Part of the FAL’s basement level is designed as a recording area where student Tonmeisters can practice on their instrument: the recording studio. In addition to the Recording Hall, this area contains two smaller isolation booths (where loud or soft instruments that cause problems when recording ensembles can be acoustically isolated) as well as three control rooms that are directly connected to the hall. In an area physically separated from the recording area, the basement level also contains six further control rooms as well as two further recording studios for various applications ranging from film sound to media composition and on to live electronics and electroacoustic composition.
With floorspace of nearly 120 m², the Recording Hall offers the necessary space for large ensembles. The factors that make it usable for recordings that require a space with high-quality acoustics, however, are its enormous ceiling height of 9.6 metres and, consequently, its effective acoustic volume of 1,110 m³.
During the design phase, the acoustics of all control rooms and recording spaces at the FAL were accorded the highest priority. The various halls’ acoustics were seen to by the concert hall specialists at Müller-BBM (see Alumni in Focus interview, p. 75), whose work has already been heard by numerous concertgoers in Raiding, in Grafenegg, and at the Felsenreitschule in Salzburg. For the control room acoustics as well as the overall technical planning, the choice fell on the American-Swiss firm WSDG, which has been responsible for planning thousands of recording studio complexes worldwide since its initial project, the legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York City.
Since the Department of Composition, Electroacoustics and Tonmeister Education was actively involved in all project phases from the very beginning, this building is also the result of numerous suggestions and special requests. Many of these have served to make the work processes at the FAL more efficient: design features relevant to activities such as delivering large instruments were optimised, and sightlines that help one easily grasp various recording situations were taken into account.
The result is truly impressive. From all of the attached control rooms, it’s possible to follow the goings-on in both the Recording Hall and the larger of the two isolation booths through large studio windows. Furthermore, two of the control rooms have a further window for a view of the adjacent event space, the Sound Theatre, in order to facilitate live concert recordings.
In terms of technology, the initial strategy has been to forego costly new purchases such as mixing boards wherever possible in order to invest in an underlying infrastructure that’s future-proof. So almost without exception, the equipment from the old sound studios on Rienößlgasse has been serviced and moved to the FAL. In terms of infrastructure, the money saved by putting off new equipment purchases has been used to install what’s currently one of the world’s largest studio complex audio networks, a network via which all of the FAL’s twelve control rooms and seven recording spaces, the Arthouse Cinema, and basically every room on the Campus can be interconnected via countless audio channels.
For large-scale productions such as one involving an orchestra, a choir, a big band, and soloists, this means that one can use all of the recording spaces simultaneously from a single control room. And in practice situations, multiple students sitting in separate control rooms can simultaneously and independently record and mix a performance given in one and the same recording space.
All this is joined by the fact that every control room features a different common present-day workflow—enabling students to practice in this regard, as well. And from stereo to surround sound to 3D and immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos, practically every working method—encompassing digital and analogue techniques, hard drives and tape machines—can be realised and taught.
As one sees, this is a place where a countless number of useful new possibilities have been created. However, the most interesting possibilities of all are neither acoustic nor technological: they’re created by the arrival of students and teachers from the Department of Composition, Electroacoustics and Tonmeister Education on the Campus, where they’ll be more visible to others and thus hopefully go on to develop all kinds of synergies and novel ways of working together in the years to come.