Abbey Road Studios

I traverse the famous zebra striped crossing on Abbey Road almost every day.  

It is just around the corner at the end of my street.  I see the studio beyond it and watch the throngs of tourists line up, strike the iconic pose, and trace the Beatles’ footsteps across the road.

Last night I had the thrill of entering the building and singing with the Bach Choir, recording parts of the soundtrack for a new Ridley Scott movie, Prometheus, a prequel to the Alien franchise.  Check out the official trailer for the film:  The film is slated to kick off the summer blockbuster season on June 8th.

I strode up the steps, walked through the doors, passed by the security, and navigated down a long hallway filled with electronic recording equipment.  Black and white photographs of famous pop stars lined the hallowed walls:  The Stones, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, the Beatles, and many more.  I descended a staircase to a landing area adorned with movie posters — Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Tim Burton’s films, Disney films — all signed with gratitude from various directors and composers.  All these pictures emanated fame, and I thought to myself, if these walls could talk.

I entered a very large studio to accommodate the choir.  Cameras were prohibited, but I found this picture of the studio taken during one of Sting’s recording sessions when he worked with Greenwich’s own Rob Mathes (who is featured below):

We were assigned seats and given headphones to listen to the pre-recorded orchestral track that we accompanied. The headphones had only one earpiece to cover one ear with the piped-in music and verbal directions while the other ear stayed free to hear the surrounding choir.  It was a strange sensation.

The composer of the score directed the session.  We had to listen to the “clicks” in our headphones that kept steady track of time as we sight-read the score.  A large monitor flashed before us keeping exact track of the measures in the music so we would come in on the correct prompt.  I learned to comprehend the following dialogue:

DirectorAnd from bar 27, 8 clicks and you enter…Pete, you get that?

Pete (in the control room): We need more balance on measure 19, tenors sing out on the A, sopranos less vibrato

Director:  Right.  Positions.  Take 2.  Bar 27.  8 clicks and you enter…crescendo and cut off clearly on bar 35, beat 4.

Music truly is another language.

As you can imagine, the music for an Alien movie is not exactly melodic and upbeat.  It is rather dark, ominous, and suspenseful.  We sang very odd, minor, sometimes atonal sequences to mimic “drones”.  Lots of oohs and aahs that will be manipulated in the studio to create the desired effect.  At some points, we were directed to make unusual sounds such as an expression of terror, a forceful surprise, a frightened murmur.

We do get a credit at the end of the film, so I may be the last one seated in the audience!

I was tempted to sign the famous wall in front of the studio on my way out.  Jackie beat me to it, signing her name with an “xoxo” within the first few weeks of living in London.

Perhaps I should sign my own message:

Here Cathy sang, (or better put), wailed like an alien drone!

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