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Dec 18, 2005

A former colleague of mine, Chris Menge of HMMH, asked me to record a concert in which he was performing: Messiah Sing at Memorial Congregational Church in Sudbury. Once again the generous folks at Soundwave Research Labs let me borrow a pair of Proscenium microphones, and I was off and running.

First, a comment about the community orchestra, conductor Marjorie Ness, and soloists Hyojin Kim (soprano), Betty Blume (alto), Jung Rae Kan (tenor) and John Whittlesey (bass): to quote President Jed Bartlet, “These guys have some serious game.” Great jobs guys.

The layout of the performance was a bit interesting. The orchestra was located in the church sanctuary, between the altar and the pews. The “choir” was composed of amateur singers who sat in the first few pews. The microphones were placed in the 2nd pew in the middle of the choir, about 7 feet in the air. The sopranos and tenors were located to the left (and behind) of the mics, and the altos and bass were located to the right (and behind). The soloists stood about 10 feet away from the first pew (~15ft from the mics), to the right of the mic position.

This would have been the perfect position for a surround recording. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what the mic positioning world be before I got to the church and I only brought enough equipment for a two-channel measurement. I did use a Blumlein configuration so you might be able to get a moderate surround effect through phase differences is you pump the recording through a Dolby surround processor.

What did I learn this time? Pretty much the same things as last time: 16 bits just aren’t enough for live recording. I was also very happy with the microphone placement, putting the mics in the choir helps create a sense of envelopment. One small issue was that one of the choir singers (bass) was too close to the microphone – he tends to stand out in the recording, and he frequently caused overloads in the recorder.

You can download a snippet from the recording here. Other than the conversion from WAV to MP3, I haven’t applied any processing to the file. The recording clips at a couple of points resulting in some harshness (it’s not the fault of the MP3 conversion). Hopefully I can do something about that when I edit the final CD.

[Tag: recording]

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The Journal Nature recently published an editorial calling for more sharing of scientific data over the internet:

A key technological shift that could change this is a move away from centralized databases to what are known as ‘web services’. These are published interfaces that serve to simplify access to data and software (for an example of such services in action, see Until recently the preserve of expert programmers, such interfaces now mean that anyone with even a basic knowledge of programming can automate data processing and analysis.


Scientists may be justified in retaining privileged access to data that they have invested heavily in collecting, pending publication — but there are also huge amounts of data that do not need to be kept behind walls. And few organizations seem to be aware that by making their data available under a Creative Commons license, they can stipulate both rights and credits for the reuse of data, while allowing its uninterrupted access by machines.

Angelo Campanella disagrees.

Truth be told, I don’t know that he’s wrong. Or that he’s right.

I’ve been thinking along these lines (sharing data over the web using web services) for quite a while. Of course the problem isn’t technological, it’s cultural: we consultants go through a lot of trouble to collect and analyze acoustical data, and we’re not eager to give it away for free. As an example of this attitude, look at Nick Miller’s experience: his Noise-Con 2005 paper ( A Pragmatic Re-Analysis of Sleep Disturbance Data) looked at historical noise data from a new perspective. But, as he explained during his presentation, when he tried to obtain data from other sources to supplement his analysis, he ran into resistance - other firms didn’t want to share the data for essentially competitive reasons.

Now you could, I suppose, try to sell the data (assuming the data are yours to sell). An online database works very well for a commercial model (and Creative Commons licenses are compatible with commercial models). But does anyone want to buy this data?

I guess the status quo is here to stay, for a least a while. Too bad.

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