ever to have been held at the Old Vic or host­ed by the Nation­al The­atre. Gryphon had recent­ly been com­mis­sioned to write the music for Peter Hal­l’s Nation­al The­atre pro­duc­tion of The Tem­pest, which had pre­miered on March 5, and had record­ed their sec­ond album, Mid­night Mushrumps (a ref­er­ence to Pros­per­o’s speech, 5.1.39) includ­ing a suite based on the music for the play, with Dave Grin­st­ed at Chip­ping Nor­ton Stu­dios in the Cotswolds.

The Old Vic per­for­mance was right at the start of my involve­ment with the band and I was yet to be respon­si­ble for their sound live or in the stu­dio. How­ev­er for the occa­sion of the Old Vic per­for­mance I was able to obtain a Teac 3340 4‑track recorder and sit­u­at­ed it beside the mix­ing desk on the bal­cony. I had a pair of AKG D‑202s, excel­lent all-round dynam­ic mics, arranged in a coin­ci­dent pair as close to the cen­tre of the bal­cony as I could get, and record­ed these on one pair of tracks on the Teac; and in addi­tion I put a stereo feed from the board on the oth­er two tracks. The result­ing 4‑track tape gave me a clean feed of the PA mix, with the addi­tion of audi­ence reac­tion and ambi­ence from the room mics – par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive on the per­cus­sion. How­ev­er as we were on the bal­cony there was a delay between the PA feed and the room mics, so when I mixed-down the 4‑track to stereo I put a delay on the PA feed tracks to bring them into sync with the room mics. This also gave me the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a lit­tle fun, as I could vary the delay slight­ly to give a slight flang­ing effect on tracks like Estampie, which Richard Har­vey refers to in the intro as “a mediæ­val one-bar blues”, an effect which had been used on the orig­i­nal album record­ing for a sim­i­lar purpose.

The dis­ad­van­tage of the PA feed was that it includ­ed a bass DI run at con­sid­er­able lev­el, and as a result, Philip Nestor’s bass-play­ing fea­tures promi­nent­ly in the feed. So much so, in fact, that the bass caus­es some inter­mod­u­la­tion dis­tor­tion with oth­er instru­ments, ren­der­ing some of the pieces sad­ly vir­tu­al­ly unus­able. How­ev­er with some judi­cious use of EQ around the 80–200Hz mark the bass can be qui­etened-down enough for a rea­son­able bal­ance to be achieved in many cases.

Sad­ly the orig­i­nal 15in/s mix­down mas­ter of this record­ing is lost, and believed to be in Los Ange­les. How­ev­er I made a cas­sette copy of the three reels which I hung on to. They were BASF Chrome cas­settes and I record­ed them with a Dol­by B char­ac­ter­is­tic on a machine that I had evi­dent­ly been able to set the Dol­by lev­el on cor­rect­ly as the results are quite respectable. For these exper­i­ments I tran­scribed the cas­settes from a Tech­nics M260 kind­ly pro­vid­ed by Dun­can God­dard, who is a high­ly tal­ent­ed restor­er of vin­tage ana­logue recorders, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly sup­plied my trusty ReVox PR99 and A77.

I digi­tised the audio via a Focus­rite Scar­lett inter­face and brought it into Adobe Audi­tion, my DAW of choice for stereo audio pro­duc­tion. I cleaned up the noise floor with Audi­tion’s built-in noise reduc­tion tools and a cou­ple of Wave Arts restora­tion plug-ins, using the Audi­tion para­met­ric EQ to restrain the bass end. Here’s an exam­ple of the results: the mix of Estampie referred to above. And I hope you like it.

August 20, 2018   No Comments