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Recording in flow with the TSO

In March I had the pleasure of playing Principal Oboe with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Full of wonderful players, it’s a brilliant orchestra to work with- all lovely people. And they have a couple of really nice acoustics… in their rehearsal studio, but for this week we were recording in their concert hall, Federation Concert Hall; recording contemporary music by composer Holly Harrison. 

Now, what I love about the recording process, and why I run a recording label, is because when you’re recording, you’re all playing to each other … and there’s always a moment in the room, where everybody suddenly feels in flow and they think ‘that was a good take’ and that’s usually when I’ll be getting the most coloured synesthesia too.

Of course, in the contemporary music sphere, I’m getting synesthesia I don’t expect, because I’ve never heard the music before, and so it was really exciting to discover what textures, patterns and colours I’d get when playing all this really exciting new music: fresh!

But that thing about recording, I wanted to say that this is why I run a recording label because: when you play live to an audience (and of course we all love doing that, communicating directly to an audience) but it goes off into the ether… like a balloon, going off, and you just want to pull it back … often thinking ‘that was a great version! Can I keep that?!’


However when you’re in a recording session, you get the chance to keep it and also improve, repeating it over and over again, and to refine things, so it’s about high performance. And while repeating the technical over and over as well: it’s all about consistency, all a real challenge. And it always has been, throughout my career: recording in a studio very like TOS’s with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, lot of recordings with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, in sessions at Trackdown, or at Abbey Road, or Air Studios… I’ve been really addicted to the magic of being in recording sessions …

So that is why I really enjoyed that week in March recording music by Holly Harrison with TSO. And I really hope you get to listen to the result! It’s been so exciting and thrilling to get all this synesthsia – and I know this recording will be amazing. I know Miriam Hyde felt this too. I can’t wait to read more in Canberra next month at National Library of Australia.

I know because she wrote that she felt the same excitement about recording, especially recording her own music, when she must have been in ecstasy… because synesthesia is such an all-encompassing emotional feeling; overwhelming at times. 

That is why I really connected with this poem she wrote immediately after finishing recording her own piano concerti with WASO:

Which but a few are called upon to share;

A world of agony and ecstasy

That only a musician feels at heart;

The plaintive oboe solo and the rise

Of cello phrases on the higher strings;

The notes of doom that throb from timpani,

The surge of brass, the vibrant violins,

And piano chords that mount to climaxes

In which one feels possessed, engulfed by sound.

Strange, as one contemplates the scope of such

A universe, so ordered and sublime,

That it should be so hard, and mean so much,

To give one quaver its due point in time.

Sheraton Hotel, Adelaide Terrace, Perth



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