Fazil Say, a Turkish pianist and composer is considered one of the great artists of twenty-first century. His work “Dört Şehir (Four Cities) Sonata” portrays his life-long journey. It consists of four movements with names of different cities that inspired him. Fazil Say expressed his memories and events through this sonata. The third movement, “Ankara” was named after the city where he was born and raised. The tragedy of the First World War was depicted throughout the song, particularly the middle section.
This was a recording done in class (MP-435 Orchestral Recording Techniques) that I engineered under the supervision of Professor Jim Donahue at Berklee’s Shames Family Scoring Stage with a Neve 88RS analog recording console. The piece accompanies two instruments- piano and cello. I chose this piece for one of my portfolio works because it was one of the most emotional and memorable recording sessions in which I was involved.
The third movement starts with the thunderous piano section where the pianist is pounding on the keys while one of the assistants holds down the strings. As the song progresses, the emotional level becomes greater and truly takes back the listeners to the disastrous and mournful tragedy of the past century.
The piano and cello were placed next to each other, cellist facing the control room and pianist facing the cellist from the left (shown in the diagram below). A pair of figure-eight ribbon microphones and Coles 4038s were used on the piano hammer to capture the attack and pounding of the keys. A spaced pair of omnidirectional Saenken CO-100Ks were placed next to the lid about six feet away. On the cello, a Neumann U47 FET and phantom-powered stereo ribbon microphone Royer SF24 were placed in front of the bridge about one and two feet, respectively. Finally, a Schoeps KFM6 Sphere stereo microphone was used to capture the overall ambience, about twelve feet high in front of the musicians.
The biggest challenge for this recording was adjusting the balance between the microphones in order to find the ideal overall level and tone. Close spot microphones on each instrument were mainly used and a KFM6 to give the depth and ambience of both. Another challenge was finding the sweet spot for the cello because the piece was very dynamic and contained various cello tones. During the quiet part of the piece, the cello produced harsh and uncomfortable bow sounds, which I used a GML 8200 parametric EQ to cut around 7 to 8 kHz.
Overall, I was very satisfied with the result. The musicians were immersed in emotion and gave a fantastic performance. In all, I was nervous, but at the same time captivated by the sound and emotion the music portrayed.