The results of Song Sale (digressing into broadcasting policy)

The University of Otago Music Department has some recording studios at Albany Street. Because I’m technically staff there, this great facility is available to me from time to time.

I was too lazy to walk there and photograph it myself, so I got Google to do it for me.

The building was constructed in the 1960s as the Dunedin headquarters of Radio New Zealand for stations such as 4YA, 4YC, 4ZB and 4ZM (now known by other names). There’s a distinct Glide Time public servant vibe to the place – squat postwar modernist layout, unpainted wooden doors, blue parquet floors, pre-yellowed net curtains, and behind those perforated ceiling and wall tiles there’s probably a crapload of asbestos.

Public radio moved out in the 1990s when the government forced them to radically downsize their South Island presence, but the sold-off commercial arm (now TRN) stayed on until the university acquired the building outright a few years ago and kitted it out with that renowned (allegedly million-dollar) SSL mixer.

However, even the flashest gear is compromised without a good room to record in. Building large studios from scratch with all the right acoustic treatment and isolation is hideously expensive. That’s why it’s such a shame that so much of New Zealand’s postwar investment in music broadcasting has gone to waste: Auckland’s Helen Young Studios, Wellington’s Broadcasting House and Christchurch’s Radio New Zealand House are out of action through sale, demolition and act of God respectively.

Dunedin is lucky indeed to have retained their main studio, even if (as I understand) it lay fallow for many years. It’s not quite big enough for a Mahler 8 or an Alpine Symphony, but it’ll fit a decent-sized orchestra. 4YC/the Concert Programme made lots of studio recordings there back in the day, mostly chamber music. Here, for instance, is Terence Dennis playing David Griffiths’ Sonata in C in 1988:

So when I went in to record some tunes of my own that I’d written at Song Sale, I felt a bit of a connection to the past, given my employment history 2008-2012.

The short of it: here’s a romantic pop ballad called Love is a Four-Letter Word. I’m playing on a Bechstein grand piano, and Mike Holland is the sound engineer. Watch it below or listen on SoundCloud.

Love is a Four-Letter Word on SoundCloud

Coming soon from the same session: A Song About Wees, The Racist Grandma Blues, How Many Legs Is Too Many Legs, Dolphins & Porpoises Rape & Pillage, and A Blues Song About Beards.