Acoustic engineering is no longer limited to formal performance venues but has moved into recording studios, theatres and gaming consoles at home. By Jackie Pinto
Blue Frog arrives in Bangalore later this year. The buzz is already building up in a city spoiled for choice with hi-tech clubs, recording studios and new performance venues popping up on a regular basis. Possibly because Blue Frog, a popular 400-capacity restaurant-bar is believed to have revolutionised the live music scene in Mumbai when it first opened in 2007 and set the trend for world class acoustic experiences. The hotspot easily hosts up to six live gigs a week, from the country’s biggest indie and electronica acts to an enviable roster of international artistes like Angélique Kidjo, Imogen Heap,T-Pain and Joshua Redman among several others. With a vibrant presence in New Delhi and Pune as well, Blue Frog is scheduled to make their Southern debut on Church Street by the end of the year.
Kapil Thirwani candidly admits that he is no musician but always had an indepth understanding of sound. Although the perfect acoustic experience. “There were no formal training schools in the country so I chose electronic engineering as a way to understand audio electronics. While I was studying, I discovered a course that suited me perfectly at the University of Salford in Audio Acoustics. I became the first Indian in 25 years to apply for it.” Today, Bangalore offers full-fledged courses in sound engineering that are recognised internationally. Like Audio Academy, the only Live Sound School in the country, according to co-founder–partner Vauhini Venugopal, offers a course in Electronic Music Production. “We focus on practical training and our faculty comprises some of the best practicing sound engineers to ensure that the curriculum and teaching expertise is kept relevant,” says Venugopal, adding, “The course takes 12 months to complete, 10 months at our facility and two months of internship training. However, students start working and gaining professional hands-on experience on live projects from the day they begin. They work on projects at our in-house commercial studio or are assigned venues to assist in live concerts. The good news is that no prior technical knowledge is required as we begin from the basics. They must be over 18 years and enjoy music. Grad-uating students have been placed at Indigo Live, Prashanth Pillai, Sound Garden, Pondicherry and E&E Systems to name a few,” she says. Details:www.audioacademy.in
Getting the experience
Dr Joy George who commissioned Acoustic Control to design and execute the audio solutions for the 1,200 seater Ledbetter auditorium, found the results of their collaboration with the interior designers quite remarkable. “We were able to achieve the desired acoustic parametres using JBL Vertec Systems and EASE models. The resulting sound experience has exceeded our expectations.” Jazz musician Karan Joseph says that part of the reason why Blue Frog is so successful as a concept is because it’s been created by musicians for musicians with acoustic expertise, courtesy Thirwani, that enabled it to morph from a century-old mill compound to a plush concert venue.
The Munro effect
Carlton Braganza, of Opus, feels that a large part of Blue Frog’s success is due to the superlative acoustic experience they offer. “It makes a big difference to a musician like myself when the sound is perfect on stage as well as from any point in the room.” Technically curated by the likes of Kapil Thirwani director, Munro Acoustics India, an acoustic consultant who has designed studios for AR Rahman, Salim-Sulaiman, Ram Sampath, Kailash Kher and Farhan Aktar, he has also engineered sound for Asilo and Hardrock Café (Bombay, Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad) under the Munro banner and his current projects include the upcoming Playboy Clubs as well as composer Amar Mohile and Dolby’s studio in Bombay. Acoustics runs in his genes, he explains, as his family dealt in audio systems for generations. “I considered becoming an engineer, accountant or doctor. But since I’ve always loved the science behind sound, I chose to study acoustics in the University of Salford, Manchester and became the first Indian to graduate from there.” After joining the London-based Munro Acoustics to run their Indian operations, Thirwani has never looked back. “Indian music and Western technology has taken a while to come of age but now it’s rocking. I’ve enjoyed being part of the whole emerging trend, I’ve interacted with some of the greatest musicians of our age — Mark Knofler, U2 and Coldplay among others and I have a great set of stories to tell my kids when they are old enough to appreciate the music greats of our time,” he smiles. Thirwani has seen acoustic engineering ‘move from clubs, concert halls and auditoriums into home studios and home theatres’. “Bangalore is the future sound capital. Musicians here have a very individualistic vibe and music lovers are extremely savvy,” he signs off.
So are sound engineers, once considered niche and specialised, making their services and expertise available across the board?
“Sound engineering and acoustic consulting until recently was considered a black art. A rather dodgy kind of expertise meant only for pubs, DJs and late night venues. Now it is an essential component of everyday living rooted in the science of sound,” says Sanjay Mudartha, director, Acoustic Control, the go-to guy for acoustic solutions in the city. Mudartha’s impressive line-up of projects range from the 1,800 seater auditorium at Christ College with its hi-tech sound, stage lighting and stunning video backdrop, the expansion of the Kempegowda International Airport, the design and commissioning of the sound system installed at the JNS stadium which hosted the opening and closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010, the Midas XL8 installation at the Infosys auditoriums and hotspot venues like The Humming Tree, Ice and Counter Culture.
“People are buying expensive houses, putting in home theatres and recording studios and dedicated to jamming sessions. Acoustics becomes a key factor in the whole experience,” says Mudartha who works with interior designers to create aesthetically ‘sound’ spaces. “When Nikhil Barua approached me for The Humming Tree, it was clear that his passion was music and design, mine was the science of sound. We argued extensively but finally managed to create a space we were both satisfied with.” Mudartha goes on to explain that ‘a room and the proposed sound system that goes into it can be designed and tested on a computer simulator without spending a rupee. Once fine-tuned on the simulator the design can them be deployed with guaranteed results. One such simulation tool we use is EASE – Enhanced Acoustic Simulator for Engineers (ease.afmg.eu).”
On the radar
Jazz musican and manager of the Caleb
Auditorium, Emmanuel Sathyadass, has now started opening up this premier
convention centre, a venue which was
primarily designed for conferences, to live music acts because ‘the acoustic design is so amazing’. Set on 1.25 acres in Hennur, it comes with sufficient parking and up to date sound and light systems.Details:9743414336.
The big picture
Manmohan Ganesh, CEO of Pro Fx, a major retailer in super premium hi-fi and home theatre products spent his childhood between Japan and India and was exposed to quality sound engineering at an early age long before names like Cabasee, Kef, Polk and Pioneer became available to consumers in India. “People who can afford it, now prefer to watch movies in the comfort of their customised home theatres. We can create a perfect viewing experience for home setups ranging from four to 30 seaters,” he says. Ganesh has designed a gaming centre for a family with teenagers that simulates a space station, home theatres cum bars or even libraries where the sound is not only perfect, but automated. “People don’t want to fidget with remotes. Why should they when a simple command will allow lights to dim, surround sound to kick in and the whole vibe to change—the middle of a battlefield with bullets whizzing past, on an operatic stage with the cast or in a dark forest with a serial killer.”
Right on track
At his well equipped home recording studio, music producer Ricky Kej is launching into a blitzkrieg of promotional activity for his world music album, Winds of Samsara, which he produced with South African flautist and composer Wouter Kellerman. “It debuted at number one on the American Billboard last month and I was the first Indian artiste to make it to the top,” he beams. Kej has built up his repertoire of music at his two home recording studios and home theatre. “Home studios are becoming de rigeur across the city with music lovers. Bangalore currently has over 1,000 home studios already. All you need is a laptop, a professional quality microphone and a sound card to get started. Rope in a skilled carpenter and add a telephone booth style console to reduce ambient sound for added comfort,” he suggests. According to him, a basic home studio will cost around `16,000 and an additional `25,000 for the booth. “It should be big enough to accommodate a microphone on a stand, a music stand, a chair or stool, and yourself!”