Pt.3 The Album: British Folk Music for Brass, Vol. 1. Notes on Audio Production

I have tried to capture the joyous quality of live ensemble playing in terms of the audio production. Led Zeppelin famously produced their first album in 30 hours with a musician in the ensemble – Jimmy Page, taking responsibility for audio production. Similarly Miles Davis preferred a first take for its Zen like freshness and his producer – Teo Macero, learned to always keep the microphones on. The more that is consciously discussed and rehearsed in a session the less room there is for the unconscious impulses of the players, built up over many years of ensemble playing and individual training, to manifest in the acoustics of the hall.

Though it is admittedly a little hair-raising for the musicians I have taken a similar approach and produced the album ‘in-house’, which in practice meant dashing from mixing console, to video camera, to my tuba between each take.  We also took the decision to use very long takes with no splicing and in many cases such as the Britten I have opted for the first take. 

Just as in the legendary Philip Jones recordings from the 1970’s I have not allowed the very occasional split note to force the ensemble into another take. In every respect this recording represents the sound of these musicians creating a performance in real time, using the natural ambience of the hall to achieve balance rather than post-production techniques. Jimmy Page famously remarked that if a producer needed to ‘EQ’ the recording that they had recorded it improperly; I can state with some satisfaction that the ‘EQ’ knobs were left untouched during the mixing of this album.  As a humble tuba player I can only marvel at the ability of my colleagues to produce such wonderfully balanced, musical and accurate recordings on the first take in a freezing cold church.

Christopher Barrett – Rochester, Kent 2021