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Steve Pretty On The Origin of the Pieces

Sound balancers, Bowie's favourite studio and Debussy

Ep. 17

Episode Summary

In this episode, Steve Pretty embarks on a sonic journey with Martin Appleby, a seasoned sound engineer with over nearly four decades of experience at BBC's Maida Vale studios. They delve into Martin's illustrious career, exploring his role in capturing live music for prestigious BBC programs and his the challenges and opportunities of live recording. The episode further explores the philosophical dimensions of recording live ensembles and the unique challenges of live studio recording.


Key Topics Discussed


Introduction to Martin Appleby

- Overview of Martin's 40-year career at the BBC.

- Martin's background as a musician and sound engineer.

- His studies on the Appalachian dulcimer and its connections to West African music traditions.

- The rich history and significance of Maida Vale studios.


Live Studio Recording

- The art and pressure of recording live music in a studio setting.

- The benefits of musicians performing together in the same room without headphones.

- Highlighting a memorable session with singer Jamie Cullum.

- The role of sound engineers in capturing authentic, dynamic performances.


Technical Aspects of Recording

- Use of omni and stereo cardioid microphones.

- Shaping the sound with artistic precision, akin to photography.

- The importance of perspective in music recording.


Exploration of Arabesque Music and Debussy

- The influence of Islamic art on Debussy's compositions.

- Debussy's revolutionary approach to music, seeking to establish a distinct French identity.

- Insights from pianist Benjamin Steinhardt on Debussy's inspirations.


Debussy's Musical Legacy

- Debussy's use of older modes and Eastern pentatonic scales.

- The impact of his relationship with his patron Nadja and admiration for Chopin.

- Steve's own attempts at composing in Debussy's style and its analysis.


Evolving Music Industry

- Discussion on AI-generated music and its potential limitations.

- Updates on the music industry landscape, including genre explorations and the transformation of the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh into a community-owned arts hub.

- The closure of the Towersley Festival and the challenges faced by live music events today.


Notable Quotes

- "Capturing the performance is the one thing you really can't fake." - Martin Appleby

- "The great thing we can do that nobody else can is we've got the space. The musicians can all come in, be in one place, do their thing, go away, and we just mix it." - Martin Appleby


Additional Information

- **Patreon:** Listeners can support the show and access exclusive content on Steve Pretty's Patreon page.

- **Previous Episode:** Exploration of the double bass with Charlie Pine.


Next Episode Teasers

- Upcoming explorations of genres like Tona and Corrido.

- Further discussions on the evolving landscape of the music industry.


Listeners are encouraged to tune in for a deep dive into the world of sound engineering, the legacy of Debussy, and the vibrant history of Maida Vale studios.

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