Sue Miller – Cuban Flute Improviser, Writer & Academic

Charanga del Norte LIVE Recording ‘Bronx Pachanga’May 7th, 2020

This is the first of several live music documentaries of Sue Miller and her Charanga del Norte made by Tim Blackwell and recorded on ribbon microphones by Paul Thompson and Barkley McKay. This forms part of a research project funded by the British Academy. Here is a live take of Sue’s arrangement of ‘Bronx Pachanga’ with a cheeky little Watusi middle. Recorded at All Hallows Church, Hyde Park, Leeds on 26 October 2019.

Employing tools and technologies as close to those used in the past, the conditions of recording sessions from the 1950s and 1960s were re-staged in order to explore particular aspects of the recording process not captured already by existing work. Ribbon microphone technology was used to record the 12-piece band Charanga del Norte and a ribbon microphone specialist from the company Xaudia provided additional microphones for the recordings. These experiments have helped to shed light on the benefits and problems of the live recording process and have provided findings which question how we narrate music history and how we capture ‘liveness’ in the recording studio.

The interactive nature of the band’s music, the cultural codes of performance (a liveness aesthetic) and the internal dynamics of the group were analysed following live recording sessions using ribbon microphones and specific layouts and recording set ups of the period. The benefits of combining traditional research methods with the more experimental practice-led approach included a deeper understanding of how music technologies compromise or enhance musical performance in the context of interactive and collaborative Latin music recording processes.