Capturing the sound moment - The recording studios in Rome


In the course of more than fifty years of jazz history, the recording studio transforms itself from a simple soundproofed space to capture live the performance of musicians as a real "instrument" at the disposal of trained artists and sound engineers. Thus we pass from the members of the jazz formations of the 1920s positioned, based on the volume produced by the instruments, around a cornet (or microphone) connected to a mechanical lathe for engraving on sealing wax discs, to the now technically up-to-date artist , in the late sixties, can handle the console and all the various electronic accessories at your disposal; the time leap arises between the bands of Louis Armstrong, positioned away from the cornet, in the last rows, because he is able to drive a very powerful sound out of the trumpet, to Miles Davis, skilful alchemist in the Columbia Records studios for recording in live tape of the long session for the album “Bitches Brew”, cut, stitched, stuffed with reverbs and electronic sounds by the trusty Teo Macero in the post-production phase.

On the other hand, the gradual evolution of recorded music is mainly due to the ever-increasing knowledge and skills acquired and put into practice by the figure of the sound engineer, in many cases capable of capturing the pregnant moment of the expression of one or more instrumentalists, in order to deliver to the public of the present and to posterity recording works with a precise tonal and dynamic "photo", unique and at the same time polychromatic. Just think of the recordings made in the 1950s and 1960s by the sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder for records that have entered the history of jazz such as "Saxophone Colossus” (1956) The Sonny Rollins e “A Love Supreme” (1965) by John Coltrane and, more recently, the recording and mixing work of James Faber for the recording works of Brad Mehldau, John Scofield, Joshua Redman and Enrico Pieranunzi on the occasion of hisLive At The Village Vanguard” (2013), with Paul Motian and Marc Johnson.

In Rome, between the seventies and nineties, record labels such as Edipan, Soul Note, Black Saint, Red Record, Dire and others, and consequently the musicians, rely, in the circuit of recording studios, on the meticulous work of valid technicians of Italian sound, themselves in some cases excellent instrumentalists and composers; we can mention the Studio Dirmaphon in Via Pola (ex studios of the Italian RCA), the Emmequattro Studios, of the Edipan label of the producer Bruno Nicolai, in which the sound engineer Gianni Fornari worked, the Soundvideocat Studios, the Sonic Recording Studio, with the sound engineers Massimo Rocci (jazz drummer, Rocci played in the formation of the trombonist Marcello Rosa and in the band of the double bass player Carlo Loffredo at the "Clubino" in Via Lazio) and Franco Patrignani and, of course, the RCA Studios located in the establishments at Km. 12 of Via Tiburtina.

As far as the Sound Work Shop and the Forum Studios are concerned, a separate discussion must be made, as a consequence of their transversal importance in the development of a wide range of musical genres and for the pioneering instrumentation used during the recording sessions. The first ones were opened in 1968 in the Trionfale area by the composer and conductor Piero Umiliani. At the Sound Work Shop Umiliani records, for his various independent labels (Omicron, Soundworkshop, Liuto Records e altre), soundtracks and "sound" discs for musical comments on current affairs programmes, newscasts, documentaries, making use of high-profile jazz musicians such as Enrico Pieranunzi, Giovanni Tommaso, Gegè Munari, Oscar Valdambrini, Cicci Santucci. In addition to the various electronic instruments used for the recording of these recording works between electronic and ambient, in the following years taken as a model by a pleiad of Italian and foreign musicians and DJs, Umiliani makes use of sophisticated listening equipment (speakers), multitrack recording (in this case the Ampex capable of recording 8 tracks on a 1 inch tape is used), mixer desk and microphones. Not only that, particular attention is given to the acoustic appearance of the recording room (it must be taken into account that the Sound Work Shop is designed by Paolo Ketoff, a sound engineer and one of the leading experts in acoustic engineering at an international level). In consideration of these peculiar characteristics, in those years, the Sound Work Shop became the reference point of that front of jazz with a decidedly avant-garde cut: the Modern Art Trio of Franco D'Andrea, Franco Tonani and Bruno Tommaso, Mario Schiano and the Santucci-Scoppa Quintet.

A year after the opening of Piero Umiliani's recording studio, the Ortophonic Studies were born under the Basilica of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Piazza Euclide, on the initiative of Enrico Melis (soundtrack manager at RCA), who contacted the composers and conductors Bruno Nicolai, Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccioni, Luis Bacalov, Armando Trovajoli and the sound technicians Sergio Marcotulli and Pino Mastroianni to start the project. Also in this case, the excellent acoustics of the large spaces available make the difference as well as the contribution of excellent sound engineers such as the aforementioned Sergio Marcotulli and Franco Patrignani, back from the experiences at Sonic Studio and RCA (Patrignani took over the Ortophonic studios in 1979, changing the name to Studi Forum). There are countless soundtracks recorded at the Studi Forum by prestigious Italian and foreign composers and conductors, including the music for Sergio Leone's film "Once upon a time in America “(1980) which sees, among the instrumentalists of the orchestra directed by Maestro Ennio Morricone, the pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, the double bass player Enzo Pietropaoli and the drummer Pierino Munari; the American trumpeter Chet Baker and the Argentine saxophonist will also play there Gato Barbieri, called to compose and record the soundtrack of "Last Tango in Paris“(1971) by director Bernardo Bertolucci (with arrangements by conductor Oliver Nelson). In 1996, under the direction of Franco Patrignani's son, Marco, the studios changed their name again to Forum Music Village, confirming the blazon of a technologically advanced structure capable of attracting artists and ensembles of international caliber.

As can be seen from this brief excursus, the recording studios of the Capital (to which we can add the one opened by the saxophonist Giancarlo Barigozzi in Milan in 1974) have become over the years real artistic laboratories, in which skills and "enlightened" creativity have given life to "Works" consigned to the history of contemporary music, generating, at the same time, new ways of listening in the public-user aware.

Paolo Marra


External links:

Special – Sergio Marcotulli
Forum Studios Official Site
Sound Work Shop Publications

Recent Contributions

Stay in Tune

Download Jazz Up
The app dedicated to jazz music, borne by the Jazz Department of Saint Louis, is now available on digital stores!

Discover the events and stay up to date on the latest news from the Jazz department of Saint Louis!
Playings is not game

get on google play

App Store icon

powered by Saint Louis College of