More than 700 high-caliber classical music students gathered for a nine-week education program at the Aspen Music Festival. The festival has been recorded every year since 1955; this year, director Riccardo Schulz, chief engineer Chris Cecere and their engineering team at the Edgar Stanton Audio Recording Institute (ESARI) worked with Neumann and Sennheiser microphones to capture each of the more than 250 performances on the schedule. Sennheiser provided Neumann KM 184 and KM 183, TLM 170 R and TLM 103, plus digital Solution-D microphones, as well as Sennheiser’s MKH and Evolution Series.
“ESARI is the umbrella name for both the production aspect and the educational component,” explains Cecere. “The students who pay to come here get a crash course not just in recording classical music but foundational things, too.” Participants on the four-week, boot camp-style course in audio theory and practical applications learn about professional audio recording through classes, by observing the engineers at work and by producing their own recordings. Faculty members include Neumann’s former senior applications engineer, Juergen Wahl, and this year’s guest lecturer, Jack Renner, the Grammy-winning chairman, CEO and chief recording engineer for Telarc, as well as ESARI director Riccardo Schulz.
spen Music Festival senior engineer Bryce Boynton positions a pair of MKH 800s above the performance stage in the Benedict Tent.
The recordings, which take place at six venues around Aspen, are captured using standard stereo microphone techniques, such as ORTF, X-Y and M-S configurations. “We use Solution-Ds as our main pair in our largest hall, the Benedict Music Tent,” explains Cecere. Recordings are typically mixed to two tracks and multitracked for archiving or additional post-production. “We also use microphones to provide area or spot-miking depending on the size of the ensemble, which may be anything from a solo piano or violin to a 100-piece orchestra, plus voices.”
As Cecere relates, the ESARI has also been experimenting with various surround recording techniques for the past four seasons. For a 5.1 recording of composer John Corigliano’s “Circus Maximus” in this year’s program, he says, “We used all Sennheiser M-S pairs for the surrounds. We had one pair in the center facing the back of the hall, and we had two M-S pairs for surround left and right facing out toward the sides of the hall, as well. That was very cool, having that adjustability of the surround image.”