One stop shopping continues to be the theme of recording studios that “Un-Block The Music” has had the privilege to visit lately. Manhattan Center Studios is no exception to that. However, these studios offer another special advantage. They are connected to two large venue spaces, The Hammerstein Ballroom and The Grand Ballroom as well as two television studios.
I first wrote about MCS in 2006 for Billboard when EmmyLou Harris and Dave Matthews recorded their installment of CMT’s “Crossroads.” More recently, I spoke with Greg Edwards who wrote the lyrics for the off-Broadway show, “Neurosis” (See The Sidebar). He casually mentioned the cast was going into a studio that week to record the soundtrack. When I asked where they were recording, he said Manhattan Center Studios. I knew I had to call. OBie O’Brien, director of audio and video production there, was kind enough to extend an offer to drop by the center on 34th St. in Manhattan.
While MCS and all studios have obviously changed, just being in the studio makes you remember and understand the benefit of “in person” collaboration. Classic studios used to be the only place to get ideas out. Musicians were hanging out, and running into other musicians. Studios used to be huge networking places where musicians, writers, singers and producers were always running into each other and you could be leaving one session and be pulled into another because you just happened to be there.
While MCS has upgraded its facilities, it still has the charm and even more expertise than it did back in 2006. OBie and Rich Hill, chief audio engineer, sat me down in “The Cabin”, it’s 4th floor studio to talk about changes. Then I sat with OBie and Josh Coleman in Studio-7 to experience the $1,000,000 upgrade to that studio.
Rich said they wanted to make sure “The Cabin” had one nice working Neve recording console, so they took all the best parts of the one they had and rebuilt it. Neve. Without getting too technical, if you are not familiar with recording equipment, the Neve has been around since the 1960s and the original 1073 is often given credit for “The British Sound”.
Anyway…back to the theme of a one stop shop, OBie explained, how all of the rooms at the center are interconnected. “We could be doing a concert downstairs in the Hammerstein, recording the music in Studio 7, shooting it with our cameras and our control room and broadcast it live, or record it to tape for later broadcast or live stream it. The possibilities are endless.”
Rich offered the example of how this works. The NBA All Star game show starring Bon Jovi and Ne-Yo was shot with video cameras in Hammerstein, and recorded in Studio 7, then broadcast from their television studio. “If we were just a recording studio, we would probably be long gone,” OBie says.
Some of the new equipment in “The Cabin”
Worked with FM Design (Fran Manzella’s acoustic design firm)
Griffin Speakers (Francis Manzella Design is closely aligned with Griffin Audio and serves as the exclusive sales agent for Griffin Studio Loudspeaker (a story to come later this month)
Sony C-800 microphones
Rebuilt Neve Recording Console
AKG C-24 mics
Customized Griffin Speakers
(story coming later this Fall)
Lawo MC2 56 production console
ATC SCM 110 loudspeakers
Sidebar: “Neurosis,” An Example Of The Theater Soundtracks Phenomenon
As I mentioned, the soundtrack for “Neurosis” was recorded at Manhattan Center Studios recently. I am not sure if this is an industry trend, but it seems that theater soundtracks are really taking on an even more important role in “album” music than they ever have. Studios are getting quite courageous (see BerkleeNYC story, and more to come after the AES show this week: https://unblockthemusic.blog/2018/09/11/berkleenycs-redesign-of-famed-power-station-to-breathe-life-into-the-studio-business-education/). Also, just think about “Be More Chill” took on a life of its own because the soundtrack became so popular on the internet ( https://unblockthemusic.blog/2018/09/18/joe-iconis-the-toast-of-broadway-finally/).
As “Un-Block The Music” continues to grow, it’s been interesting to watch how younger talents, writers, composers, lyricists, producers and actors are finding their way to a part of the music industry they may have, in the past, considered a medium for an older audience. Most certainly not the case anymore; “Dear Evan Hansen,” “In The Heights,” “Emma” and of course, “Hamilton” to name a few. Take a look at the Contemporary Broadway section on “Un-Block The Music’s” menu.
Now, here’s a look at how “Neurosis” came to life.
“Un-Block The Music” spoke to Composer Greg Edwards about his entrance into the theater world which started in first grade when he unknowingly auditioned for the “The King And I,” done by the students in the older grades.
“The audition consisted of everyone in the class bowing to the teacher. In Kindergarten, I learned square dancing, so I knew how to ‘bow to my partner’. So, about the audition….I thought… ‘I’ve got this!’ And, he did. He was cast in his first musical as a Siamese Child! “I fell in love with musical theater that way.”
Over the course of time, Greg realized he was better at directing than acting. Then he realized he was better at writing than directing. Through theater circles, Greg met Ben Green in a theater writing workshop and decided to collaborate. The writing and production of “Neurosis” came quickly. Greg did a cabaret of his songs and someone at New York Theater Barn saw him. They asked him if he had a completed show ready. While really only three songs and three scenes were completed at the time, he still said, “Yes! I have work completed! Why don’t I send you a random selection of three songs and three scenes and see if you like it?” They did like it.
“W did the New Work Series at New York Theatre Barn in 2011, and when the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival called the NYTB folks to ask for a recommendation for FLMTF’s 2012 Pitch series, NYTB pointed them to us.” After our year at the Pitch, FLMTF ended up giving us a full production in 2013.
While, Greg admits the quick turnaround of “Neurosis” is rare, he says, you just have to keep putting yourself out there. “Success is a combination of talent, right place and right time.” While you can’t fake talent, he says, you can be in the right place at the right time by putting yourself out there over and over. “Eventually the moment will be right.”
Both Greg and Ben were computer science majors in Ivy League colleges. Greg now works for Google and Ben for Facebook. Do not let that fool you! These songs are great. Although the show has ended its limited run for now, the soundtrack they recorded at Manhattan Center Studios will soon be released by Jay Records. I will post the release date as soon as I get it.
Book writer: Allan Rice
Directed by: Andy Sandberg
Theater: DR2 Theatre, NYC