"Caros audiophiles, this week I visited one of the BBC's historic recording studios in Maida Vale London, where for 75 years almost every major artist you could think of has performed at one time, either for radio or for television or for recording albums, in every genre of music. It is the spiritual home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra who utilise the enormous Studio 1, one of the very few studios in Europe large enough to accommodate as many as 300 musicians. It is a place also where many new emerging artists have their first opportunity to experience a professional recording studio when they are interviewed and perform for radio shows. And there are photographic reminders everywhere you walk.
The particular studio I visited appears as if nothing had been changed since its creation, except of course for the latest state-of-the-art equipment.
I imagine the same long green curtains around the high ceilinged room, the same parquet wooden flooring, the same art deco lighting, the same acoustic panels on the walls. It reminds me of the Abbey Road studios, made famous of course by The Beatles, but before them by Edward Elgar and many other artists. Abbey Road is a little shabby, in need of re-decoration but the sound engineers are terrified that even a fresh coat of paint will destroy the unique acoustics of each studio, and so the original decor is preserved, untouched. I suspect the same is true at Maida Vale.
But it helps to preserve a wonderful connection to the past and a sense of living history.
So I am reminded of a French film from the 1980s called Diva, directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix. It is a thriller centred partly around a famous operatic singer who refuses to make albums or to allow her concerts to be recorded, believing in the purity of live performance.
So I am thinking - thank goodness for the invention of the gramophone, and of photography and radio and television and film, for allowing us to experience, at second-hand maybe (but otherwise, usually, how else can we?), so many wonderful expressive creative moments...
The music I have chosen comes from this film Diva. The first video is a live performance by the opera star of the aria "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana", from Act I of Catalani's opera "La Wally."
The second video features a beautifully haunting instrumental piano to accompany a night-time promenade through Paris taken by the opera star and her young admirer who has, unknown to her, secretly recorded her. Eventually he confesses to her and plays her the tape. She is nervous but also curious because, she says, she has never heard herself sing.