Updated Mon, Nov 5, 2012 1:35 pm
Last spring, the Ohio University Wind Symphony gathered in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium to start recording its first-ever CD.
Now, after eight months of hard work, the group will reconvene in that same hall to celebrate the release of its album, titled Mothership, with a free concert on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m.
Perserving the ensemble's performances on disc was a personal goal for Andrew Trachsel, director of Bands at Ohio University.
"The wind bands at the University of North Texas, where I did both my masters and doctorate, have a vigorous recording schedule," he said. "It’s not uncommon for them to turn out 10 discs a year between all the bands in the Wind Studies program. So it’s something that I’ve been around quite a bit, as a performer and as a producer."
Trachsel went on to note that recording is not only something great for fans of the symphony, but also for the symphony itself.
"There are two primary benefits to recording," he explained. "The first is internal. Students who go through a recording project grow exponentially as musicians because they are asked to listen at a level of detail and consistency that is more in depth than in normal situations. The second benefit is external. A recording is an effective method for recruiting prospective students and promoting the School of Music."
Due to the ensemble's frequent performances, the student musicians are accustomed to learning lots of difficult music in a short amount of time, a skill which came in handy when recording the CD. The particular group of students who worked with Trachsel, recording engineer Bruce Leek and executive producer Dennis Fischer to record Mothership had only been playing together for a few months.
"There are students on the disc that played in the Wind Symphony their entire undergraduate or graduate careers, as well as others who just joined the group in the Fall of 2011," said Traschel. "So together, this group had only played as this particular incarnation of the Wind Symphony for about four months."
Deciding which works the symphony would tackle for its very first recording was no simple task, according to Trachsel.
"Choosing the music is maybe the most important and difficult part of the entire process," he said. "I’ve tried to choose a variety of music that I find interesting and I hope listeners will, too. To that end, we’ve included music that has a diversity of styles, tempos and aesthetic, as well as from a spectrum of eras."
The disc is mostly comprised of newer compositions, including a flute concerto titled "The Shadow of Sirius," which stars Alison Brown Sincoff, associate professor of flute at the OU School of Music.
Composed by Mason Bates, the album's title track is described as being an "electro-acoustic" composition, featuring an arrangement that emulates the sound of spaceships docking and taking off. The OU Wind Symphony’s recording will mark the first time that the composition has found its way onto a CD.
The album is rounded out with Michael Markowski's "Instinctive Travels," another new piece that sits alongside nearly century-old compositions by Grainger and Gershwin.
Despite careful planning and rehearsals, the symphony encountered some obstacles during recording; some technical, some financial.
"One of the most challenging aspects for this project was securing funding. We were fortunate to receive support from a number of sources, including the President’s Office, the Alumni Association and the College of Fine Arts," he said. "In the actual process of recording, it’s normal to run into minor complications, such as outside noise due to weather or large vehicles, noise from overhead lighting or air conditioning in the hall, or running behind schedule."
Although recording Mothership was a bit difficult at times, Trachsel made it clear that the benefits vastly outweighed any difficulties, and that the symphony is definitely looking forward to tackling more recording projects in the near future.
"We hope to record on a more regular basis, initially every other year, so that every student who plays in the Wind Symphony will have the opportunity to record at least once during their time here," he said.
Visit the Ohio University Wind Symphony's blog for more information.