Post-minimalist British composer and musician Max Richter is renowned for his prolific output, which includes composing and recording his own music and writing for stage, opera, ballet, television and film. In recent months Richter has been touring Germany and the USA with a show that incorporates music from his first solo album The Blue Notes, his first ballet, Infra, and a selection of pieces he wrote for the cult HBO TV series The Leftovers.
Sound engineer Chris Ekers, who has been working with Richter since 2004, chose a selection of DPA microphones to capture the essence of these pieces – and the voice of Sarah Sutcliffe whose narration of texts from Kafka and other writers interspersed the music.
“During this tour, Max played piano and keyboards alongside a string quintet from 12 Ensemble in Germany and a quintet from the American Contemporary Music Ensemble in the USA,” Chris Ekers explains. “All of the strings were amplified using DPA microphones. We had three d:screet™ 4060 Miniature Omnidirectional Microphones on the violins and viola, plus two d:vote™ CORE 4099 Instrument Microphones on the cellists. I also used a pair of d:screet 4060s in the piano on magnetic mounts because I liked their omni sound and because they gave me another ‘feel’, especially for the more intimate passages when Max played quietly and we didn’t need lots of level.”
For Sarah Sutcliffe’s narration, Ekers chose a d:fine™ CORE 4266 Headset Microphone, which incorporates the new CORE by DPA amplifier technology. He also used a d:facto™ Vocal Microphone for the soprano who sang Sleep.
Classically trained Max Richter is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London and has recorded eight solo albums including Recomposed, his reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Sleep, his eight-hour‘ lullaby for a frenetic world’. In 2015 Richter also wrote music for the ballet Woolf Works, choreographed by Wayne McGregor for the Royal Ballet and performed at Covent Garden. As with many of Richter’s compositions, this was for a full orchestra of 70 players.
Ekers, who was employed as the sound designer for the Covent Garden performances, says: “In London, we did the piece using a small section of the strings miked with DPAs but later, when we realised the piece at QPAC (Queensland Performing Arts Centre) in Brisbane, all the strings were miked with DPAs because this gave us more control and suited the musicians better.”
Having completed the Richter tour, Ekers is now working with conductor Kristjan Jarvi in the UAE on two concerts for his Waterworks programme with the Baltic Sea Symphony Orchestra.
“We have a large string section to work with and the programme also features sound effects of water-related noises, which I have made and developed,” Ekers says. “These noises are interspersed throughout the performances of well-known repertoire to create a new context within which to appreciate music.”
As these performances involve a very large percussion set-up, Ekers is cutting the channel count by reducing the number of close mics on the strings.
“My preference is always DPA and in this case, I shall use d:screet 4060s on the first desks of the high strings and d:vote 4099s on all the celli and double basses,” he explains. “Low strings are the most difficult to register through the sound system and the d:vote 4099s give me the opportunity to balance out the ‘wolf’ notes and muddiness of the low strings, while also giving me plenty of gain before feedback.”