Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Quicken - the backstory

When I wrote a piece on faux amis recently – "false friends"...

(words that seem, to a language learner, like an easily memorable translation word, but which don't mean the same as the presumed "equivalent")

 – the context (unstated at the time) was a virtual recording. Back then it wasn't clear that the finished product would be presentable, let alone something to be proud of:

(I'm not sure if this attempt at embedding works. If not, go to this YouTube link.) The use of quicken (and of languish, which I also comment on, occurs in the passage starting with the tenors at 0'56" ...
<rumblers-parenthesis comment="_I_ know about the apostrophe, but the virtual compiler wouldn't like it.">
(an entry I'm  glad not to have  been involved in :-) )

.... The process of producing the virtual recording lasted several weeks.  I'd heard about the tribulations involved for the compiler/sound mixer.  (This is a Cambridge Alumni Festival event that took place last autumn [Northern hemisphere, Fall if you must] being a sort "brains' trust" of people in the university involved in  music...

<in line-ps>
(one of whom discussed at some length the problems she had had with this sort of venture)
<in line-ps>
...), but that work was all done with impressive efficiency by our MD. All the singers had to do was record the sound and the video (separate recordings, sync'd...

(I understand this is not the only way these recordings can be done [which accounts for all the other virtual recordings you see that show singers wearing headphones; this, for example: {spot the family resemblance, in almost the same position on the screen, 2nd row}

...). The synchronization involved a clap (doing the same job as a clapper-board in a film studio). My first two takes of the video were false starts, as it was so fiddly balancing a mobile phone on a music stand and getting myself in the frame. On Take 1 I missed the clap on the guide video (showing the conductor), and on Take 2 I clapped all right but realized that my hands weren't visible at all. I suppose James (our MD) could have watched for my shoulders to twitch; maybe not.

Recording the audio was easier, although the (few)  days I spent in recording studios as a would-be troubadour in the 1970s were enough to  tell me that it was bound to take an hour or two. The main problem was that I had a mental block over the word quicken; It took me until Take 6 to avoid singing

Should'st thou walking in grief languish
He will cripple thee

Another singer found, when she listened back to what she thought would be the final take, she had been singing
He walking over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps 

I imagine we weren't the only ones to stumble in this way.

But the bulk of the work was done after we'd submitted our recordings...

(which – the submission itself – was a whole 'nother kettle of worms: I brought the network to its knees at one stage)

All quite satisfying, not to say surprising, in the end. Many thanks to our MD cum sound mixer cum artistic director cum help desk, to our multi-talented accompanist, to the ad hoc socially distanced vocal quartet that sang on the guide video, and to all the backroom choir members who made our first recording possible. What's next?



Update 2021.03.31.12:30 – Added inline PS, and fixed some typos.

Update 2021.04.01.14:45 – Added inline PPS.


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