Paul Eachus

The new recording facility at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music combines its role as a music studio with that of performance venue. A desire to rehearse Oberlin’s large jazz ensemble inspired the size of the room – once the dimensions of the space had been determined, acoustic consultants were able to turn the space into a recording facility for all kinds of music, taking sound isolation and acoustic treatments into consideration. According to Director of Audio Services, Paul Eachus, Oberlin’s chief recording engineer, the Clonick Studio ‘is unique to this region; there just isn’t anything like it being built right now’.

‘The room was designed for surround sound – an immersive musical experience in which the music is captured with more depth,’ says Michael Lynn, Associate Dean of the Conservatory, who served as project liaison. ‘Oberlin wanted to offer students the experience of working within a real recording studio, to give them a shot at making a spectacular recording. The studio will afford our students free and direct access to high-level excellence in recording new music, old music, and everything in between.’

The centerpiece of the Joseph R Clonick Studio control room is the Rupert Neve Designs (RND) 5088 console, a 24-track, discrete analogue mixer fitted with Tonelux Shadowmix fader automation. ‘The RND 5088 is distinguished by its neutrality and high headroom, both of which are critical in our jazz and classical applications,’ says acoustic consultant Dana Kirkegaard, of Illinois-based Kirkegaard Acoustic Design. ‘We selected the RND after carefully auditioning desks in Los Angeles; the great sound and solid feel of the console was critical in our decision.’

In supporting roles is a wealth of equipment from the likes of Design; iZ Technology Radar; JL Audio; Mogami; Richard Schram and Parasound; Maurice Patist and PMC; Gus Skinas and DSD; and Sterling Modular Systems.

A Pennsylvania-based company that designs and produces furniture for the audio recording and broadcast industries, Sterling Modular Systems built the custom console that houses the RND 5088.

‘The selection of Sterling to build the custom console was based upon our desire for an array of analogue outboard equipment within easy reach,’ says Kirkegaard. ‘Sterling offers a standard console for the RND 5088 and matching patchbays that are quite handsome and well built, and with excellent acoustic properties. We started with that design and modified the patchbays to serve as side racks; we then wrapped the console around the operator to facilitate access to the equipment. One of the features that puts the console design over the top is an automated monitor stand that raises and lowers a pair of Apple cinema displays at the touch of a button.’

The Clonick Studio adds its weight to the resurgence of big-room recording facilities (already observed by Fast-and-Wide) that have bugun to appear around the world. ‘I think that what Oberlin is doing to support the arts is extraordinary,’ says Kirkegaard. ‘Studios have been closing all over the place for five-to-ten years, and here we are building a studio. That’s a huge credit to the conservatory and their leadership. A place like Oberlin is in a unique position to build a studio at the highest level and support these artists.’

Pianist and composer Hiromi Uehara mixed her newest CD with Cleveland-based producer Michael Bishop in the studio’s control room. Bishop is one of the studio’s first end-users; his Five Four Productions (an audio team formerly associated with Telarc Records consisting of Bishop, Robert Friedrich, and Thomas Moore) has 15 technical Grammy Awards to its credit. Bishop says that he and his colleagues typically travel to recording studios in Los Angeles and New York City in order to meet their clients’ needs. With the arrival of the Clonick Recording Studio, he is now able to supplement his technical requirements closer to home.

The facility has also attracted the attention of cellist Zuill Bailey, pianist Orli Shaham, Richard King, principal hornist of the Cleveland Orchestra, and Tod Bowermaster, third hornist of the St Louis Symphony. Amid dedication events for the Kohl Building, which houses the Clonick Studio, music legend Stevie Wonder spent 40 minutes playing the new Hamburg Steinway. During a concert appearance in Oberlin in March 2011, Esperanza Spalding, the acclaimed jazz double bassist and vocalist and winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist (the first jazz musician to ever win the award), visited the studio and expressed a desire to record there as well.

More: www.oberlin.edu/kohl
More: www.rupertneve.com
More: www.sterlingmodular.com

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