Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The gerantang recording becomes a saga

After sinking a couple hundred US dollars on CD production and mailing materials, I dragged my goodies through Singapore airport security. My bold new acquaintance, writer Nick Krieger, followed along on the detour to Aneka Records in Tabanan and helped me up the trail to the little house in the orchard. And he witnessed the musicians' collective dissatisfaction with the quality of the products.

Let's have a listen (embedded for a limited time below): The Aneka sample is a couple clips from what they made, the Qian one is from my collection.

[EDIT 7/29/12: you can sample these contrasting qualities directly on our Bandcamp page; the unmastered is the final track]

I would expect a professional recording to show the crispness of kendang drums, vibrato of suling flute, hum of bass undurundur, all through distinct layers of polos and sangsi pemade (alto) and kantil (soprano) gerantang. Indeed, the playback at sound check sounded like a good balance. But then they added a dollop of reverb that smeared much of the precision and nuance of fine performance and tuning.

Crisp, clear, unadulterated 
As I await the sponsor's followup, I continue to assemble my collection of field recordings and my teacher looks into options for an unpaid recording session with just me and the big group. I do have enough small-group recordings to make a CD, so you early birds will surely get some treats in the mail. Although they are not laboratory-clean studio recordings, they bring the power of music in its social context. I'll keep y'all posted.

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