"Ooooooooooooooooooooh girrrrrrrrrrrllllllllll. It was at that time that I lost my mind."
September 10, 2011 7:02 PM   Subscribe

What then happens is an unbelievable series of Kafkaesque email threads, out-of-office messages, invented holidays, bizarre threats, secret handshakes. If you’re lucky, and very very persistent, you might end up with a CD of it, along with a note saying that “this never happened” and “don’t tell anybody you have this.” Nico Muhly on the difficulty of listening to one's own work.
posted by villanelles at dawn (11 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Nico Muhly previously.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:03 PM on September 10, 2011

Painfully close to home. One thing I learned, a little late, is that if someone is present at a rehearsal carrying, say, a shoulder-mounted video camera, with stereo mics, and if they have press credentials, then they can record the performance without paying a union fee.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:37 PM on September 10, 2011

And how many of the musicians in an orchestra have no MP3s copied from friends, downloaded from the naughtinet or recorded on their own Edirols?

The IPtocracy treats any copying of content outside their control as a convent school treats masturbation: it's a terrible sin that will make you go blind and prevent you from ever having proper, procreative sex - and if unchecked, the evil stain will spread. Nobody will ever want cock again; we will all burn in hell and the human race will die out overnight.

And that despite everyone from the Mother Superior to the novice that weeds the potato patch giving it all three fingers whenever nobody's looking.
posted by Devonian at 3:37 AM on September 11, 2011

Oh god yes. If you are very very lucky and the orchestra ops manager is very very nice and you never say a word but just look at the microphones dangling overhead for sound check for a second too long and raise an eyebrow at just the right moment when only he or she is looking, you might possibly find an unlabeled slice of polycarbonate with no return address postmarked from another town in your mail box in a month or two. But you didn't hear it from me.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:23 AM on September 11, 2011

A composer acquaintance of mine told me that he got a recording of his work by shipping the score off to some outfit in Eastern Europe. A while later, he got back a CD. It seems that some orchestras, starved of former state funding, have turned to doing this kind of work-for-hire as a revenue stream.

Of course, this is far from ideal: he didn't get to rehearse the orchestra, for one thing, and he had limited opportunity to interact with the conductor. Still, it is better than nothing, and it was far more affordable than trying to hire classical musicians in the US.
posted by thelonius at 4:46 AM on September 11, 2011

Interesting. When I was in college, I used to make extra beer money by recording various music performances in the music department's big recital hall. It was a nice space, good acoustics, and when they'd built the thing they'd hung some really nice house mics, very expensive AKGs. It was a pretty good gig because it basically consisted of showing up a few minutes before the orchestra, warming up all the gear, setting some very basic levels, and then just rolling tape* through the performances. I got to study and listen to some (generally) nice music, and get paid minimum wage.

What started to happen after a few weeks of this, once it became known that I was up there in the booth with the equipment turned on, was that people would come up after the performance and ask if I'd stay after for a few minutes, so that they could play something and get a recording of it. Sometimes individually, sometimes as groups. Because these people, who were in some cases senior music students, had never gotten a decent recording of themselves playing. Sure, maybe they'd brought a little Walkman-type recorder into a practice room, but that was about it. Though the department had archives** of all the official concerts and recitals, there wasn't anyone tasked with dubbing off copies, so students never got to hear them.

So I'd generally stick around and they'd bring up blank tapes and I'd drop them in the deck and they'd play, or just noodle around, or call their friends and all play for the empty house, whatever they wanted to record, and I'd generally get a couple of bucks or a six-pack or a few blank CrO2 tapes out of the deal for staying late. Worked well for everyone.

In retrospect, I'm sure it was all sorts of copyright/phonorecord violations, but nobody really gave a shit. I'm honestly surprised that there are places where people really care. But then again, I was surprised the first time I ran into someone who thought that using Napster would earn you a permanent seat at Satan's table, and there are a fair number of people who hold that position. Shrug.

But my advice to any musicians out there is to find the poor sod who gets pulled in when Someone Important wants a recording made in a recital hall, and make friends with that person. My experience has been that most people who do sound recording stuff, even amateurs, tend to enjoy doing it -- there's something of a (admittedly nerdy, low-level) thrill in fixing down something as ephemeral as music onto a permanent medium where it can be played back, over and over -- and particularly if the task is something as trivial as running an extra copy of something that's being recorded anyway, I can't imagine too many people turning down a polite request.

* Literally tape. I used to run 1/4" 2-track for the department archive and then a cassette for whatever professor was running the concert.
**A few years ago I found out that the entire departmental archive had been thrown out, without any thought given to digitizing it or anything. What a waste; I wish I had just kept them myself.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Seriffed font on that gridded background is just such a bad idea.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:47 AM on September 11, 2011

Does this guy realize he's Mr. Malaprop? There are four of them in that post alone.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:59 AM on September 11, 2011

A few years ago I found out that the entire departmental archive had been thrown out, without any thought given to digitizing it or anything. What a waste; I wish I had just kept them myself

There are persistent rumours of some archives like this (including one in particular that has first-generation copies of a huge number of session tapes from major rock/pop/etc albums of the past four decades) that now reside on some extra-curricular hard disks, but that simply can't be talked about because in the current atmosphere it'd at the very least lead to the end of people's careers - with fines and jail time a real possibility.

If the originals are lost, of course, then the copiers become cultural heroes. And big institutions can be terrible curators, especially when a collection isn't public and the bean counters are in charge, and disaster has no respect.
posted by Devonian at 1:54 AM on September 12, 2011

Wow. I was unaware of Nico until last Friday night. I usually go to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts without even checking what's going to be on the program, because it's usually excellent and will give me something new along with at least one older piece that I either know or should know. His Luminous Body was beautiful and beautifully performed by the orchestra and the seven male vocalists.

I was already a fan of Joana, but now I am officially a fan of both Muhly and Cantus.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:27 PM on September 12, 2011

"...nine male vocalists..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:28 PM on September 12, 2011

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