ANU School of Music’s
Senior Technical Officer is bound for France to learn music craft from someone who’s worked with Nirvana, the Pixies, and The Stooges.
Matt Barnes, who is participating in the week-long seminar Mix with the Masters
, will be studying under legendary recording engineer Steve Albini, known for his raw, authentic aesthetic.
“It’s going to be very much, here’s how to improve your process. Have a listen to this – hear how it sounds different when we move the microphone,” says Matt, who manages the School’s new state-of-the-art recording studio
“With plug-ins, software and products, you can just Google it. But being in the same space with someone when they can say, 'Can you hear the difference between this and that?' will help me understand a lot better than if I was listening to something online through headphones.”
The seminar will use the same model of the 16 track, 2-inch tape machine the School recently acquired for its recording studio, and Matt is looking forward to deepening his understanding of how to maintain and get the most out of it for students and studio clients.
“Historically, the tape machine would've been used instead of a computer,” Matt explains.
“Instead of recording into [the audio editing software] Pro Tools, you would go from the mixing console straight to the tape, and you could play the tape back through the mixing console to a separate tape machine again.
“Or you can use it in combination – straight from the microphones to the mixing console to the tape and then into a computer.”
Students at the School of Music who learn music production are already taught to use Pro Tools and recording techniques, getting hands-on with the same Neve recording console that’s used in some of the world’s most famous studios. The School’s tape machines help students see and understand from where recording has evolved.
The technology, too, is one many musicians still favour – for both the sound it produces and the kind of performance it inspires. Using a tape machine is expensive and it limits how much you can alter the recording afterwards, so it encourages audio engineers to really focus on capturing a performance extremely well, and the musician to truly deliver.
“Some people have written the tape machine off as obsolete technology,” says Matt.
“But for us, it very much forms part of recording excellence in that we can demonstrate the sound and the way it behaves. I think our students are going to be a better quality student by having access to tape technology.”
Matt’s attendance of Mix with the Masters is being supported by funding from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, as well as artsACT.