Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Video: Laments or The Maiden and the Nightingale

The Maiden and the Nightingale (Quejas ó la Maja y el Ruiseñor) is the fourth piece in Enrique Granados' Goyescas suite for piano. It's not really fair to say that one piece of music is "better" than another, but I think it's probably safe to say that Goyescas is the best music ever written by anybody.

I like to think of Maiden as a battle between a young maiden who is determined to be dark and dramatic and a little bird intent on pulling her out of her funk. You can hear the bird fluttering in and out through most of the piece. But you'll have to listen through to the end to find out who wins.

Granados: Laments or The Maiden and the Nightingale from Ken Barker on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Video: Pathétique Sonata, 2nd Movement

This is the second movement (Adagio Cantabile) of Ludwig van Beethoven's Pathétique Sonata (Sonata No. 8). It's another piece my mother used to play that has always stuck with me. I decided to learn it because it's a (relatively) simple way to add entertainment to the repertoire. Many people recognize and love the piece. Even if you've never heard it, it's recognizable because it's been "quoted" a lot in popular music.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've made some changes to my recording setup. Better lighting makes the video a little clearer. Better mic pres and converters make the audio much better, and I'm recording in stereo. But the biggest improvement is probably due to using a different video hosting service. YouTube is great for quantity and variety, but the video and audio quality are terrible. Google Video was supposed to be better, allowing higher resolution and stereo audio. But after uploading the video I found it was no better than YouTube. I finally settled on Vimeo. I love this site. They actually play the video at the quality of the uploaded file! Brilliant!

So here goes... let's hope the embedding works properly.

Beethoven Pathétique Sonata (2nd Movement) from Ken Barker on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Art Facts Video -- Take 2

I was pretty disappointed with my first attempts at piano video. The audio quality was nasty, the video was iffy, and of course, YouTube does its best to convert mediocre to horrible. So I'm trying again, attempting improvements on all three fronts. Johanne bought me new mic pres and converters for Christmas, so the audio should be much better. I picked up a thousand watts of lighting to improve the video. And I'm going to try streaming off of Google Video instead of YouTube, so I can at least have stereo audio in the video.

I'll post the first new video as soon as Google has finished processing it. In the meanwhile, here's a picture of my recording setup. In the photo, my new lights, my Essex with two AKG mics on it, and on the half-wall, left-to-right: hygrometer, metronome, headphones, Lexicon Omega (mic pres and converters), trackball, keyboard, monitor. Of course, Johanne's paintings hang off the picture rail, with a couple of gaps for the recently sold.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

2x: Finding Twice the Usual (P.S.)

Just noticed that Twice the Usual is also available on Amazon.com. You can download the whole album or individual songs. These are mp3 versions, so the sound quality won't be as good as if you buy the physical CD from Thom's website. But it's still pretty cool to see the album on Amazon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

2x: Finding Twice the Usual

What would prompt me to blog about 2x after almost a full year since the last post?

Two things.

First, after the album was manufactured/released, I took down the unmastered recordings linked from this blog. That's because Thom is trying to recoup some of the costs of production (by selling the album instead of giving it away free). It's also because the recordings were unmastered, and considerably inferior to the finished product. But I still get some clicks on those audio links, so I thought I'd make the album a little easier to find. The links now take you to the 404 page at art-facts.com, which itself now has a link to Thom's website, where you can buy the album.

Second, I never blogged about the mastering session. It's definitely blogworthy (a low bar, admittedly), but not today. Short version: I took the recordings to Nick Landis at Terra Nova Mastering. Terra Nova is one of the premier mastering houses anywhere, and Nick has ears the size of satellite dishes. Going to him was kind of like asking Picasso to put some finishing touches on your pencil doodles: he'll probably make some great improvements, but bring a mop and bucket for your self-esteem.

To be continued....