Meeting Topic: Starting on a High Note: Sound Production for a-ha
Moderator Name: Geir Kristoffersen
Speaker Name: Sherif El Barbari and Al Woods, a-ha live sound team
Other business or activities at the meeting: The Norwegian section of AES has been dormant for more than a decade. In 2009 Mark Drews, Director of Music Production & Recording Studies at University of Stavanger, sent out an invitation to help in resurrecting the section both through his network and during the 2009 Nordic Sound Symposium at Bolkesjø. Four AES members responded positively, they got together in February 2010 and served as the interim board of AES Section Norway.
Meeting Location: Oslo Spectrum, Oslo, Norway
Among all the issues of relaunching the section was identifying a start up event that would resonate with the audio fraternity of Norway. Ironic then that the iconic synthrock group a-ha decided to end "on a high note" (http://a-ha.com/tour). Working with the a-ha chief of sound, Mr. Sherif El Barbari and the Systems Engineer and sound crew manager Mr. Al Woods, the interim section board chairman Mr. Geir Kristoffersen arranged a seminar in Oslo during the final three farewell concerts. The event was kindly supported by Sennheiser Nordic and Bright AS, the Norwegian DiGiCo representative.
The seminar started with a tour of the stage area including an in dept Q and A session covering topics such as drum kit mic'ing and timing it to the PA, guitar amps in cages, the keyboard tech system setup behind the back drop, frequency management of the Sennheiser wireless mic and IEM system, identifying hang points for the PA rig, and configuring the equipment for maximum speed of rigging achieving surrealistic get out times close to 60 minutes.
We then moved on the mix area where Al explained and showed us the details of how he aligned and tuned the PA to the room using acoustic measuring equipment taking impulse responses and verifying transfer functions, and then walking around the hall verifying and adjusting it using his ears. Al then shared how he monitored the atmosphere of the event adjusting the system tuning slightly in close cooperation with Sherif as the crowd warmed the room or when outside, rain poured down on anyone and anything.
Sherif and Al also shared a few humorous inside sound stories from their history of touring the world. Sherif then spoke about creating the 'sound picture' for a-ha, and using the Virtual SoundCheck feature on the SD7 mixer he played examples from the concert the previous night making adjustments to the mix to underline his presentation.
The attendees of the seminar ranged from some of the most experienced sound engineers in Norway through to first year audio students. They all agreed on one thing after the seminar. Getting to know some of the details of the production was interesting, but seeing that the top notch audio professionals of the world was so likable and willing to share their know-how was a very rewarding experience. AES Norway was asked to convey a big thank you to Sherif and Al from the seminar participants. AES Norway also wish to thank a-ha management for allowing this event to take place in an otherwise hectic production schedule.
Written By: Geir Kristoffersen