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Feature: Creating a legacy

Feature: Creating a legacy

Feature: Creating a legacy

The Tokyo College of Music has installed an API Legacy AXS console in its new recording studio for student performances. Caroline Moss visits

The Tokyo College of Music (TCM) has a rich history spanning more than a century, making it the oldest private music school in Japan. It was founded as the Tokyo Conservatory of Music in 1907, moving from its original location to the Toshima district after its Kanda campus was destroyed by an earthquake in 1924.

TCM has contributed significantly to the development of Western classical music in Japan, creating the country’s first symphony orchestra, which performed on Pacific Ocean steamers in the early part of the 20th century. Today, alongside the orchestra, TCM is also home to a chorus and a symphonic wind ensemble. The college’s student body of around 2,000 includes 1,500 undergraduates as well as postgraduates, high school and kindergarten students. Those on the four-year Bachelor of Music degree course study vocal and instrumental music, composition, conducting, music education and liberal music arts, and TCM is extremely well-equipped to develop the talents of its protégés. In fact, students now have a brand-new, purpose-designed building that has been constructed to provide the classical music course with a new campus of its own. Here, students benefit from facilities including the 806-seat 100th Anniversary Hall; a studio with a baroque-style pipe organ; and one of the latest additions: a Sam Toyoshima-designed recording studio, whose main purpose is to record student performances.

The rehearsal space is tie lined to the new control room
The rehearsal space is tie lined to the new control room

The control room of this studio has been equipped by API’s long-term Japanese distributor, Mix Wave, with an API Legacy AXS analogue console, only the second to be installed in the country. The 48-channel console, customised to suit the college’s exact requirements, has been supplied in a 64-channel frame, leaving extra space on each side for future expansion, when needed. In the middle of the desk is a 15-inch central section which includes 5.1 surround monitoring, offering a full complement of features for monitoring, talkback control, three sets of stereo monitor playbacks, studio loudspeaker and 5.1 surround monitoring. Above the centre section are six stereo echo return modules, an important element of the AXS design. In addition to being available as echo return modules, they also offer a 12-channel automated fader stem mixing platform, without burning other channel resources during mix creation. The returns can also function as simple routers for parallel bus compression without needing to access the patch bay. To the left of the AXS centre section is a customised 24-inch DAW workstation. API supplied a monitor mount as well as a custom API 550 VPR Rack and an API L200 Rack, both housing various 500 Series and 200 Series modules. The AXS also features API’s Final Touch motorised fader automation for the 48 main faders, four stereo master faders and two dedicated group masters, as well as the six stereo faders for the echo returns.

The studio is operated by recording engineer Tatsuo Umetsu, a freelance engineer who has been supplied to TCM by Mixer’s Lab, the company that handled the planning and ongoing operation of the new studio. Leading studio designer, Sam Toyoshima, executed the acoustic design for the studio. Toyoshima’s plans were implemented by acoustic design and soundproofing specialist Sona, which constructed the studio and manufactured the acoustic fabric panels lining the studio walls as well as the wooden baffles. All of Sona’s work was overseen by Toyoshima.

L–R: Hirokazu Saika, Mix Wave and Dan Zimbelman, API Audio
L–R: Hirokazu Saika, Mix Wave and Dan Zimbelman, API Audio

The new campus is entirely dedicated to the performance and recording of classical music. ‘There is another part of the university where they study composition, but this building is just for the musicians, and just for classical music; it’s very specific,’ says Umetsu. ‘Between 20–30 students are using the new facility every month. They have to make sure they are ready first by really practising their work before they can come and record in here.’

The new studio is used for recording student performances from the spacious live room and rehearsal space where the students are able to practise, and also from the 100th Anniversary Hall, all three of which have tie-lines to the control room. ‘We decided to go for API because it is really rare to find a proper analogue console these days, especially in an educational facility,’ explains Umetsu. ‘We knew that [Japanese broadcaster] NHK had installed two API Visions, and that was the starting point for us. We listened to the sound of that console over at NHK and, from what we heard, we knew that putting together classical music with API was a great combination, and that’s why we chose it.’

At this point in the interview, Umetsu, who started his career in 1968 at Tokyo’s Victor Studio, lets on that, in the past, he’d frequently worked on an API console that would now be considered vintage. So how does the newer model compare with the console of his earlier career? ‘The characteristics are still very similar but, of course, the new one is going to be better,’ he says, pointing to the decades that have passed since his first introduction to API. ‘I really like the microphone preamps on the new console. The amplifier is really natural; the sound doesn’t change. It’s warm and rich, and the sound doesn’t become thin.’

TCM's 100th Anniversary Hall
TCM's 100th Anniversary Hall

Umetsu is the studio’s chief engineer, working on the daily sessions that take place in the room. Since these sessions started last June, the studio has been in use almost every day, though when Pro AVL Asia visited, they were yet to use the concert hall and rehearsal space for recordings, in the meantime accommodating a busy schedule of students eager to get into the live room and record their projects.

The studio has also been installed with a pair of Genelec 1234A SAM main monitors with Directivity Control Waveguide (DCW) technology and GLM calibration software, supplemented with 8351A nearfield monitors. Additionally, there is a pair of 1238CF SAM monitors in the live room, which is also equipped with a grand piano.

‘We’re very used to the Genelec sound,’ says Umetsu, again citing his time at Victor Studio, which was installed with Genelecs, as a reference point.

With an impressive array of some of the world’s best recording studio equipment at their disposal, do any of the music students ever show an interest in getting their hands on the controls themselves? ‘Some of them do, but they are really performers, that’s where their interest and focus is,’ says Umetsu. ‘They do come into the control room to listen back to their recordings, and everybody says it sounds just like a CD. But, in this day and age, that is a big compliment. Translating what they are saying, they mean it’s a beautiful sound because that’s what they know.’

The new studio has a spacious live room with Genelec 1238CF SAM monitoring
The new studio has a spacious live room with Genelec 1238CF SAM monitoring

The studio also has an eight-channel Pyramix v11 digital audio workstation system for classical recordings. The system facilitates high-resolution recording for up to DSD256, making it a good choice for classical music.

The recording of students’ performances has been taken to a new level since the construction of the new campus at TCM. The college has created a world-class facility that will surely stand the test of time. The installation of the API Legacy AXS console should help to keep it that way – it should be of great comfort to the faculty to learn that virtually every Legacy built since the desk was launched in 1989 is still operational.

This article was first published in the May-June 2020 edition of Pro AVL Asia. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe/asia or read on Issuu.



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