Generally speaking, there doesn’t seem to be any clear direct connection between the magnitude of a festival and the difficulty of rendering its live audio mix and associated components. But if anything, that relationship feels like an inverse one. Wait, let’s back up a bit.
It was only last week that I arrived at the Ukaria Cultural Centre in Mount Barker Summit, ready to take on a whole concert series, the annual Ukaria 24 series, curated this year by Sydney Symphony’s principal oboist Diana Doherty. Now, this job was varied in the truest sense of the word, with equal parts recording, editing, sound design for playback, sound design for live performance, logistics, and rigging. There was everything and the kitchen sink, and it all had to stick together in five days… three if you don’t count the days of actual performance (which I generally don’t).
In the heat of furious preparation, I will often pause and ask myself, sometimes even aloud, “what is the problem that I’m trying to solve?” I do this because it clarifies my own thinking to me. It’s easy to get lost in the broader structures of a show, or the atomic details of a setup, but it pays to be intellectually on top of a single problem at any one time. Ukaria 24 was what I would call a “non-trivial set” of problems.
So what on Earth do I mean by that? Well, my use of the world “problem” is, of course, benign, and more derivative of logic rather than anything personal, and in so framing this argument, a non-trivial problem of Ukaria 24 was one of time division multiplexing: how to divide the time allotted efficiently so that when any concert starts you are ready for it, and prepared for the one after.
Ultimately, preparation is key, and never more so than when you’re entrusted with the FOH sound mix for Diana Doherty, Lior, and Nigel Westlake, all in the same concert series.
And so I come back to my original thought, as it seems clearer now, though by no means definite nor categorical, what the answer should look like. Ukaria 24, as a festival, as a concert series taking place literally over 24 hours, is a BIG undertaking, not just in concept but also in execution, and so even though the ensembles therein are small chamber groups, the calibre of talent and the variety of programming on offer have made it one of the more challenging projects.
Ukaria 24 took place on Saturday 7 September and Sunday 8 September at the Ukaria Cultural Centre.
To learn more about the festival listen to these Ukaria podcasts.