Queen’s Mixing Techniques in Video Form

The following videos are representations of Queen’s mixing and placement of sounds in the respective stereo spaces of each song. They were created as supplementary material for a presentation in Oslo (the 2014 Art of Record Production conference) on Queen’s “epic” production style – these videos neatly highlight the way the group layered the numerous sounds across the stereo image (panning). Continue reading

Queen’s “It’s Late”

Brian May, the lead guitarist and part-time lead singer, probably came closest, of all the Queen band members, to fitting the Romantic vision of the tortured, isolated artist. It is well documented, by May himself, that he dealt with father-son acceptance issues and anxiety about his own role as a husband and father, and these themes come across in many of his songs from the 1970s — ‘Father to Son‘ is a father giving advice to his child but to little avail; ‘Good Company‘ is about a man who works his whole life, and ends up with a ‘good company’ to his name, but no ‘good company’ with whom to share it; ‘Leaving Home Ain’t Easy‘ is about a man who wants to leave his wife, but lacks the conviction because it will hurt her; ‘Save Me‘ is perhaps the melancholic follow-up  after the relationship has ended. Continue reading

The Trial of Michael Buble

A number of years ago, I was preparing songs for a performance assessment at school. For memory, my programme that day was to consist of “Come Fly With Me” and “For Once In My Life.” At the local jazz school, there was a very talented pianist who would improvise jazz/swing accompaniments for students, which would always help to raise the overall impression of the performance. In need of a decent mark, I took my songs to him with the sheet music from a Michael Buble book. We went through the songs a couple of times, after which, he drawled (in an American accent), “No, you don’t want to sing the Buble versions. That guy’s a smarmy fuck.”

A number of years later, I was talking with a friend, a very good music critic, and I mentioned in passing Buble. “Oh yes,” the friend mused, “He’s awful isn’t he? I think I used his music as background filler on a radio show once.” And finally after a recent gig, the reviewer wrote of one our songs that he liked the “Quincy Jones influences” — I wonder how much his cultural capital would take a hit, if he knew that the version was straight Buble? Continue reading

Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die

I’m not sure if buying an album a year after its much-publicized release counts as being fashionably late, but at the end of last year, I added Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die to the collection. (It was released in January 2012.) The controversy surrounding the album seemed to centre on the fact that “Lana Del Rey,” the character, is a fraud. As Douglas Wolk explains in this article for Time, the basic story was that Del Rey was an off-the-tracks, homemade success, who had once slummed it in a trailer. Except then it turned out her father was loaded and the back story and pseudonym was the product of record execs’ imaginations. Local critic, Simon Sweetman, positively seethed when recounting this deception. Continue reading

The Legacy of Mahler’s Symphonies

This piece was written for the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra magazine, vol. 30, no. 1 (2011) as an introduction to the orchestra’s performances of Mahler’s First and Ninth symphonies. I benefited greatly from the red pen of William Dart, who critiqued the piece in its draft form and who suggested some of the excellent sources referenced in the essay.

Gustav Mahler famously declared that a “symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.” True to his principles, the entire musical world is contained within his nine complete symphonies — the colourful harmonies, vast orchestration, even the expansive length. But to consider only these qualities of the works ignores their complete meaning; the symphonies are about the world and they speak to the world. History is transcended in their themes and conflicts. They are of equal relevance to the listener of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Continue reading