The week-long regional tour of Mission Songs Project culminated in a performance as the curtain rasier for Let Love Rule with Archie Roach as part of the 2019 Queensland Music Festival at the Tivoli last night. It has been an amazing week taking us to Longreach, Palm Island, Gympie and back home to Brisbane. It is always fantastic to visit new places, but this time is was also great to work with a whole lot of new musicians and crew, that trust and allow me help present their story, and to be a part of their creative journey.
Check out Jessie’s page about The Mission Songs project here, and get an insight into an interesting and important part of Australian Musical, and cultural history and you can hear Archie Roach’s Let Love Rule album Spotify
Working in the field of Audio alongside musicians, audio quality and fidelity is of utmost importance, especially when dealing with lossy-codecs and streaming services. Recently, I’ve been talking to several people about Spotify, it’s settings and overall audio quality. What I found was in general, there was a lack of knowledge in the fact that Spotify does a couple of things to try and make your listening experience better, and more enjoyable – which may not always be the best option for sound quality. So I decided to write this quick little guide. I will go through a few settings without being technical – that is, no numbers, plain english, but if you want to skip the boring bits, here’s the summary:
- ALWAYS use the VERY HIGH setting for Music Quality – both Download and Streaming
- If you want to hear all tracks at similar levels, under Music Quality, switch Normalize Volume to On, and set its option Quiet. This is the least invasive setting. The only side effect is you’ll need to turn up your speaker volume a little more than normal.
- If you want to hear the tracks with full, complete and unchanged dynamics as they were originally intended, switch Normalize Volume to Off
Subscribe for Premium Options:
Firstly, I highly recommend that you subscribe to Spotify. Not only does this mean that money will flow to the artists, but it also allows you to unlock the Music Quality and Normalize Volume options, as well as the ability to download and cache your music for later. This is obviously advantageous when going offline (eg flight or out of reception area) and you still need access to your music.
You should go to your settings page by clicking on the gear icon from your Spotify Homepage (in the top right hand corner). There are two options we need to look at. Firstly is the Music Quality option. This sets the amount of data Spotify will use, and this directly relates to the quality. When you change this to Very High, the song will be pretty much transparent to the original audio file. If you don’t have premium, setting this to High will still be quite reasonable. What difference will it make? The easiest and most general way to describe that there will be a clarity and smoothness in the higher frequencies.
If you do download, make sure you have set the download option to Very High. This will cache the same data rate as the streaming option, giving you the best quality.
The second, and possible the most important setting in Spotify relates to how it plays back different tracks’ loudness. Normalize Volume is this setting. Spotify does this on the fly, and will transparently alter the volume of the track it is playing, to try and match it to the track’s loudness before, and after – giving you a great experience without having to continually turn the music up and down. For the most part, this will work pretty well. Again however, there are times where this can completely destroy a piece of audio.
The problem here is that when we listen to music that has a massive dynamic range, Spotify can’t deal with it very well and can actually create distortion that isn’t present in the original audio. A typical example of this is found when listening to Classical music. Spotify, in its standard settings for Volume Normalization (On and Normal) will actually turn up, and dynamically limit some music.
|Normalize Volume Level||Spotify’s Explanation||My Explanation||Sound Impact Potential|
|Loud||Handy for when you’re in a noisy environment (I’m guessing they are saying in a car, or on a bus)||Spotify will apply heavy dynamic control to some tracks, with a Very High chance of distortion on loud passages in highly dynamic material||VERY, VERY HIGH|
|Normal||This is the default setting.||A Moderate amount of dynamic control still takes place. A relatively high chance of distortion on loud passages||HIGH|
|Quiet||This is best for when you’re in a quieter environment.||Very little chance of dynamic control and therefore distortion||LOW|
You can check out all the latest developments, and read the Spotify support page here
One last thing with regard to Audio Quality. If you want the best quality, you are usually better off taking a line out of your device (through the headphone jack), rather than using the convenience of Bluetooth. Bluetooth audio is based a different set of codecs, and your phone will transcode the supplied data stream from Spotify, and reduce this data even more. Some newer codecs a much more capable and transparent, but it still involves another set of data-reduction algorithms – which results in the photocopy of a photocopy scenario.
*Yes, I know I have used “z” for “s”, however – as Spotify is non-localised, Normalize has a “z” in the software.
Opera Queensland presents Puccini’s Tosca
Often described as the greatest opera of them all, Tosca embraces the grand themes of the human spirit brought to life by one of the greatest composers of them all, Giacomo Puccini.
Tosca will transport QPAC’s Lyric Theatre to 1970s Italy where political and religious tensions are at breaking point. Tosca, a famous opera singer, is devoted to painter Cavaradossi but Scarpia, the tyrannical Chief of Police, has his own plans for her. What ensues is a gripping tale of lust, betrayal and cold-blooded murder that careens at breakneck pace.
This new production directed by Opera Queensland’s Artistic Director Patrick Nolan and conducted by Oliver von Dohnányi features an all-star company headlined by New York-based Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin, Angus Wood, Sam Hartley and José Carbó. In a world of political tyranny and widespread intolerance, Tosca offers a timeless plea for artistic and political freedom. This is opera where women are not afraid to fight for their right to be equal.
It was such a pleasure to work alongside OQ and the QSO as the Sound Designer for this production.
Thundamentals + Queensland Symphony Orchestra Present I Love Songs: A Night at the Symphony
Acclaimed Australian hip-hop trio Thundamentals will stage a special one-off show with Queensland Symphony Orchestra in I Love Songs: A Night At The Symphony, re-imagining their acclaimed new album I Love Songs in its entirety, plus playing some of their most loved hits from the past decade alongside the mighty Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Ten years deep into their career, the reputation of Blue Mountains hip-hop trio Thundamentals – Tuka, Jeswon and DJ Morgs – is undeniable. From their debut self-titled EP in 2008, their acclaimed ARIA and J Award nominated 2017 album Everyone We Know, to the highly anticipated upcoming release of their fifth studio album I Love Songs, the band has evolved musically, inspired lyrically and become one of Australia’s most exciting and powerful acts.
It was great to work with The Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Gordon Hamilton (Arranger) once again on such a different programme.
Photography by Lachlan Douglas @ www.somefx.com
A Fantastic week spent on the Gold Coast at HOTA (Home of the Arts) doing Sound Design for this show as part of the Bleach Festival. 2019’s festival culminated in a highly evocative and engaging performance of Verdi’s Requiem, presented by Opera Queensland and The Queensland Conservatorium of Music Symphony Orchestra.
Giuseppe Verdi’s setting of the Latin Requiem Mass is one of the great choral blockbusters, rivalling Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s own Requiem for popularity. Already outsized for performances in most churches, the Requiem will break free of the concert hall in Opera Queensland’s 2019 season, coming to the Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts for an outdoor performance, in collaboration with the Bleach* Festival, that promises plenty of surprises
(Limelight Magazine, April 2019)
It was an incredible evening, put together by countless creatives and performers. Congratulations to all those from Bleach Festival, HOTA, Opera Queensland, Griffith University and the crew I worked alongside from Norwest Productions – it was a truly exhilarating performance that looked and sounded amazing.
Love Is in the Air is an album of love songs that captures the intense romance of that moment at a wedding when the newly married couple come together for their first dance, and their shared hopes and dreams become reality as they begin their lives together.
The album was inspired by a conversation between D-J Wendt (producer/manager) and long-time member of The Ten Tenors Paul Gelsumini about Paul’s upcoming wedding. Paul was planning to use “Perfect” for the first dance with his new wife Jessica, and serenading her with help from his fellow Tenors, because he knew it would be one of the most memorable moments in their life as a couple. The next day D-J Wendt phoned Steven Baker (record producer/musical director) with the notion of an album celebrating wedding first dance songs.
Working with these guys is an absolute joy and thrill every time we get together. This album especially had a really nice undertone, and definitely a few firsts, and a few surprises.
Check out their website The Ten Tenors for Tour information, CD purchases and general TTT News
Opera Queensland’s Production of John Adams A Flowering Tree
A Flowering Tree was Opera Queensland’s first opera of their 2019 Season. This was my first time being involved with OQ for a number of years, and it was great to be part of this semi-staged opera in QPAC’s Concert Hall.
Kumudha is a young woman with a secret power – the ability to transform herself into a tree covered in valuable blossoms. But sometimes rare gifts can inspire both love and jealousy in equal measure.
Exploring themes of magic, transformation and the healing power of deep and selfless love, A Flowering Tree is a majestic retelling of a traditional Indian folk tale by world renowned composer John Adams.
Images by Stephanie Do Rozario
Muses Piano Trio are some of Australia’s leading and most exciting musicians in contemporary classical music, known for their edgy, spine tingling and virtuosic performance style: Christa Powell (violin), Louise King (cello) and Therese Milanovic (piano).
Muses Trio celebrates Clara Schumann ‘s 200th anniversary of birth and CD launch with a performance of spoken word, diary extracts and her personal piano trio fragmented and reconstructed with music by female composers inspired by her legacy: pianist, virtuoso, composer, wife to a very unstable genius, mother to eight.
It was great to be involved in the recording and production of this project. This is the second CD I have done, and we returned up to the picturesque setting of Springbrook once again to record over three days. Fantastic to be surrounded by nature working with great musicians recording great music.
It was great to get back into the studio with Mirusia, recording vocals and mixing and mastering this album with her. I first worked with Mirusia a long time ago on one of the various Scotland the Brave tours where we travelled around Australia, NZ and Canada. It is always so easy, joyous and beautiful to work with her in the studio.
“I still remember when I was a little girl growing up in Brisbane in the 90s and my Mum and Dad bought a CD Player. It was a big deal, a new format and a total change in the way we listened to music. I remember being obsessed with looking at the underside of the discs with all the colours of the rainbow moving on the surface like a hologram.
My Dad bought us some CDs and also a rack to display them in. But, there was one CD I always wanted to listen to and sing and dance along to: The Seekers 25 Year Reunion Celebration. I just loved everything about it. The harmonies, the audience interaction, the incredibly unique voice of Judith Durham. It was fun, beautiful, soulful, organic, classic and timeless.
Growing up in Australia the music of The Seekers was not only a part of my childhood, but I truly believe it helped to form me as an artist. At school we sang “I Am Australian”, a song that unites all of the people of Australia as one. This particular song was one I have sung many times during my career at so many different events and concerts.
In 2011, I was so lucky to have been able to tour alongside The Seekers together with André Rieu. It was an incredible experience for me to learn from them first hand and to sing together with them on stage. All four of them are so down to earth and such lovely, genuine people with hearts of gold.
This album is a salute to the four people who inspired me and gave me encouragement to continue my dream of being a singer. Together with David Cameron and Pete Dacey we have put our own spin on the songs that are so well loved by The Seekers.
This recording is in no way intended to replace the original recordings of The Seekers, but it is with respect that I sing their music and share it with my own wonderful fans and friends around the world.
So to Judith, Keith, Athol and Bruce, I salute you!”