Sound and Music Blog – Francis Chagrin Award

A piece for the Sound and Music Sampler blog about the Francis Chagrin Award.

Phil Julian on hiring a 50″ Tam-Tam for his composition
(Sound and Music / October 1, 2014 / Composer, Francis Chagrin Award)

During 2013 I applied for funds for new recordings via Sound and Music’s Francis Chagrin Award. I generally keep away from funding applications as I’ve found them to be overly complex and seem to rely more on your creative writing abilities than anything to do with the actualities of what you need the money for. The Chagrin application process was refreshingly straightforward.

The funds went towards to the hire and recording of a 50” Tam-Tam (gong). I’ve used much smaller gongs in the past, but these larger Tam-Tam’s are expensive, need to be stored and moved carefully and are difficult to record successfully without access to an acoustically treated room with good quality microphones, monitoring and equipment to capture the depth of sound that can be generated. You also need someone with patience and good ears to handle the recording side.
John Macedo kindly engineered the session for me.

The recordings took place on a hot day in July 2013 in The Stanley Glasser Electronic Music Studios at Goldsmith’s University in London. Here’s a short clip of us setting up the microphones and doing a test run for levels:

The 50” was the largest we could physically get into the recording space due to door height restrictions and uneven floor access. It transpired that very large gongs fall into the same bracket as pianos and hand drums in that people find it impossible to walk past them without trying them out. Wheeling the gong through the corridors at Goldsmiths had people following us with pens and other implements asking for “a quick go, mate?”

The recordings were subsequently taken to EMS Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm for mixing. Conveniently, I was doing a Guest Composer Residency at the time and was able to mix the recordings on their full range audio system in order to hear and balance everything correctly.

These recordings will ultimately end up as part of an as yet untitled album of compositions involving electronics and acoustic instruments.