Mixing Atmos: Morten Lindberg

The Recording Art
By Sam Inglis

Morten Lindberg

For Norwegian engineer, producer and record label boss Morten Lindberg, immersive audio begins at source.

The title of this series is only partly applicable to Morten Lindberg. The Norwegian engineer, producer and record label boss is undeniably a specialist in Atmos — but there’s no mixing involved. Instead, Lindberg aims to make immersive multichannel recordings that can be played back directly on a 3D speaker setup with no additional balancing or processing. It’s a logical extension of the purist ‘straight to stereo’ approach that is favoured by many audiophiles; and since every stage of the process from recording to release is under Lindberg’s control, there is no external pressure to do things differently.

“I started out as a recording engineer back in the early ’90s, working mainly with classical, traditional folk and jazz music. Anything sounding in a natural acoustic environment was on my radar. Norway has never had any industrialised music production with the strictly compartmentalised craft categories, so it was only natural for me to expand to a more holistic approach to the phonographic art. As music producer I now participate in the process from conception through production into communication of the final product to the consumers. Initiating 2L as a music label was a natural development. 

Lindberg aims to make immersive multichannel recordings that can be played back directly on a 3D speaker setup with no additional balancing or processing.

“We started out as a production company in the early 1990s, but as the major labels scaled back their classical music recordings, we wanted to move forward. Our obvious solution was to start our own label. We currently make 10 to 15 new releases per year, all on Hybrid SACD, Pure Audio Blu‑ray, downloads and streaming services. Most productions feature Nordic artists and contemporary composers, but also the classical European tradition. I believe our recordings and the way they sound make an impact because it comes from the heart and soul of everyone involved. We don’t speculate about what a commercial market might want to receive. We make what we would like to experience ourselves. That makes it personal. 

“Our sonic image is created in the recording, with dedicated microphone techniques. I don’t spread as many microphones as possible for someone else to pull the faders in post‑production. I make my choice there and then, so I have a result that will serve the fundamentals of decisions to follow. The composers and musicians need to perform to the extended multidimensional sonic sculpture, allowing more details and broader strokes. Then immersive audio and surround sound is just a matter of opening up the faders.”

Art Music

Morten Lindberg is emphatic that he is not trying to recreate the experience of being in the audience for a live performance. “All my work is dedicated recording sessions, and my role is both as an engineer and as a producer. This means I get to directly interact with the musicians with the sole purpose of creating the recording. Every project starts out by digging into the score and talking with the composer, if contemporary, and the musicians. It is not our task as producers and engineers to try to recreate a concert situation with all its commercial limitations. On the contrary, we should make the ideal out of the recording medium and create the strongest illusion, the sonic experience that emotionally moves the listener to a better place. The beauty of the recording arts is that there is no fixed formula and no blueprint. It all comes out of the music.

“There is no method available today to reproduce the exact perception of attending a live performance. That leaves us with the art of illusion when it comes to recording music. As recording engineers and producers, we need to do exactly the same as any good musician: interpret the music and the composer’s intentions, and adapt to the media where we perform. Immersive audio is a sculpture that you can literally move around and relate to spatially; surrounded by music, you can move about in the aural space and choose angles, vantage points and positions. Rather than reproducing a concert situation, we consider the recording art a discipline of its own. It gives us the possibility to place the listener in an ideal position and become an actual party to the event. Through a dedicated production of the music we can maximise energy, reveal all the small nuances and avoid distractions. The emotional impact can be made more massive than ever. The conductor’s position is the seat no audience can afford — until now, with these dedicated recordings.”

Morten Lindberg makes full use of the 360‑degree soundfield available in immersive audio, positioning musicians on all sides of his 2L Cube array to create the impression that the listener is in the centre of the performance.

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Published July 2022

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