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AES139 Student Recording Competition Winner Interview: Daniel Davidsen

 Daniel Davidsen won the gold prize in Category 2 (Traditional Studio Recording) for his recording of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians (listen to it here). 

·     Hi Daniel. Kudos on such an impressive recording, and thanks a lot for making time for us.

My pleasure.

·      Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where and what do you study? What audio field are you in? 

I was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark. Music has shaped my life for as long as I can remember. I study at the The Royal Danish Academy of Music. In 2015, I earned a Bachelor's degree in music & sound recording (Tonmeister) and currently I am pursuing my master studies. 

·      Are you a musician yourself? What instruments do you play and in what musical context?

I started playing piano and trumpet at an early age, and I have played in brass band, big band and military marching band ensembles. In the years 2003-2007 I joined the European Brass Band Championships.

·      What initiated your passion for audio? When did it start?

My passion for audio started quite unusually. I did arrangements for my Brass Quintet at the time and used the notation program Finale, but I didn’t like the horrible MIDI sounds coming out of it.

That triggered my interest in DAW’s and I ended up purchasing Pro Tools. From there I slowly began recording music. 

After my high school graduation I realized that a career as a musician was not for me. I started working with Pro Tools and Logic and studying musicology at the University of Copenhagen. When I got my BA in 2011, my career dream was in the field of audio. Since then, my main platform has changed to Pyramix.

·      Tell us about the production of your submission. What is the story behind it? What was it inspired by? 

Music for 18 Musicians is one of Steve Reich's greatest and most difficult-to-play compositions, which was performed by an international team of handpicked professional musicians at Roskilde Festival in 2013. The ensemble's name is EKKOZONE and it was formed in 2013 by the Danish percussionist Mathias Reumert. The recordings were made during rehearsals and only intended for documentation purposes. The recorded source material is rather limited and only 1 1⁄2 take were usable at the end of the final recording day. It was only possible to obtain a satisfying musical result because of the highly repetitive musical structure. Many bars have been replaced with sometimes only a few useful figures that were available. It was all about making it organic and alive. 

·      How long did you work on it? 

The editing took around 80 hours for the whole piece which is around one hour long. 

·      Was it your first entry in an AES Student Competition?

Yes, it was.

·      What was your most significant/funny/inspiring experience as an audio engineer?

I enjoy communicating with musicians and composers and I’m very interested in the psychological aspects of the recording sessions. You really need to know the right way to communicate in order to get the best out of your clients and make them feel comfortable. Trust is everything.

·      Accidents happen: What was your biggest mistake in a production and what did you do to redeem the situation?

One morning I discovered that cables were removed for another project. I had to reschedule the recording, which made me look very dumb.

·      What’s your advice for engineers who are just starting out?

To gain work experience and volunteering, to study abroad and to gain 10,000 hours of passionate practice. Good preparation  before a session is everything. Learn from your mistakes and keep asking yourself "How can I make it better?".

·      Tech talk: What are your favourite pieces of equipment (microphones, outboard, plugins), and why?

Horus (Merging) - Very transparent mic pre’s and the heart of my productions for many years to come. Absolutely world class.

The Coles 4038 Ribbon microphone - Those mics give me the intimacy and warmth, which is something that can really define a good recording.

Josephson C617 - My favourite omni mics by far. Very real and balanced mic that imparts this silky smoothness.  

·      Can you name one or multiple of your favourite recordings or productions and tell us why you like them/what you like about them?

Because of my background, I always listen to the musical content first, and then the recording quality. It’s impossible for me to pick a favourite recording. It would not be fair to the very long list.

·      What/who made you join the AES? 

I have studied one year at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The teacher encouraged us to join the AES. 

·      What do you like about the AES? How does it help you to become a better and more successful audio engineer?

AES helped me to build a very valuable network and get inspired to keep pursuing my dream. That is exactly what I love about the AES. You get to meet colleagues from all over the world with the same passion for art. 

·      Tell us about your favourite experiences at the 139th AES Convention in New York!

It was such a pleasure to meet old friends, listening to the work from other students and hear anecdotes from inspiring people like Jack Douglas and Frank Filipetti. 

·      What is your favourite frequency?

I have no favourite frequency other than good intonation. My absolute pitch is helpful during all working processes.

·      What do you do when you’re not in the studio or doing anything music related?

My prime outside interest is extra-cultural experiences and curiosity and spending time with family and love ones. I also enjoy having friends worldwide and have a passion for culture.

·      Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

It is my ambition to combine job types (production, recording, editing, mixing). It is also my ambition for the future to participate in international projects and to extend my work into non-classical categories with creative opportunities.

·      Thanks so much for the interview, Daniel, and congratulations again on your excellent submission. We hope to see you again soon! 


Get in touch with Daniel via Facebook or LinkedIn

Posted: Monday, January 4, 2016

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