Making recordings during Lockdown

The pianist Christopher Guild discussed the problems of recording during Covid Lockdown

You might think that the Society, having been in existence for several decades now, would not have anything new to offer, yet Christopher’s presentation on 13 March was new in several respects. First, it was a description of the recording process itself (more later) second, we had we had recordings performed by Christopher and third, two recordings which had never been performed in public before. Christopher used to teach at Godolphin School in Salisbury.

One composer he featured was Ronald Stevenson who is somewhat neglected today and whose work Christopher has been exploring and unearthing new pieces. Other composers featured during the evening were by William Beaton Moonie, Berhard van Deeren, Ronald Center and William Brocklesby Wordsworth, great nephew of the poet of the same name. There were transcriptions of works by Purcell. Stevenson is no stranger to the Society as Christopher gave a presentation of some of the composer’s work in an earlier visit in 2015.

Recording, like many other aspects of life, was all but impossible during Lockdown although there were attempts at performing elements and then melding them together. One such was a recording with a poem in medieval French included.

Christopher explained the recording process generally. Except for major stars, the record company will not make any up-front payment. This means the performers need to secure finance themselves unless they self-fund. The process starts with an idea which is proposed to the record label. Then a recording studio needs to be located and in the case of a piano recording, with a full size instrument. This is to do with the dynamics of the sound and the harmonics which are important for the integrity of the final sound. Perhaps surprisingly, the piano has to be kept in tune several times during the day which of course is another expense. This arises because of temperature and other changes in the studio during the day. The studio Christopher used was near Beccles.

Each piece can be played three times together with ‘patching’ where there are mistakes or infelicities of playing to be corrected. This process can take two days.

This was a fascinating evening with several never before heard pieces performed by composers – such as Ronald Center – of whom few if any of us had heard before. The process of recording was especially interesting and it’s perhaps surprising to note that as a recorded music society we have not touched on the process itself before.

The next meeting is on 27th March and concerns the conductor Leopold Stokowski who died at Nether Wallop.