“Sound engineering is art”: at the international symposium on sound recording of classical music, the nuances of spatial modeling of sound and the problems of specialized education were discussed
The second day of the intensive program of the International Symposium “The Recording Industry in Classical Music”, which took place in Moscow on October 22-23 as part of the Pure Sound Award, began with a series of workshops and discussions. The forum has become the largest industry event dedicated to the problems of the recording industry. Russian Musical Union hosted the Symposium.
The leading sound director of Mariinsky Theater Vladimir Ryabenko held a series of lectures and presentations on “Spatial modeling in sound recording” subject. The expert shared his experience with famous orchestras and the best world teams, and also spoke about the pitfalls and the technical intricacies of his work.
As Ryabenko explained, when evaluating the quality of a sound track, space becomes the main criterion: “The goal of a classical sound recording is to create an image of sound as beautiful and as close as possible to what the audience in the hall hears. Therefore, the most important for recording in stereo is space: left, right, deep, and so on. This is the most difficult thing you can create in sound engineering. In the second place is transparency – the criterion is not entirely obvious, I define it from the viewpoint of the sound “haze”. Next come the musical balance, that is, how much your sound matches the conductor’s idea, and the timbre, intonation. Finding harmony between these often mutually exclusive aspects is the task of the sound engineer.”
In a large discussion room, the communication platform “Professional Education In The Field Of Sound Engineering” was simultaneously held, dedicated to the issues of training qualified personnel in the recording industry. Maria Soboleva, Professor at Russian State University of Cinematography, Moscow State Conservatory, Contemporary Art Institute, Chairman of the Guild of sound engineers of the Russian Musical Union, was the moderator at the event. At the event spoke: Tamara Bril, Head of the Department of Musical Sound Engineering of Gnesins Russian Academy of Music; Sergei Oskolkov, Head of the Department of Musical Sound Engineering, St. Petersburg State Unitary Enterprise, Honored Artist of the Russian Federation, Professor; Alexey Chudinov, Head of the Department of Sound Engineering of Moscow State Institute of Culture; Semyon Litvin, Head of the Department of Sound Engineering of Contemporary Art Institute, Associate Professor at Russian State University of Cinematography, Associate Professor at Moscow Technical University of Communications and Informatics; Dmitriy Vdovin, senior lecturer of the Department of Sound Engineering at Samara State Institute of Culture; Svetlana Vasenina, senior lecturer of the Department of Music Sound Engineering at Nizhny Novgorod Conservatory; Victor Osadchev, Sound Engineer of the Moscow Philharmonic, composer, senior lecturer at the Department of Musical School Sound Engineers at Gnesins Russian Music Academy, Maxim Pilipin, Deputy Director of the studio complex at ” Firma Melodiya”.
At the beginning of the discussion, the moderator Maria Soboleva, Professor of Russian State University of Cinematography, Moscow State Conservatory, Contemporary Art Institute, Chairman of the Guild of sound engineers of the Russian Musical Union, proposed not only to identify acute problems, but also together with colleagues from the audience to discuss options for solving them, including within the framework of recently created Sound Directors Guild of the Russian Musical Union. The participants raised such important issues as professional training and practice, ways to attract students to specialized areas, equipment modernization and financial support of universities, proper organization of online education and distance learning.
The main theme of the discussion was that lack of practical training of students in professional schools. Maria Soboleva said: “Our profession does not involve theorizing, a very large percentage of practical training is needed here. In this regard, a very urgent question arises of technical support for universities and the availability of practical activities. Many schools do not have their own halls, they can’t arrange concerts and have no chance to engage their students in real events. This problem requires a comprehensive solution. We need to cooperate with our manufacturers so that they provide their equipment for use by universities, look for ways to motivate manufactures to arrange practical courses.”
Dmitry Vdovin, a senior lecturer at the Department of Sound Engineering at Samara State Institute of Culture, supported the colleague’s idea to develop cooperation with domestic manufacturers and suggested that the state could also encourage entrepreneurs to provide equipment to universities through tax and other benefits.
In turn, Svetlana Vasenina, a senior lecturer in the Department of Musical Sound Engineering at Nizhny Novgorod Conservatory, noted that accessibility of equipment is still not the main problem, it is much more difficult to organize a real working practice for students. “I can only speak about my experience, but we have a good technical situation in the Conservatory – there is modern equipment and a concert hall where students can study. In principle, even if there is no equipment, universities can afford to buy it, since it is bought for more than one year and is relatively inexpensive. The problem lies elsewhere. Now we have a very practice-oriented standard of teaching, which is good, but we are faced with the fact that employers are not willing to wait until students pass this very practice at the University. They also are not willing to train them on the spot on their equipment. It turns out a dilemma: we want to give practice, and employers want to get ready professionals,” complained Vasenina.
Tamara Bril, Head of the Department of Musical Sound Engineering of Gnesins Russian Academy of Music added “what an unfortunate student receives on graduation is a fiction. A diploma does not mean anything if he or she does not have the main thing – a profession. And the profession is obtained only from daily practice. Among all the many difficulties that we face, this is the main one.”
According to Professor Sergey Oskolkov, Head of Department of Musical Sound Engineering at St. Petersburg State Unitary Enterprise, Honored Artist of the Russian Federation, sound engineering is much like driving: you can pass an exam and get a license, but until you start driving, you won’t learn to drive. “The main thing in education, of course, is to develop a musical taste and culture. Equipment changes and becomes more complicated every week, it’s hard to keep up. Sound engineering is an art. But we live in market conditions, and this greatly affects the students’ outlook and focus, including in matters of practice,” said Oskolkov.
Part of the solution to the problem with practice lies on the shoulders of the students themselves, experts say. Viktor Osadchev, a sound engineer of the Moscow Philharmonic, composer, senior lecturer of the Department of Musical Sound Engineering at Gnesins Russian Academy of Music, explained that students should be able to do various things that will be in demand in the market: “When students come to us in the Philharmonic hall to practice or work, they sit down at the console, doing a mix as they are taught, all right. But the performer tells them – that’s not right. And they immediately panic, because they do not assume that there are other options for their work that they can offer in the market. “They need to develop these broader skills themselves, they should work on this, and not blindly believe what they were once told, to automatically distribute a stereo pair in the edges, and that’s all.”
Alexey Chudinov, Head of the Sound Engineering Department at the Moscow State Institute of Culture, suggested several options for solving the problem with practice: first, introduce a “dispersed practice” when one group of the students goes to practice, then another, and secondly, establish cooperation between universities to organize practice and exchange of students. Chudinov also raised the issue of online and distance education of sound engineers: “Of course, when organizing this form of education, many complications arise. But distance education is necessary, for example, for those who has long been in the profession, but who at some point needs an official document confirming that he or she is a professional sound engineer.”
In this regard, Dmitry Vdovin, senior lecturer at the Department of Sound Engineering at Samara State Institute of Culture, believes that it is necessary to separate the creative and technical components in the profession of sound engineer. “The technical part can and should be given in absentia or remotely, but as for the creative part, there is no substitute for live communication with the teacher. You can teach only in the process, give comments immediately when a person makes a mix at a concert, and not once a year. It is necessary to understand why a person makes a mistake – as a result of stress or for some other reason, and this can only be done while standing nearby,” Vdovin expressed his point of view.
Semyon Litvin, Head of the Department of Sound Engineering at Contemporary Art Institute, Associate Professor at Russian State University of Cinematography, Moscow Technical University of Communications and Informatics, joined the discussion and urged to take into account the general trends in education: “We participate in educational conferences and forums all over Russia, and the question is more often asked: do you have any distance education or online courses? It happens that people have both experience and practice, but there is a lack of fundamental education. They cannot come to study in another city. There is a great need for us to enter the markets of distance education, and this is a global trend. Today we talked a lot about our current problems, there are really a lot of them, but we also need to look to the future and focus on further development.”
Following the discussion, participants made a proposal to represent, on behalf of the Guild of sound engineers of the Russian Musical Union, the industry’s position for the upcoming law on practical training of Russian students. Maria Soboleva invited university representatives to create a contact group on the basis of the Guild to find solutions to common issues facing specialized educational institutions in the field of sound recording.