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12 pianos in a meadow
Old 25th October 2022
  #1
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wildplum's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
12 pianos in a meadow

I did a very interesting event a few weeks ago when I was called on to record 12 pianos at San Francisco Botanical Garden’s Great Meadow in Golden Gate Park.

This was a special opening event for the annual Flower Piano celebration (https://sunsetpiano.com/flowerpiano). Composer Benjamin Gribble created the commissioned work (entitled 'Fall and Fly ') for twelve grand pianos. Stanford Symphony Orchestra Music Director Paul Phillips conducted the piano choir in this one-of-a-kind performance, in front of a sold out crowd of over a thousand. The event was produced by Dean Mermell of Sunset Piano, assisted by Mauro ffortissimo. Live sound engineer Todd Nelson nailed the difficult job of providing sound reinforcement for the event, while cinematographer Frazer Bradshaw filmed the event (including a drone camera) for an upcoming documentary.

Now the good stuff.
The pianos were arranged roughly in a semi-circle (see the accompanying photos). Golden Gate Park is notorious for late afternoon winds, so Todd Nelson suggested we mic the pianos by placing a dynamic mic (mostly SM57’s) on the each piano’s harp, setting it on a foam pad with the capsule extending over a sound hole. I agreed that this was a nice solution to the wind problem while also addressing video’s concern for no visible mic stands and provided some isolation between the pianos. The 12 mics then went to my transformer isolated splitter with feeds to FOH and recording. At my end, I used 12 Millennia Media pres feeding my RME UFX and Pro Tools. I wasn’t able to use a main stereo pair, again due to video concerns.
Because the recording is going to be used in a film, I can’t post a sample; but I will post a link once the film is released.

The photos.
01- the piano choir during setup; 02- and during pre-concert rehearsal; 03- my rig, just as the gates opened and the audience started to come in (to my left is part of the FOH setup); 04- from the rear of the semi-circle, before the concert stated; 05- from the side, before the concert (the tarp to the right is where FOH and Recording were located)
Attached Thumbnails
12 pianos in a meadow-fallandfly01.jpg   12 pianos in a meadow-fallandfly02.jpg   12 pianos in a meadow-fallandfly03.jpg   12 pianos in a meadow-fallandfly04.jpg   12 pianos in a meadow-fallandfly05.jpg  


Last edited by wildplum; 4 weeks ago at 08:24 PM.. Reason: left out the title of the composition
Old 25th October 2022
  #2
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🎧 5 years
Ugh!! - Just a few blocks from my house, and somehow I didn't hear about this!

Glad you had the opportunity to do something this unique.
Old 25th October 2022 | Show parent
  #3
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
how did you like the results, both of the live mix and the recording? and was the mic setup also/primarily used for financial reasons or speed of use?

p.s. any word on piano tuning?
Old 25th October 2022
  #4
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🎧 10 years
Is this piece going on tour?!!!!
Old 25th October 2022
  #5
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loujudson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
What a cool gig! Too bad you couldn't get DPA magnetic mics (or even the ATM350s that I use) but still, a dozen pianos! Is there a sample of the piece online? (Not the one you did, just the music?)

I can imagine a nice stereo spread for 12 instruments. I imagine tuning might have been an issue.
Old 26th October 2022
  #6
Co.
Gear Head
 
If you are interested in multiple pianos with unusual tuning, you might enjoy Georg Friedrich Haas' "Limited Approximations". Great piece.
If I remember correctly, there are 6 pianos, each tuned 1/12 tone appart. At times it sounds like a choir, or like electronic music. Never heard something like that before.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
Gear Nut
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wildplum ➡️
Because the recording is going to be used in a film, I can’t post a sample; but I will post a link once the film is released.
When can we get a film link? I would have loved to attend this event. It appears that all concerts are finished for the season---where can we learn about the next iteration?

PS I like your wind solution---very different than the standard "just put bigger and bigger foams or blimps on things and good luck hiding them"---I'll keep this in mind for outdoor recordings!
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #8
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wildplum's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
how did you like the results, both of the live mix and the recording? and was the mic setup also/primarily used for financial reasons or speed of use?

p.s. any word on piano tuning?
The production team responsible for this event has been working together for a number of years and has done many (somewhat) similar events. I was called in at the last minute. As the new kid on the block, I did not want to make any waves. The 57's were chosen primarily because of the wind (and because the live sound engineer was very familiar with them). They certainly served that purpose very well and the result was more than adequate. I did briefly suggest that I could replace the 57's with 12 dpa mics, but that would have cost more (and that was an issue); moreover there was the concern about the wind. Imagine if I had insisted on the dpa mics and the wind did become an issue (the 4006, for example, being much more sensitive than a 57). I decided not to push the issue.
Besides, the end result was fine and the recording will serve the purpose of the film very well.
I never left the recording position, so I can not comment directly on the live sound; but I did hear from several people in attendance and they all thought it sounded very good.

There was a tuner on site all day- starting very early in the morning; again, someone who has worked with this production team before and knew what to expect. He also touched up the tuning in the short break between the rehearsal and the concert.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #9
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wildplum's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton ➡️
Is this piece going on tour?!!!!
Not that I know of. This was intended as a one-off event. But maybe...
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #10
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wildplum's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tessitura ➡️
When can we get a film link? I would have loved to attend this event. It appears that all concerts are finished for the season---where can we learn about the next iteration?

PS I like your wind solution---very different than the standard "just put bigger and bigger foams or blimps on things and good luck hiding them"---I'll keep this in mind for outdoor recordings!
The filming was to be part of an upcoming documentary (which will cover more than just this concert). It has not been released (or even finished) as yet.
Watch https://sunsetpiano.com/ for more info (and I will post a link when it is released, which I do not expect until sometime next year). Note that there is an earlier video project on that web site called "Twelve Pianos", released in 2013. It, of course, does not include the Fall and Fly piece, but it is a very nice film to watch.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #11
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by wildplum ➡️
The production team responsible for this event has been working together for a number of years and has done many (somewhat) similar events. I was called in at the last minute. As the new kid on the block, I did not want to make any waves. The 57's were chosen primarily because of the wind (and because the live sound engineer was very familiar with them). They certainly served that purpose very well and the result was more than adequate. I did briefly suggest that I could replace the 57's with 12 dpa mics, but that would have cost more (and that was an issue); moreover there was the concern about the wind. Imagine if I had insisted on the dpa mics and the wind did become an issue (the 4006, for example, being much more sensitive than a 57). I decided not to push the issue.
Besides, the end result was fine and the recording will serve the purpose of the film very well.
I never left the recording position, so I can not comment directly on the live sound; but I did hear from several people in attendance and they all thought it sounded very good.

There was a tuner on site all day- starting very early in the morning; again, someone who has worked with this production team before and knew what to expect. He also touched up the tuning in the short break between the rehearsal and the concert.
thx for additional details! - a bit said that the crew went with sm-57's for cost reasons (and alleged benefits of which i'm not fully convinced) but it obviously was neither your decision nor did it stop you from getting decent results!

i don't envy the piano tuner btw...?! brave man!
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