Raw impressions of being in the studio

Wow. My muscles and my mind are simultaneously exhausted, and still buzzing from the studio experience. We’ve just finished Day 2 recording the string quartets of Amy Wurtz, with the unusual privilege of having the composer in the booth! We’re also extremely fortunate that Francesco Milioto and Michael Lewanski, two friends, conductors and coaches, have been with us in-studio. Wednesday we did mic placement, room sound, and Quartet no. 2 with Francesco. Today we tackled Quartet No. 1 with Michael. Tomorrow, Francesco will be back to work with us on final touch-ups and passages we’d like another chance on. Each session is four hours long, and we’re all vibrating with energy the entire time. When I walk out of Experimental Sound Studios (which is a GREAT place), I feel sort of like I’m visiting from another planet.

While this intense experience is still fresh, I wanted to write down my thoughts.

1. I can safely say that these recording sessions are some of the most intense, challenging experiences I’ve ever had as a musician. Period. I feel like I am pushing myself to the edge of my abilities as a performer, and also as a human being. The process demands trust (in our engineer, coaches, and each other), courage (yes, I can nail that terrifying passage — again), and mental and physical endurance. 

2. The stakes are high. This project is of huge importance to the quartet. We’ve dedicated months to studying Amy’s music, and the chance to record is a major opportunity for us. Sure, we’ve all been in the recording studio before — but we’ve never put our ensemble’s name on a record and sold it. We’re putting ourselves out there in a major way. I find myself wondering, does every quartet feel this way when they’re in the studio? Does it ever become comfortable, safe? Should it?

3. My colleagues are bearing up wonderfully under the pressure. We’re cracking jokes to keep things light. We’re taking frank criticism in a high-stakes environment. Even when pressure and exhaustion are building, the ladies are buckling down and playing with gusto. I can really see the importance of humor in this setting.

4. Choosing the people you work with with is so crucial, both in the studio and in one’s career generally. Francesco’s energy and intensity enlivened yesterday’s session. Amy has a gift for hearing both the details and the big picture. And speaking personally, I couldn’t be more delighted to have Michael contributing to this recording. The presence of a trusted friend and mentor is extremely centering — it’s staggering what a difference this can make. And our engineer, Alex Inglizian, is also an absolutely fantastic presence. It takes a village. Which reminds me …

5. Thank you. Thank you. We feel so much gratitude for the 46 (and counting!) donors to our Kickstarter campaign. You’ve made this recording possible! Thank you so very much for your support. We’re hard at work making a record we can all be proud of!