Summer/Fall 2006: click here for news
Current/Recent Recording Projects:
It’s been a while since I updated the news page, so I’ll keep it to the highlights:
In the last several months film composer Mark Suozzo and I completed scoring sessions for “Wanderlust”, a new road movie documentary by the talented husband and wife writer/director/editor team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Becker-Berman, most notable for their Oscar Nomination for Best Adapted Screenp;lay of “American Splendor”, starring Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis, which we were also fortunate enough to do the score for. Speaking of Hope, we hope to be getting underway soon on their next project, “The Nanny Diaries” again starring Mr. Giamatti, along with Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney and Alicia Keys.
Mark and I also completed two other documentaries recently, “Toots”, about the life of legendary restauranteur Toots Shor, and “Test Tube Babies” which deals with the controversy surrounding the subject back in the 60’s.
Singer Songwriter Marc Cohn was here in June, working on the first new solo album he’s released in many years. Much of it was...I’m not sure if it’s the right word here, but I’ll use it anyway...”inspired” by his recent and well publicized near-death experience, as he was shot in the head in a bizarre but abortive carjacking attempt in Denver. Marc is, amazingly, absolutely fine, at least physically (there’s not a trace of it visible, even close up), but quite understandably, it’s not exactly the same for him on the inside. No one would wish such a thing to happen to anyone, especially not a kind soul like Marc, but the good news is that it’s brought out some of the most intriguing music he’s ever written. Look for it to be released sometime late this year.
Long time favorites The Western Wind are back, mixing a live follow up to their “Taste Of Eternity” album we recorded several years ago. We recorded this one in a beautiful synagogue in Brooklyn, and the results are going to be really special. See http://westernwind.org for details on this and the many other projects we’ve done over the years we’ve worked together.
Joel Diamond was here over the summer to start a feature film project we hope to be completing soon called “Noise”, starring Bridget Moynihan (“I Robot”), and directed by Henry Bean. In addition to composing the score, Joel will actually be acting in this one! That alone will make it a must see for me and all of Joel’s and my mutual friends. The last film Joel and I worked on, “Milarepa”, about the legendary Tibetan mystic, was released recently, and it features some extraordinary music, including one cue that ran upwards of ten minutes, and included almost every category of instrument, sound, effect and what-have-you there is. It was great fun to work on, and Joel, as usual, was his talented, quirky, affectionate, inimitable self. The subject matter was also of particular interest to me since I have been fascinated by things mystical for quite some time now...
Actor Elliott Gould was in to record a series of original poems to be set to music. It’s due to be completed soon.
Up and coming singer/songwriter Sherri Miller recorded five original songs with producer/guitarist Marc Shulman, and promptly received an extraordinary rave review from Bob Leoni, President of the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame. She deserved it. She’s one very talented new artist...
Speaking of Marc, and on a more personal note, he and I have reunited with the original rhythm section of “The Brass Blues Band”, the group that we had together way back in high school. Bob Elliott (vocals, blues harp), Andy Kreeger (bass) and I (drums) now call ourselves “The Marc Shulman Blues Band”, and have performed recently at CBGB, The Bitter End, The Knitting Factory and other NYC clubs. We’re having an absolute blast, and plan to continue doing so indefinitely. Anyone interested in attending our gigs should drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll put you on an e-mailing list to let you know when we play.
After years of wishing I had a set of drums I could play any time without risking getting evicted, I invested in a Yamaha DTXpressIII electronic set. It’s got all the parts of a real kit in trigger pad form, and has an amazing assortment of sounds sampled from real Yamaha drums. It’s not the real thing, but it’s darn close.
I took a plunge and bought a Carter single neck pedal steel guitar several months ago (with 3 pedals and 4 knee bars) after careful research, reasoning to myself that, no, it actually isn’t rocket science. I’ve since found out that I was right about that, but on the other hand, there are things besides rocket science that have steep learning curves, and yes, pedal steel is one of them. The preceding is code for: “I haven’t been spending as much time learning it as I should”. But you knew that...
Pro Tools has been upgraded to version 7.1, along with the required operating system and plug-in updates. It was much less painful a transition than I feared, and I’m loving the new features. Digital Performer has likewise been updated to v5, and...ditto...what I said above. Logic is now current too, with version 7.2. Auto-Tune is now up to v4, which adds some very nice improvements.
Video gear has seen some substantial additions too. Final Cut Pro has been upgraded to v5, now called “Final Cut Studio”, and includes DVD Studio Pro and Soundtrack Pro (it also includes Motion 2, but it will require a video card upgrade to run, and I might wait until I upgrade the whole Mac instead). I’ve also acquired a very nice set of lighting gear for video or still shoots. With the combined audio and vastly expanded video capabilities, I can now do complete multimedia productions from start to finish. Even more advanced video gear will be added soon. Details available on request...
The big news is the launch of this site!
Welcome! You’re looking at the new website for Ted Spencer Recording, launched for the first time in Spring ‘05. It was entirely designed, photographed and written by Ted himself.
Current/Recent Recording Projects:
Composer Mark Suozzo, his wonderful group of musicians and I completed the film score for “The Notorious Bettie Page”, directed by Mary Harron (“American Psycho”) in February (photo here). It will be released later this year by FineLine Pictures. Mark did his usual great job, in a 40’s Jazz/Big Band style not altogether unlike his score for the Academy Award nominated feature “American Splendor”, Starring Paul Giamatti, that we did last year. We recorded the (up to) 26 piece orchestra sessions at Clinton’s Studio A (http://clintonrecording.com/studios.html) and at Right Track’s great (and huge) new scoring stage (http://righttrackrecording.com/studios/orchestral.html#). We used my new iBook G4 laptop and MOTU 828MkII for the first time, to play Mark’s midi reference tracks and the DV movie reels (outputted via Firewire to the video monitors), and as a time code generator for the studios’ Pro Tools rigs to slave to. It ended up working extremely well. All the mixing was done back here at TSR in Pro Tools with the movie up on the LCD projector. We expect a number of other interesting new feature and documentary projects to start this year.
Andrew Sterman brought in a cool new jazz album for mixing and mastering featuring himself and pianist Tony Gould. It was recorded back in Tony’s town, Sydney Australia (a place I’ve never been to but would love to visit some day). The record’s a very accessible, lovely woodwind/piano duo set that I think jazz fans will love: http://www.andrewsterman.com
Andrew also played woodwinds (along with Anne, his wife) on Peter Flint’s great new contemporary classical record that we tracked recently at Sear Sound’s Studio C. It’s a very eclectic, unique project that was great fun to work on. No small part of that was Walter Sear’s wonderful mic collection, custom Avalon-based cconsole...and the inimitable Walter himself. He’s A True Beliver In Great Sound. There just aren’t enough guys like him to go around: http://members.aol.com/searsound/studioc.html We’ll do the editing, overdubbing and mixing here at TSR
Producer Emily Bindiger brought in Julie Gold’s new album for mastering (Julie wrote Bette Midler’s hit “From A Distance”, among other great songs). It’s called “The Girl I Found” and it’s vintage Julie - clever, warm and insightful: http://www.gadflyrecords.com/products/290.htm Emily also sang on another great album I mastered for The Accidentals, a phenomenal NYC a cappella group. Producer/vocalist Margaret Dorn oversaw the sessions and was great to work with as always: http://www.theaccidentals.com/index.html
Speaking of a cappella groups, The Western Wind Vocal Ensemble began recording their follow up to “A Taste Of Eternity Part I” recently, with mixing to begin soon. We recorded it live at a lovely old synagogue in Brooklyn. I’m excited about the sound we captured and am eagerly looking forward to the mix. Leonard Nimoy will probably reprise his role as narrator, as he did on “Taste” part I. Another Western Wind Project, featuring original songs by composer Robert Dennis is nearly complete. http://westernwind.org
And don’t miss William Galison and Madeleine Peyroux’s wonderfully eclectic pop/jazz collaboration “Got You On My Mind” available at Tower Records, Barnes And Noble, and at http://williamgalison.com Mixing, mastering and a good deal of the recording were done here at TSR.
A number of exciting new rock, pop, jazz and “legit” projects are in development stages right now, so stay tuned. And JD Duvall’s fantastic rock/pop record, “Blood Red Moon”, mixed and mastered here (along with various overdubs) and completed late last year, should finally hit the stores soon. This one is awesome...
New Computer Hardware and Software:
Just a few weeks ago a brand new Pro Tools HD2 Accel system with Pro Tools v6.9 software was installed in the Dual 1 GHz G4. A Digidesign HD 192 interface with 8 additional hardware outputs (which when combined with the other Pro Tools interfaces yields a system total of 24 in and 32 out at 48 KHz and lower rates) was also added. Included were a number of Digidesign’s very generous plug-in bundles. Notable among them are Smack!, Digi’s great new compressor, which works especially well on mix buss or mastering applications, the very authentic sounding Bomb Factory Pultec EQ bundle, AmpliTube (guitar amp emulator), Line 6’s AmpFarm3 and many, many others. Bundled in too were Reason Adapted and Ableton’s Live. Altiverb was also upgraded to v5 at around the same time, which adds huge improvements in reverb editing power, DSP conservation and many other cool features. The Waves Platinum Bundle is now officially owned (previously it was a time-limited review copy, loaned to me for my Pro Audio Review magazine articles), and is now authorized on an iLok key so it can travel with me to other studios. See my Waves Platinum Bundle reviews at: http://www.proaudioreview.com/par/november04/Waves.shtml (part I), and: http://www.proaudioreview.com/par/january05/Waves_Platinum_Bundle_for.shtml (part II).
Speaking of traveling, an iBook G4 1.33 MHz laptop was acquired early this year along with a Mark Of The Unicorn 828 MKII Firewire audio interface. The rig is fitted with Digital Performer, Waves Platinum, Altiverb, Toast, Jam, Final Cut Pro (and much more), and is primarily intended for remote recording work (no more lugging the Adats - yay!). It also can serve as a Firewire video playback/reference audio master for large orchestral sessions (ProTools slaves to time code from the iBook) in outside studios, mainly for film scoring applications. Gifted composer (and great friend) Mark Suozzo (American Splendor, Barcelona, many others) and I used it with great success this way recently at Right Track’s A509 Scoring Stage (this studio has to be seen to be believed- check out: http://righttrackrecording.com/studios/orchestral.html# for more about it) for our upcoming feature film project “The Notorious Bettie Page” (see project news section above).
Lastly, I finally dragged myself kicking and screaming into the iPod era (I’m sorry friends, but I’m afraid I’ll never like the way MP3’s sound), and sure, the downloaded 128KHz iTunes stuff still sounds like crap (oh well), but I’ve found the highest (384 KHz) rates available for direct CD imports to be quite acceptable. I’ve already transferred much of my collection into it, and enjoy the convenience and mobility it offers, especially when hooked into the car system via a Sony CPA9C cassette adapter. Unfortunately though, while the “earbud” headphones do look cool, like just about everything in the land of iPod, they have lousy bass response. Anyway, I decided to go whole-hog on the iPod itself and got the 60GB color one, mainly so I could use it as a portable backup hard drive for sessions I do at other studios. Peter Flint’s project (see project news) was its first test. Worked like a charm. I also popped for a neat little iPod speaker set made by Logic3 called the iStation. It was both the cheapest and best sounding of the iPod speaker thingies I saw (at J&R Computers in Manhattan). The ‘Pod just plugs right into the middle of it like a cork. It has two mid/tweeters and a “subwoofer” (ha!) behind, and neatly folds up to about the size of a hardcover book. It sounds pretty good, considering, and has a lot of other cool features and included accessories. Highly recommended. Lastly I added a Griffin “iTalk” microphone so I can use it as a quick and dirty voice or song-idea recorder. It’s great.
By the way...I think, at this point, we should all just go on ahead and add lower case “i”s in front of our names. That would make me “iTed”. Nice to meet you. What’s your iName?
Late last year, while looking into renting a huge mic snake for a remote recording job, I happened upon a listing in Dreamhire’s website (in case you don’t know, Dreamhire is a great audio equipment rental company) offering a Sanken CU-41 microphone for sale. I’d only used these mics at Kampo Studios downtown, and was always very impressed with them (they’re not that commonly found, either in studios or for sale). After testing them out in my studio I jumped at the chance to buy two of them, and have been flipping over them ever since. They’re great for lots of things including vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, and especially outstanding on some particularly tricky sources like loud, bright trumpets. Unlike any other mic made, they have coaxial capsules; one for high frequencies and one for lows. Each capsule is optimized for that range, and a crossover network like a speaker’s is used to combine the two. The result is extremely flat response, low proximity effect, very high signal handling capability (thus the good results on trumpet) and very high phase coherence, which makes them particularly excellent as a stereo pair. I dig ‘em big time.
I’ve been on a bit of a guitar buying binge recently! The latest, in May, is a Huss & Dalton CM Custom Maple steel string acoustic. It’s got a gorgeous sunburst over the flamed Maple back, sides and neck and Engleman Spruce top, and beautiful curly Maple binding. Huss & Dalton is still a fairly small “boutique” builder (about 500 instruments a year), based in Virginia, but is quickly getting recognized as a truly great guitar maker. They have a number of unique design features, but best of all is the sound and playability of their instruments. This is one amazing guitar. Special thanks to Gordon at Rudy’s Music in NYC for his endless patience with my repeated visits to play the guitar before I decided I had to own it.
In April, I finally fulfilled a long-time dream of owning a Gretsch hollow body electric guitar. My new baby’s a “Country Classic” 1962 reissue, which is a pretty darn exact recreation of the “Country Gentleman” model that Chet Atkins endorsed Back In The Day, and that George Harrison made such unforgettable sounds on in the early years of The Beatles. It sounds simply amazing - it has that exact, rockin’ (I keep wanting to say “barking”) rhythm guitar tone that is so distinctive on Beatles’ songs like “I Wanna Hold You Hand”. It’s making me very happy these days.
On the same day I bought the Gretsch, I got blindsided and ultimately seduced by a remarkable acoustic guitar I discovered at Rudy’s. It’s a Blueridge, a Chinese built guitar that is a very close copy of a Martin 000-18. Evidently, an American guitar manufacturing expert, formerly with Guild if I remember correctly, set up production facilities in China, where he sends preselected tonewoods from the US to build guitars from. He very meticulously trained the Chinese workers to build the instruments to his exact, vintage Martin-like specifications, including such details as scalloped, forward X bracing. The result, at least in the case of the one I bought, is astonishing. I think it’s one of the best sounding 000’s I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a lot of them, many of which cost several multiples of the $600 I paid for this one. The construction quality details are also uniformly excellent. Acoustic guitar lovers take note!
To go along with the Gretsch I decided to pick up a tiny little practice amp - a Roland “MicroCube”. What a hoot! It emulates several different amps including a Fender Twin, a Vox and a Marshall stack among others (pretty respectably, considering its size), runs on 6 AA batteries (yikes!) or AC, has a whole bunch of effects (reverb, chorus, tremolo etc.), a jack for patching in another device (can we say iPod?), and is about the size of a six-pack of Corona. I downloaded some karaoke tracks of old faves on Napster (yes, I paid for them) and I’ve been using it with the Gretsch and the Strat and the iPod as a little practice rig. I’m having a blast reawakening my near-dormant lead guitar chops (such as they ever were) after years of letting them go due to not having a little (low volume) setup like this. It’s big dirty fun. Ok...ok...little dirty fun... I haven’t tried using it for recording yet though. Who knows - with the right miking it might actually sound great.