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Education – why it’s failed, where the future is, and why there’s ADHD

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert.
Brilliant! A must see by all:

 

Live recording of DAO in the Beijing Forbidden City Hall

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Last Sunday, June 12th, I had a took on a job to do a live recording of a unique and diverse performance in the Beijing Forbidden City Concert Hall for conductor Nick Smith of the Peking Sinfonietta and International Festival Choir, with guests on Percussion Claviers de Lyon from France.

Forbidden City Music Hall
Not only was the line up of performers unique, but the material itself, with Creation by Gérard Lecointe Rapsodie Espagnole by Maurice Ravel, and the world-premiere of a new specially-commissioned work – DAO – from renowned Chinese composer He Shaoying. Described by the composer as a musical manifestation of Chinese philosophical thought, the work included many special effects to realize his vision

The gamut of instruments was impressive and a bit of a challenge to record live accurately given the dynamics of the performance which ranged from a literal whisper of the choir to thunder of massive bass drum and gongs. There was quite a range of tuned percussion, xylophone, marimba, bells, vocals, grand piano, and other instruments I didn’t recognize. Not only were the instruments diverse, but how they were played in extended manner, striking piano strings with hand, and bowing the marimba rather than playing with the mallet.
I guess when musically representing the ‘creation of the universe according to DAO’ then these techniques are necessary.
I used a simple stereo mic setup in the front row, recording through a firewire interface into my Macbook Pro laptop:

Forbidden City Music Hall Mic setup with first movement, only 4 performers

Forbidden City Music Hall Mic setup for first movement, only 4 performers

It was Presented by China International Culture Exchange Center and China International Cultural and Arts Company.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to take a photo with the full orchestra, but from my seat I couldn’t see it all.

I don’t imagine the recording will be released to the public, but if you come by the studio sometime you can have a listen, it’s quite something.

 

New Beijing music sound studio now completed!

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

I blogged recently about the construction of a new studio in Beijing after an electrical fire destroyed the building my first studio here was in.
I didn’t think it would take so long to get it done properly as I hired the best I could find to do it. But the standards I aspire to for things just aren’t commonly understood in China, so not only have I had to supervise and hand hold at every step of the way, I had to get the contractors to redo the entrance door to the studio to get the soundproofing required (the nice door in the construction photos in the blog link above had to go…).
Now I am quite pleased with the result, and although I am still working out a few minor details and wiring up some of the non essential analog outboard gear, the studio is finally ready and I’ve been doing a lot of work in it to catch up, and get used to it, including recording with Miss Melody, and Elika Mahony who blogged about the experience in the new studio.

Here’s a photo of the control room:

New Beijing sound music Studio control room

Here’s the recording booth. It’s professionally built to completely isolated from outside sound, and is large enough to fit a full live band:

New Beijing sound music studio recording booth

recording booth with new Neumann mic

Since the studio is in a renovated traditional Chinese courtyard building, I was determined to keep the feeling that was originally there, which was quite a challenge acoustically as there is a lot of glass including a glass roof! But whatever wasn’t perfected in design, I was able to compensate for with sophisticated software that corrects anomalies and imperfections in the room for my monitors.
This has allowed me to create what I feel is one of the most unique studios in China if not the world!
I felt my previous studio in Beijing was quite impressive, but everyone who has visited both say this new one is a vast improvement, so I am very pleased. Take a look:

new Beijing courtyard sound studio entrance

new Beijing courtyard sound studio entrance


new Beijing sound studio entance

new Beijing sound studio before construction

studio building courtyard before construction

new Beijing sound studio rear

new studio rear after construction

new Beijing sound studio recording boothjarome in the new studio mixing room

 

I’m not one to boast about equipment I use, but I will at least say that all the equipment has been imported into China for the best possible quality, no fakes or imitations! Just the real thing, Apple, Neve, JoeMeek, Neumann, AKG, Sennheiser, RME, Mackie, Alesis, Tannoy with Mogami cabling and Neutrik connectors all the way! This is driven by Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic with Waves, Audio Ease, Spectrasonics, Native Instruments, East West software to name a few.
Many of these are recent additions to my existing range of classic analog and cutting edge digital equipment, making this new studio in Beijing the most powerful, highest quality studio I’ve had in my 20 years as a music producer and audio engineer.

I’ve put a huge amount of time, trouble and great expense to make this one of the best, top quality music and sound design studios in Beijing.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of many wonderful friends and clients in China, you know who you are, Thank you so much!

I am getting very booked in advance, so please contact me now if you want to work on a project.
I’ll be posting a blog about an open house this month very soon.

I hope you get to visit the studio in the near future! Please contact me for more info.

 

New Beijing sound studio nearing completion

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Since I had to abandon my first studio in Beijing due to the building being damaged from electrical fire, I’ve had to build a new studio.
I’ve chosen the location where I originally planned to set up the studio when I first decided to open one in Beijing, Real Life at Hegezhuang village.
It’s an amazing idea that China would do well to support more. They are taking traditional Chinese courtyard homes and modernizing them by renovating the inside. I’ve chosen to add a soundproofed booth and control room to the courtyard area of mine and luckily have found a great acoustic design company in Beijing to help me do it. Thanks Wayne from Snipersounds for the referral.

This studio will be unlike any I’ve ever heard of. It will have a traditional yet modern feel, with lots of light, and glass skylight which would usually be impossible acoustically, but I’m determined to break new ground and do away with the studio in a box idea. This is possible due to the latest in acoustic materials,  software and hardware to tune the control room (no more cheezy egg carton foam!). Maybe I’ll elaborate more in future once it’s all done.
The recording room is a double walled room within a room of course to ensure quiet but comfortable recording of even a full live band.
You can get more of a sense of the space and cool vibe this place has going on from these photos:

 

Studio entrance with courtyard skylight visible

Studio entrance with courtyard skylight visible

Recording room entrance (second sound proof door is missing)

Recording room entrance (second sound proof door is missing)

View of the control room from the adjacent room

View of the control room from the adjacent room

 

first wall goes up inside the recording room

Front door looking into open control room door

Front door looking into open control room door

The place will also have a kitchen and lounge, and a few bedrooms so we can live there and I won’t have to commute. There’s even a little guest room if you want to come visit.

I’ve never built a studio to this level before, but thanks to affordability of Chinese labor and materials, here, it’s possible.
Thanks to the many people assisting me to make it all happen, without them and a few miracles, it would never have been possible.
A few more weeks to go and I think we’ll have one of the coolest sound studios in Beijing!

New Song Production: ‘Eternal Beloved’

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

For over 2 years now, I’ve been working on a song ‘Eternal Beloved’ with talented singer and composer Elika Mahony as part of her latest album of original new age pop music.

Eternal Beloved is a mystical and exotic journey about the arduous eternal quest for one’s true beloved. The lyrics were inspired by the writings of Baha’u’llah, and in fact some of them were first explored during a retreat at Bosch Baha’i center in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California.

Elika created the perfect melody, uniquely inspired for the music I composed. Her sweet and exquisite voice, and Navid Goldrick’s  beautiful Oud performance in the song makes it a song I am very proud, and feel it was well worth all our patient efforts. I have no doubt it will be something I look back on as one of our great achievements.

You can hear it on Elika Mahony’s blog post about the song here:

It has been a long journey to complete this song as there have been several challenges in getting it created. Firstly, it is a very different style than what Elika is used to composing and singing, so it took some getting used to. The combination of ancient and modern, blues drums, Indian percussion and Middle Eastern Oud is no small feat to pull off effectively. Throw into that mix my relocating the studio to Beijing, and then a fire that forced me out of home and studio during mixing of the song, and productivity tends to become severely impeded. In fact, the fire could have prevented the song from ever being heard!
That makes it very precious.
I’m very pleased with how well the mix of the song came out considering I couldn’t complete it in a proper studio… Thanks to the wonders of technology, namely my ARC system!

I look forward to hearing what you think.
Eternal Beloved is available for download on iTunes here.

 

Fire throws our lives into chaos

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

I haven’t written a blog for some time as our lives were thrown into chaos early December when an electrical fire forced us out of our home. Then numerous hacker attacks crippled my website making it hard to post much.

Things have been rough for us in China since we decided to come here. But dealing with an electrical fire like this because of the lousy quality of workmanship here would normally be too much to bear.
Luckily I didn’t lose any of my work, and a lot of the studio equipment was ok, and so was little Evan & all of us, so that made it possible to rebuild our lives.

My Macbook Pro didn't survive

My Macbook Pro computer didn't survive...

But what really gave us the will to go on and feel any interest in being in China was the kindness and assistance of the Chinese people. They are quite different than the more individualistic people in the west. And the Baha’is here really went out of their way to assist us try and rebuild our lives. It was one of the most touching things we’ve experienced.
Thanks so much to all of you, to my mom, who sent Evan a sleeper that arrived the day of the fire so he had something to sleep in, and most of all to the Mahony family, without whom we would be truly destitute.

We are now in the process of getting a new place to live and setting up and building a new studio.

I could  share a lot more, but this experience and everything else that has gone on here has made me weary, and for legal reasons,  I will say no more except that things could have been worse.

baby Evan’s first birthday!

Monday, December 6th, 2010

We’ve been having such an amazing time raising dear Evan, he is such a precious, smart, friendly and happy boy!
We sure are lucky. So his first birthday was a great cause for celebration!
On November 30th, we celebrated 12 months old, 6 months since he joined our family.
Here are some photos from the party and special day we spent with him:

.
Missing from these photos – His first taste of ice cream! Blueberry Soy flavor.

Our work featured in Dawn Breakers film festival

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

The music video I shot and produced for Elika Mahony’s song ‘Where There Is Love’ was chosen as official selection for the Dawn Breakers International film festival happening this weekend in San Diego California.

You can read more about the video and song I produced and mixed on Elika’s blog.

You can watch it on Youtube here, or on Youku.com in China below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN6dal3mwK8

For viewers in China:

Chinese potato chip flavors

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I’ve haven’t been able to blog much lately, even though I’ve never actually had so much to blog about…
That’s because even the simplest things seem to take so long in China and eat up a lot of your time.

Every day here in Beijing I see something that would blow your mind and often I take photos.
Wish I could share it all with you…

All I can leave you with for now is this – Lay’s certainly know how to market their products to a different culture!
One of many very bizarre potato chip flavors in Beijing, China:

Lays 'Intense and Stimulating' hot and sour fish soup potato chips

Crazy Chinese Signs

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff in China, but this is the best one so far:

Beijing Meat Patty Explode sign, Beijing China

Would you eat at this restaurant?