In July I spent some time post-producing and mastering a series of recordings by Jozef van Wissem, the Dutch lutenist. It didn’t progress the way I had expected it but it was, as with every mastering project, quite an experience!
I only knew Jozef Van Wissem remotely before we met in September 2011 in my hometown where he did a quick concert with Stephan Mathieu. Van Wissem is an artist with a certain aura. That and the fact that he plays an unusual instrument with the necessary suave and bravoure and excellent skills raised my attention. We shook hands afterwards, exchanged a few words and that was that. Van Wissem took off to another gig. Later I bought his latest release, “Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity” which he recorded with Jim Jarmusch. I was surprised to hear some flaws in the recording (purely from a technical point of view), did some ‘enhancements’ and showed them to Jozef via mail. Later I promised to do some more work but it took until February of this year before I really got to do it. By that time I was really interested in doing a project with him and in May we came to an agreement that I would master his forthcoming release.
Jozef sent me a bunch of recordings and the recording of one-hour interview from npr.org. There was no definite order and there was no definite selection but could I start working? JS: Sure. What’s your creative point of view here? JW: I want it as loud as possible. JS: You mean: ‘make it bangin’ ‘? JW: That would be nice.
I first made a few test flights. Three versions: louder, louder with an edge, LOUD. LOUD means compressing the attacks of the lute to smithereens and a lot of attention on the ‘tail’ of strums and plucks. A full and dense sound. The attacks are no longer ‘TK’ but ‘TGGRBRR’. It actually went against my personal taste but then again: if Jozef wants it, he gets it. Of course the loudest version was appreciated most……
The next step was getting a good grip on all of the tracks. If you need to push the sound to and over the limit then you need to be careful. So, getting the right balance for all of the tracks turned out to be quite a job. For days I had lutes playing in my head. Then I was asked to extract two tracks from the radio recordings. The first was a duet with Jim Jarmusch. Because radio compresses its sound by default and this recording was done áfter the compressor in the sound chain, this huge noise kept popping up like someone was hoovering the floor while Jozef and Jim ploughed on. But it appeared to be one of Jim’s own devices. I tried to get it more to the background but actually it was futile and so you can still hear it (should this track end up on some release somewhere).
After a week or so, things settled in a bit. Jozef was confident about the tracks for the next release and their titles (which made their own little dance, btw) and I delivered 10 tracks, of which 7 were given the vinyl mastering treatment and got their place on the forthcoming vinyl release (title beyond access) and 3 are stored for a future release.
In the aftermath I was asked to mix the voice of Tilda Swinton over a lute piece for a compilation release. Oh well, it’s all in a day;s work. As chaotic as this assignment was, it also gave me a good chance to work on a recording with a clear focus on an acoustic instrument. It also gave me the chance to retain the best of the instrument while blowing it up, almost out of proportions.
I hope to post some sound samples as soon as I get back from my trip to scandinavia (mid August).