London, Warsaw, Prague, Moscow, Sofia and now Bratislava; recording strings in studio 1 at Slovak Radio is my latest experience of string sessions around the world!
This one was the toughest test yet for an orchestra; a rhythmically and harmonically complex score for a video, composed by Richard Jacques. The typical criticisms you hear from composers/producers who go to Eastern Europe for string sessions are that they struggle with challenging scores (particularly syncopation) and don’t match the expressive power of UK or US sessions. That myth was shattered by my experience in Bratislava. None of the cues could be labeled ‘easy’ and some were frankly terrifying! Yet over 7 sessions the orchestra and conductor (Allan Wilson) maintained an excellent standard to complete around 75 minutes of music. For efficiency, we recorded most cues in sections – beginning to letter B, letter F to H etc. These were given to the ProTools operator as bar numbers; the Protools session files were submitted in advance by the composer to ensure the bar numbers, tempo maps and time signature changes in Protools matched the score. (We didn’t get round to rehearsal letters as markers for this job.)
My role on this gig was to prepare the string score and parts, and assist the composer on the sessions. The notation needed to convey the composers ideas, facilitate rehearsal/takes, and give the players the best possible chance of sight reading their parts. If the notation doesn’t achieve all these things, then too much time is wasted in simple musical geography and communication. My process for achieving this is documented on the ‘Scores’ page. I reproduce a typical page of score here, though not from this particular project.
And a time lapse movie of the strings returning after a break.