March 8, 2015 | News

A Master of Sound

Andrew Wedman of Arvato Replication

Analog and digital: A master of sound

There is a lot of completely produced, undiscovered content stored away in music publishers’ archives, just waiting to be presented to the public again. Many new albums by well-known artists have been produced using the precious material that can be found in such archives. This has been possible only because those recordings have been digitized at Arvato, using carefully preserved studio equipment and the special expertise of recording engineers, to be put on the contemporary market.

For the 60-year-old Canadian Andrew Wedman, digitization is not a magic word.

As a recording engineer, he produces digital versions of all kinds of music, from classical to pop, in Arvato’s Gütersloh studios. Using the equipment there, which is unlike any other set-up in the world, he carries out the digital transformation that makes it possible to monetize the content.

He has listened carefully to all the superstars of highbrow music, ...

... such as conductors André Previn and Leonhard Bernstein, pianist Martha Argerich and tenor Luciano Pavarotti. He has experienced their extravagances first-hand while producing recordings with them. Perhaps the most particular was the Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. His concerts were always a special experience. “He only played when he felt good,” says Andrew Wedman, describing one tour of Japan during which Michelangeli simply canceled nine out of ten concerts.

Wedman, with his refined Anglo-Saxon accent, enjoys telling these anecdotes about people in the music business. He also enjoys describing the process of digitizing analog media. The topic has held his attention since his days of studying music in Waterloo, Canada, in the late 1970s. “Even back then, we would argue passionately in our seminars about the audibility of phase-linearities,” says Wedman, who moved after graduating to Germany, where he received training as a recording technician at the Academy of Music in Detmold. After completing internships at WDR and with the Norwegian broadcasting service, he worked at Sonopress (now Arvato Replication) in Gütersloh and at Deutsche Grammophon in Hannover. His duties there involved post-production of operas and symphony concerts. “Those were hard times. Four days in Gütersloh, three in Hannover. Sometimes I slept in a tent by the lake there, the Silbersee.” In the late 1980s, he then made his way around the world as a freelancer for Deutsche Grammophon, working in New York and at Abbey Road Studios in London. Then he returned to Hannover, and Deutsche Grammophon (later Universal Music), where he got a permanent contract. When Universal Music closed down the site six years ago, Arvato in Gütersloh became his new home.

We profit greatly from Andrew's extensive experience with a wide range of audio formats. There are many parts of our cultural inheritance that would fall by the wayside if it weren't for him.

Wolfgang Martens, Vice President Digitisation & Media Archiving Services at arvato Replication

After all, the Canadian recording engineer knows just where to find the dusty equipment that can be used to produce Karajan’s Beethoven symphonies, or the global hits of ABBA. His extensive network of contacts allows him to rove from Stockholm to Gütersloh. He makes those contacts through research on the Internet, or by calling up old colleagues who work in the United States and all over Europe. “Often, the old analog machines and recordings were discarded years ago because no one was interested in them anymore. When that happens, I just have to keep making more calls,” he says. When he makes a find, as he did with the ABBA recording equipment, then the machinery is restored and overhauled in one of the Arvato workshops with doting professional care. Without these machines, it would be impossible to digitize Caruso’s arias, Bully Buhlan tunes or the mega-hits of Sting, Stevie Wonder and ABBA. “But we can do it,” says Martens, “because we have this amazing supply of machines. And that makes us totally unique.”