Monday Morning Quarterback
What's wrong with the sound man?

(Pan In New York)

Web Posted - Tuesday, August 10, 2004
by When Steel Talks

Every year pan enthusiasts are held hostage and tortured by the proverbial "terrorists" known as audio engineers at the NY panorama. This is done partially through  incompetence and ignorance, but fully through indifference. This is compounded by the unconcerned  manner and consistent contempt the Panorama promoters have demonstrated for the steelpan constituents over the past years.

The great works of the master steelpan tuners:  Kellman, Harrigin, Jack, Worrell, Wong and others - are rendered almost obsolete by the butchering of the sound by the audio engineers.  Unfortunately, the event will never rise to the next level (mass mainstream appeal) - without the perfection of the sound... Try watching a beautifully shot video that has bad sound.  It can't be done. You will turn off the video no matter how great the images are...

Luckily the large bands have been able to sometimes get past the engineers, because of their sheer size, but not without coloration and compromise.  Unfortunately the small bands have been  massacred over the years and suffered much...

Which brings up the next point:  what are the judges hearing, and, what then, are they judging?  The bottom line is, why are we subjected to engineers who have no idea what a professional mix of a steelband is suppose to sound like or how to obtain it?  Are the engineers practicing now, at the very show!!??  Why were there three microphones on the iron [rhythm] section?

And those mics aiming out into "space."  What satellite were they communicating with?  The purpose of the audio engineer is to capture the sound and reproduce it without distortion or intended coloration, for the purpose of immediate amplification so that the audience / listenership can hear the performance comfortably.

This does not mean things should be amplified to the point to cause "physical pain."  We have no interest in how good or powerful your sound system equipment is!  How many "gigawatts" you can put out, or how large your speakers are.  As a matter of fact, once we (the listenership) are aware of your (sound system person) presence - you're probably doing something VERY wrong.

A sound engineer working a New York Panorama in 1998 or 1999- was told that "his microphone placement was all wrong". He simply looked quizzically at the person who spoke to him (who was another engineer experienced in "micing" steel orchestras), with an attitude like "What are you sweating me for, man - over this gig; they're only playing a bunch of garbage cans (the Steelpans) anyway."


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