If you are old enough you might remember when the words “surround sound” were first introduced into the modern lexicon, both in the cinema and with multi speaker home hi-fi systems. That was way back in the 70s. These days home theatres are common place but surprisingly few dedicated music recordings are made to evoke the feeling of space and intimacy that you experience in a live situation.
One Sydney-based group that is pioneering a regeneration of surround sound recordings is Mir Creation, which includes the renowned recording engineer Ross A’Hern and musician/producer Ben Gurton. Their latest offering is a stunning recording from multi-instrumentalist and composer Gary Daley, recorded using cutting edge technology at the Cerretti Chapel in Manly.
Gary Daley’s Sanctuary is much more than just a unique sound experience from a large ensemble of virtuoso musicians. For Gary it’s the culmination of a project, years in the making and one with a deep personal inspiration.
“I’m naturally drawn to storytelling and there were stories unfolding in my life which were personally all consuming. My mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and her health was deteriorating. I and my family were very hands-on in caring for mum and her journey was front and centre in my life,” says Gary.
“During this time (2010) my first grandchild was born and this proved to be an overwhelming experience for me. Live at the Village commissioned me to compose a major piece and after successfully receiving an Australia Council new work grant it was natural that these stories would form the basis of the work.”
Musically, Sanctuary defies classification into any one genre, with the players drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds – jazz, classical, bluegrass and folk. Over the years Gary himself has played in many different groups including Richard Maegraith’s Galaxstare, The Catholics and James Greening’s Greening from Ear to Ear, as well as his own bands and even the ABC children’s group Lah-Lah. He notes:
“I love improvised music and electronics but am also into African, roots and folk music. What I can say about the music of Sanctuary is I made a deliberate attempt to be as spontaneous as possible when workshopping ideas and writing.”
As for the actual recording, Gary recalls “a rather serendipitous meeting” with the engineer Ross A’Hern which led to recording Sanctuary in a unique and novel way.
“As it happened Ross had just started his company, Mir Creation, with Ben Gurton and Jack MetCalfe focusing on high-res surround sound recording. We all became excited about the Sanctuary music being an ideal vehicle for this approach. We then set about looking for a suitable venue in which to best realise the sonic landscape we were looking for, eventually finding the beautiful Cerretti Chapel in Manly,” explained Daley.
“This space, with its amazing natural reverb, and acoustic/aesthetic ambience offered tantalizing possibilities. We recorded live with virtually no overdubs or studio manipulation with the space becoming like another member of the band. I’ve have never been involved in a project where all the elements, i.e. musical, conceptual and technical, came together in such a unified way.”
The Sanctuary project was performed live at a memorable concert earlier this year at the Riverside Theatre, and Gary hopes to repeat the performance in the near future. In the meantime, whether you have the full surround set up or just a humble stereo, this album is an inspiration, both musically and sound wise. Check out availability at garydaley.com.au
By Coffin Ed, Jay Katz and Miss Death