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TransAudio Blooms With BloomATC, Drawmer, and Soundfield gear enhance Renovation In Music Education (November 12, 2004)
Arthur Bloom's early training as a pianist and composer at the preparatory division of the Juilliard School, coupled with an advanced degree from Yale in composition, helped him secure a series of artistically rewarding commissions. His work with artists at Def Jam kept Bloom in touch with the street. Eventually, the ambitious and socially conscious artist would meld both aspects of his musical personality in a yearlong project that took him into a poor rural community in upstate New York. Based on its success, he founded, and is executive director of, Renovation In Music Education (RIME, www.rimemusic.org), a non-profit organization which he operates out of his Washington DC-based studio.
Bloom's work with RIME grew from his experience in upstate New York. "Several years ago the Albany Symphony commissioned me to write a piece that had an educational component to it, but would go way beyond the usual 'hey kids, here's a trumpet.' They wanted me to foster genuine collaboration, to engage the kids in the creative process, and figure out a way to get them on stage with the orchestra." Bloom created a program with two parts: a curriculum through which the kids created and learned material at an accelerated level, and a culminating concert in which they performed with the orchestra. The program featured a variety of musical styles from classical to rap, and a plot that served as a template for the curriculum.
After deciding on a concept - and a title that tweaked Leonard Bernstein's famous educational series - Bloom went to work. The piece was titled "An Orchestra's Guide To The Young Person" and was based on a kid's imagination taking over a concert. What would the child be thinking about? As Bloom learned from hundreds of essays generated by the kids their thoughts were of food, monsters, pets, and adventure. During the performance, the kid drifts off to sleep, and the concert drifts into his imagination, with sequences showcasing the material and performances prepared by the students.
According to Bloom, even the most wizened orchestra members warmed up to the idea of working with the children, who sang, learned to play instruments, and contributed their own writings, which were woven into Bloom's template, and performed by students when the work was presented.
The community response to the hour-plus piece was extremely positive. The media attention it received secured "An Orchestra's Guide To The Young Person" slots in several other school systems, including an inner city school where most of the children had had little exposure to "classical" music, and expectations for success were low. The students' performance, however, blew everyone away, and for them, it was a life-changing event.
Based on the success of their original program, RIME received a grant from NASA. "Through what is really an unprecedented partnership, we are turning 'An Orchestra's Guide To The Young Person' into 'An Orchestra's Guide To The Universe.' In this version, a kid's journey through the universe will interrupt the culminating concert, with students preparing for the performance through classes in science and music. With NASA as our partner, we hope to develop a truly innovative way to provide a fantastic science and music educational program to underprivileged kids around the country."
RIME is also developing a sister program titled the "Disc Curriculum," in which the yearlong curriculum culminates in the students' production of a compact disc. Just as RIME's programs have featured collaboration between students and professional musicians (and NASA scientists), the disc curriculum will add producers and other audio professionals to the mix.
As RIME grows, so too have their production facilities. "Because of our multiple needs, from audio recording and production, to the notation of orchestral scores and parts, to the production of other educational materials, we need to have a particularly flexible studio. Our monitors were a critical choice," noted Bloom, "and you can't get much better than the Acoustic Transducer Company (ATC). We use ATC50As, and I can't say enough about them. They bathe the entire room in sound, and that's important, because we've got a bunch of remote controlled sites at different spots of our studio. At the same time they've got a big and accurate sweet spot, which makes them great to mix on when you're sitting at the proper position in the stereo field. ATC monitors are like stethoscopes. They're extremely accurate and are perfect production tools. They don't sugarcoat the sound, they say it like it is, which helps us produce a better product.
"Our overall approach to the studio is to banish the mixer as a central location, and tether different stations located throughout our space to a central computer. This approach allows us to work where we want to work, rather than force us to hunker down around a mixer like campers around a campfire. Our console-less studio is based on a Macintosh G5 placed in an IsoBox, with a PreSonus Central Station as our monitor matrix, and a variety of control surfaces that communicate with the Mac through cables and wirelessly. A Moog PianoBar, for example, enables us to use a Steinway B piano as a MIDI controller and computer work station.
"While we work with a number of suppliers, we have a special relationship with TransAudio Group out of Las Vegas. They're incredibly helpful and the gear they represent is truly the cream of the crop. We have a bias towards remote controllable equipment, so our Soundfield SPS 422 microphone system is a perfect fit, and an example of the high caliber equipment available through TransAudio. The 422 is a remote controlled mic with four capsules in it that records at a full 360 degrees. You dial in the patterns you want as well as the width of the stereo field, and the results are gorgeous. It's versatile, accurate, and produces a three-dimensional stereo field that is so good, it makes you feel like you could just reach out and touch the instruments on playback. Plus, it works particularly well on piano, a notoriously difficult instrument to mic.
"Similar to the ATC monitors, the Soundfield microphone is an extremely accurate system. If we want to add a bit of warm and fuzzy to it, we sometimes plug it directly into a Drawmer 1960 compressor. The 1960 is a beautiful piece, a hybrid of solid-state mic pres and tube compression. I find that routing the Soundfield (which includes its own mic pres) through the 1960's compressor works well on a variety of acoustic sources, including piano. Sometimes I also like to add a touch of the 1960's compression to the final stereo buss when mixing."
"With a central computer married to superlative outboard gear and monitors from TransAudio, we have the best of both worlds - digital flexibility and analog high-fidelity."
ATC's drivers are manufactured in-house to exacting tolerances and are legendary for their many design innovations, such as the innovative SL magnet system and the company's renowned Soft Dome midrange driver, which achieves exceptionally broad and even dispersion to produce a flat response anywhere in the room. Situated in Aston Down in rural Gloucestershire, England, ATC was established in London in 1974 by acoustics engineer and musician Bill Woodman.
About TransAudio Group
TransAudio Group, founded by industry veteran Brad Lunde, has quickly become the premier U.S. importer/distributor for high-end audio. Success hinges on specialized service to the Recording Industry far beyond the norm. TransAudio Recording's product lines include AEA ribbon microphones (USA), ATC Loudspeakers (UK), Brauner (Germany), Drawmer (UK), Geoffrey Daking & Co. (USA), George Massenburg Labs (GML) (USA), Soundelux (USA), SoundField (UK), and Z-Systems (USA).
ATC is distributed in the U.S. by the TransAudio Group.
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