George Walker: This Wednesday Evening, the Pacifica Quartet kicks off the Georgina Joshi virtual performance series with a Zoom studio performance of Music of Beethoven available through IU Jacobs School of Music's Web site. I'm George Walker. I talked with the Jacobs School's director of engineering, Konrad Strauss.
Konrad Strauss: As we were planning this summer for the coming semester—realizing because of the pandemic, performance activity would be severely curtailed or even eliminated—we wanted to find a way that we could remain connected to our audience. Public performance is a very important part of the activities of the Jacobs School. We've been streaming operas and other events since 2007, looking at a way of reaching a broader audience outside of the local community and we managed to build the streaming program. It has really an international reach. So we have a lot of experience in this regard.
George Walker: The Georgina Joshi virtual performance series was looking for a bit more intimacy than the Musical Arts Center.
Konrad Strauss: We looked at the Georgina Joshi Studio, which was completed a couple of years ago. Beautiful space, both visually and acoustically. The space itself is acoustically designed as to be appropriate for all styles of music. We’re recording everything in there from classical music—like what will be happening on the virtual performance series—to jazz, small and large jazz combos, to contemporary rock and pop music recording. It's a very flexible space. It's designed to enhance and support the sound, and allow a very naturalistic sound to be captured. That was really the start. Then we began looking into what kind of events we could present.
George Walker: Konrad Strauss is no stranger to Bloomington.
Konrad Strauss: My background is as a violinist. I got a degree in composition from the Jacobs School. Over the next 15 to 20 years, I worked in the industry in Chicago doing album recording, television commercials, and things like that. But because of my expertise in classical music, I moved into specializing in classical music recording. In 2001, I was recruited to take over the chair position of the Jacobs School of Audio Engineering Department.
George Walker: I asked Strauss if there had been changes in the years that he's been here.
Konrad Strauss: Oh, a few. When I came for my interview—this was in the summer of 2001—Gwen Richards, who was the dean at the time, asked me what I thought of the facilities. My answer was, “state of the art for 1980.” Some work needed to be done.
George Walker: And what about the students at the Jacobs school?
Konrad Strauss: I would also like to point out that the engineering for this series will be done by audio engineering students. It’s very important for us to give them hands-on experience working in professional environments, while faculty will be nearby to help supervise and troubleshoot if problems happen. Most of the musicians coming into the Jacobs School have significant training. Many of them have been studying their instrument for eight or 10 years, or sometimes longer than that, and they're coming in as accomplished musicians. That's not really the case on the engineering side. This is not something that's really taught at an early age. Most of our students are coming in with a knowledge of engineering and a skill with the tools. They're really starting with the very basics in terms of engineering.
The Pacifica Quartet is a great quartet. They know their sound and they know how to balance. This is a collaboration with the music I.T. department, which takes care of the streaming aspect of this. This is really a cross-department collaboration in many ways, between the performance department of the Jacobs School of Audio Engineering and Music I.T. I think it’s changed a little bit by the pandemic because we have to go virtual. But collaboration is what musicmaking is all about.
George Walker: This Wednesday Evening, the Pacifica Quartet offers an evening of Beethoven. To access the performance, log into the IU Jacobs School of Music. The evening's performance will be available later from the school's website. I'm George Walker.