CELLO PILGRIMAGE - THE STRAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2014 ISSUE

Dane Johansen's CELLO PILGRIMAGE is featured in the September 2014 issue of The STRAD Magazine. Click here for more information and to purchase a digital or print copy. The article covers Dane's experience walking with his cello through Spain following the ancient pilgrimage El Camino De Santiago. During his epic 530 mile walk, Dane played 35 concerts, performing and recording Bach's Suites for Solo Cello. He was accompanied by a brilliant team of filmmakers who captured his journey, the concerts and the stories of other pilgrims. The team will use footage captured over a period of 5 weeks to create a documentary film telling the story of the Camino featuring Dane's musical pilgrimage and his first recording of the Bach Cello Suites. Visit www.walktofisterra.com to learn more!

Join Dane Johansen at Music@Menlo for a Cafe Conversation

Dane will speak about his experience on the Camino de Santiago at the Music@Menlo Festival in Menlo Park, California.

The event begins on Wednesday July 23 at 11:45 AM in Martin Family Hall on the Campus of the Menlo School. Cafe Conversations are free and open to the public. 

LIVESTREAM this event on the Music@Menlo website!

Considered to be among the top-tier summer programs in the United States, Music@Menlo’s Chamber Music Institute is composed of two distinct programs serving the most enthusiastic and talented string players and pianists ages nine to twenty-nine.

Excitement, passion, commitment, and the spirit of curiosity are defining characteristics of our participants. Students are immersed in a musical atmosphere like no other, where the entire festival community is engaged in learning about the chamber music art form. A hallmark of the program is the opportunity for participants to interact both formally and informally with the best chamber musicians in the world. Main-stage performances and lectures occur almost daily and students have free admission to all events.

Since their inception, Café Conversations have explored a multitude of topics from the unique perspectives of the festival’s artistic community. Café Conversations allow audiences to participate in a fascinating array of music- and arts-related discussions. All Café Conversations take place at 11:45 a.m. on the campus of Menlo School and are free and open to the public.

Finding the Sound Stream: Mic Placement with Latch Lake Stands

Blog Post by Sound Engineer Kyle Pyke

When I first entered the audio engineering world, I asked questions like: “what is the best way to mic a (insert instrument here)?” Almost unanimously I was answered with “use your ear to find where it sounds good, and put a mic there.” While there are widely accepted patterns and rationales as to how any instrument should be recorded, there is no rule that supersedes context.

Sometimes (read: more often than not) the place that sounds best is the least convenient location to put a microphone, usually for one of two reasons: either it’s too far, or too close. If the microphone needs to be close, there’s a likelihood it could get in the way of the player’s ability to move naturally on their instrument. Too far, and mounting it up high creates problems of stability unless the venue has a wire system specifically for mounting mics (spoiler: most churches do not).

On a project like this, you also have to take into consideration the presence a surround-recording rig will have on the venue. People enter these religious spaces for unobstructed peace, not to step over cables and navigate a maze of stands. For our needs specifically, we had to have something capable of placing mics up high and out of the way, without losing stability.

I contacted Latch Lake because, not only are their stands known for stability, but the flat, round bases would fit more easily under and around pews that tripod stands. We were able to mount our entire seven-mic array consisting of a Decca tree, two omni surrounds, and two cardioid surrounds on four total stands, perfectly placed and out of the way in each hall.

Here are some of the more creative placements:

Sarria- Convento de la Merced

Sarria- Convento de la Merced

Portomarin- Iglesia San Juan

Portomarin- Iglesia San Juan

San Miguel de la Escalada

San Miguel de la Escalada

Vilar de Donas- Palas de Rei

Vilar de Donas- Palas de Rei

While it’s easy to take microphone stands as a given, anything that can cut down on setup time while simultaneously allowing for more precise mic placement will have an immense, positive effect on the session-flow, and final product.

Bottling Air: Genelec and The Art of the Impulse Response

Blog Post by Sound Engineer Kyle Pyke

If there is one thing I’ve learned on this trip, it’s that the proprietors of religious spaces love the sound of their hall. It doesn’t matter if it’s an ornate Gothic cathedral, or a dilapidated Romanesque parish-- for those charged with preserving their edifice, it’s an everlasting source of pride.

The reflections and resonances of each space are as unique and beautiful as the adornments within, and fundamentally what we try to capture during each recording. While there is no way to take the venue with us when we leave, we have a way to save its essence. If we measure, at every frequency in the spectrum of human hearing, how a hall reacts to a stimulus, we can digitally recreate that space. The result of this test is called an impulse response (IR).

Genelec-side-by-side.jpeg

I’ve commented before on the necessity of accuracy in the recordings we do, and this is no different. If a stray signal (a dog bark, footsteps, a clock chime, etc.) makes it into our measurement, the digital model of the space is no longer viable. Similarly, if the measurement signal is not reproduced accurately, certain sonic frequencies may be over or under represented as a natural limitation of the equipment.

Knowing that we were recording in spaces we might never see again, I wanted to make sure we had an impulse response of as many of the venues as possible. Genelec was my first choice and contact. Their loudspeakers can be found in nearly every recording studio worldwide, and are the standard for the measuring impulse responses.

Genelec was kind enough to lend us two 1037C loudspeakers (pictured above), which contain three amplifiers- one each for low, medium, and high frequencies. Since a high frequency has completely different energy requirements to a low frequency, having a separate amplifier for each range makes for a very clean measurement. Additionally, these speakers have excellent projection to the sides. Many of our sessions are in very wide spaces, and making sure that we’re able to record the measurement from all angles creates a more natural impulse response, when we recreate the space later.

Here is a demo of the IRs we've been making. Below is the beginning of the familiar G-major prelude, completely dry with no room-sound whatsoever.

Here is the exact same audio recreated in La Iglesia San Martin in Fròmista, using an IR we sampled from the hall:

Toward the end of this trip, we will be releasing an application that will allow you to listen to the suites in any of the halls where we have taken IR measurements.

Happy Trails!

Clean Audio on the Trail: Merging's Horus System

Blog Post by Sound Engineer Kyle Pyke

I’m sitting in the Basilica de San Isidoro, where for 300 years the Kings of León were coronated and baptized. The walls ooze with history. Every sound fills the space with a strong resonance, making me wonder what else, over its thousand-year existence, has echoed off the stained glass and stone. We’ve all been inside beautiful churches and cathedrals and heard the booming effect of footsteps and whispers, but everyday for the past three weeks, my job has been to capture halls like San Isidoro filled with the sound of Dane Johansen performing Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello.

When you consider the stakes of this task, accuracy is paramount, and every recording must be immaculate. If a recording comes out less-than-brilliant, the nuance and subtleties of the performance within the space are lost. Even worse, if a recording comes out noisy due to subpar equipment, there are no second chances -- that performance is a lost opportunity. We have a finite amount of time in each venue to capture a series of beautiful, fleeting moments as best as we can, because they will never happen again.

In pre-production, we reached out to Merging Technologies, whose products are known for their pristine accuracy and clarity. We expressed the recording goals of the project, and the company was very receptive, offering to lend us one of their top-of-the-line Horus audio interfaces, as well as a copy of Pyramix audio recording software. On The Walk to Fisterra, these tools comprise the foundation on which the rest of our setup depends. Fundamentally, the interface is the device that translates sound as an electrical signal coming from a microphone into a digital file that can be recalled at any point. This means that more than any other device in the entire audio setup, the Horus has a direct impact on how well every performance will be interpreted and preserved. We have used these tools over the past three weeks and every performance has been captured with nuance and subtlety completely intact. While there is no way to perfectly recreate a concert or a recording session, this has allowed us to come as close to preserving those experiences as possible.

We have reached the halfway point in our journey, with three weeks and fewer than 20 venues left on our itinerary. At any point, I can pull up the audio from our earlier concerts, and I can listen from venue to venue, and hear the evolution this project has taken. One concert at a time, we are slowly building our experience along the Camino de Santiago, and preserving it in audio, for future listeners.

The Walk to Fisterra Announces Partnership with DPA

We are excited to announce a new partnership between The Walk to Fisterra and DPA, Danish Professional Audio, the leading  manufacturer of high-quality condenser microphone solutions for professional applications.

DPA has generously agreed to provide us with several of their top of the line microphones including the soon-to-be-released DPA 5100 surround microphone.

For location recording The Walk to Fisterra will be using five 4007A (omni) mics to record each hall in surround: a decca tree in front, and two spaced surrounds with variable distance and width to give a sense of depth from venue to venue. Because of the 4007A's flat response across the frequency spectrum, it is the perfect instrument for capturing the true sound of the hall in both musical recording, and impulse responses.

In front and close, The Walk to Fisterra will be using two 4011A (cardioid) mics to pick up mostly direct sound with a bit of air around the cello, and to capture as much "dry" sound as possible, we'll put a 4099 directly onto the instrument using the brilliantly designed and unobtrusive cello mount. The 4011A offers a colorless pickup yet still retains its musicality, while the 4099 is conveniently small and unobtrusive without losing any detail.

For ambient recordings and dialogue, DPA has generously agreed to provide The Walk to Fisterra with a 5100 surround mic, a 4017B-R shotgun mic, and several 4061 lav mics. Using these microphones on the road, in often less-than-ideal sonic conditions, it's important to make sure that nothing is lost due to noise, or lack of detail. The 4061 offers incredible audio quality, with very low self-noise in a rugged, easily mounted lavalier microphone. The 5100 comes in a very convenient package for recording surround on the road, being that it can be mounted from a camera or boom.

“DPA was our first choice for microphones. The reasons why are pretty simple: Not only does the DPA catalogue offer everything we could hope for and more in terms of microphone quality and detail, but the company itself embodies an open, adventurous approach to pushing the industry forward, which are intrinsic qualities of The Walk to Fisterra,” says Kyle Pyke, the project’s audio engineer.

“This project seeks to capture an experience, and to do so, we wanted microphones that would allow us to record the most accurate, detailed, and pristine audio in every aspect of the journey. Every piece of audio information will be highly nuanced -- from the Bach cello suites recorded in ancient Spanish churches, to the ambiences and dialogue along the trail, and we need microphones that were capable of picking up this level of subtlety,” Pyke says.

We will use these microphones to record Alaskan cellist Dane Johansen performing Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello in ancient churches along the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route from France through Spain. In May, Johansen will walk nearly 600 miles of this route, carrying his cello on his back. Johansen will be accompanied by a team of filmmakers and audio engineers who will produce a visually stunning documentary about the trip featuring his performances, called A Walk to Fisterra: A Cellist's Journey.

To learn more about DPA products, go to http://www.dpamicrophones.com/en.

To learn more about The Walk to Fisterra, go to www.walktofisterra.com

 

EDNA LANDAU, MUSIC INDUSTRY ICON WRITES ABOUT THE WALK TO FISTERRA

A heartfelt thanks to Edna Landau who has written an article about The Walk to Fisterra! Click here to visit her blog. Here is an excerpt from her article:

An Extraordinary Musical Pilgrimage

House concerts are a wonderful way to discover new talent. My friend Michael Reingold, who is the founder and Artistic Director of New York House Concerts, recently invited me to hear a young American cellist by the name of Dane Johansen in a concert consisting of two Bach solo suites and a solo suite by Gaspar Cassadó. I knew very little about Mr. Johansen upon arriving at the concert but quickly ascertained that Michael Reingold’s advance words of praise were well-deserved. What really captured my attention, apart from the very fine playing, was the following note in the program:

Dane’s Walk to Fisterra: In May 2014, Dane Johansen will travel to Spain and walk close to 600 miles – with his cello – along the Camino de Santiago and record Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello in ancient historic sites along the route. To learn more about Dane’s journey to Spain and to help him with a contribution, please visit WalkToFisterra.com.

As someone who rarely walks more than two miles a day (without a cello), you can imagine my fascination with the prospect of Dane’s journey. Was this a stunt designed to attract media attention? I introduced myself to him after the concert and had an opportunity to meet with him over coffee a few weeks later...

Read more!

THE WALK TO FISTERRA ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH MUSILIA

musilia-carbon-cello-and-violin-cases.png

We are excited to announce a partnership between The Walk to Fisterra and Musilia, a company based in Frankfurt, Germany specializing in the design and manufacturing of remarkably strong and light-weight carbon fiber instrument cases. New technologies and carbon forming processes allow Musilia to produce a line of carbon fiber cases that will withstand the rigors of travel and protect valuable instruments from damage in even the most stressful situations.

Dane will be carrying Musilia's lightest cello case, the S3 Cello Case, on his trek through Spain. Musilia designed this case specially for The Walk to Fisterra -- the outside of the case is white so it will take in the least amount of light during long sunny days on the trail, and it has a backpack system that attaches to the case so Dane can carry the gear he needs for the trip.

Musilia cases were designed by a professional cellist from a family of cellists, and have addressed all the familiar issues: weight, safety, nonstandard dimensions, ease of carrying, and even the irritating noise of rattling hardware. Musilia cases are engineered from scratch to provide unsurpassed protection for the instrument and a new level of comfort for the player. All this and more in one of the lightest cases available anywhere.

For more information on Musilia cases, go to http://www.musilia.com.

FOLLOW THE WALK TO FISTERRA BLOG

Introducing The Walk to Fisterra - A Cellist's Journey blog. Please visit this page often for frequent updates throughout our process. Keep up with our progress through pre-production, follow daily reports during our walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain and track our development of the film and recording in post-production. Everything will be shared via this blog so make this one of your favorite pages and return often!