Recording Reports

The Collectors by Konstantyn Napolov & Eke Simons

Music for piano and percussion. It’s a duo that doesn’t currently have a lot of repertoire, but does deserve it. It can be more expressive and more explosive than any other kind of duo imaginable. In this album, the beautiful sonority of a big Fazioli grand piano, combined with the raw force and timbre of a giant set of percussion, with even some electronics here and there, they all add up to an incredibly dynamic sound. A sound unlike anything I’ve ever recorded, or even heard for that matter.

This prompted me to try to go into the recording session without a frame of reference. Without any presumptions, and most of all open to all sonic and musical possibilities that might arise in the moment. Since these pieces were commissioned by the duo (Konstantyn and Eke), none of the pieces were ever recorded before. This left a huge amount of creative possibilities to explore during the recording process.

The recordings took place in the hot summer of 2018, at the beautiful Nationale Theater of The Hague, near the west coast of our beautiful little country The Netherlands. During the recording sessions of two of the four, we were joined by the composers themselves, who made sure the recording matched exactly with their intentions and visions for the piece. Firstly, we recorded Yannis Kyriakides’ piece “Once There Was”, a suite of pieces based on traditional nursery rhymes. Many of these rhymes have dark and historically significant themes yet are used to foster emotion and cultivate language. In some cases, these rhymes were censored, to mask the political message that lie within. The composition is made for piano, percussion and electronics, so a mix had to be made of the two acoustic instruments and the electronic instrument. Together with Yannis, we found the right mix and started the recording.

The next day, we recorded Jan-Peter de Graaff’s piece “The Bells of St. Clement’s”, also together with the composer himself. The piece, based on the nursery rhyme of “Oranges and Lemons (say the bells of St. Clement’s)”, has a huge dynamic range, but with very important little details hidden in the dynamically softest places of it. This proved a true test for our Sonodore microphones and Merging Technologies preamps and converters, but they came through with flying colors. Without the details disappearing in the noise floor of the signal, yet with all dynamics captured through to life, I was thankful to be working with this equipment. Honestly, I don’t think it would’ve been possible with other microphones or converters.

The third day was likely the heaviest for the duo. After two intense days of recording these very involving pieces, they still had to record the longest of the four, namely “The Collectors” by German composer Moritz Eggert. Also written for the duo but including a huge ton of various small instruments that the duo had to perform on whilst still playing their “own” instrument. These little instruments varied from a toy piano to kazoos, moo-boxes (yes, this is a thing!), groan sticks (look it up!), and all sorts of different cymbals and other percussion instruments that Eke, the pianist had to play. It was actually great fun to record it, to try to read along the scores as quickly as possible with all these instruments, all the while keep on listening to the music that was performed and taking notes. Great stuff, and I’m really happy the way it turned out. The piece is just over 27 minutes long, and it’s the most fun you could have with just two instruments.

Lastly, we recorded the explosive and theatrical short piece “Shameless” by Australian composer Samuel Penderbayne. In this piece, the musicians have to yell, wave, speak, shout, and perform all kinds of interesting stunts while still playing very precisely these amazingly virtuosic parts.

After the recording, I had the pleasure of doing almost all of the editing together with the artists, with constant feedback from the composers. It’s such a great thing to work like this – at TRPTK, we’re always focused on giving the artist a stage to bring out themselves through their own music, and what’s more personal than actually being there when the editing and mastering together with the artists and composers?

All in all, we had such a great time recording, editing and mastering this album. It’s truly a collectors item in our regards, and a testament to what can be done with just two instruments. You could say, we had an absolute blast recording it.

Written by

Brendon Heinst

Founder, Producer and Recording Engineer at TRPTK