With 5.1, 7.1, 10.1 and even 20.1 surround sound a reality, you can now hear music in the same way that The Jetsons drove space cars: from all directions. Trance DJ Ferry Corsten's addition to Moonshine's Mixed Live series — recorded April 19, 2003, at Spundae in Los Angeles — is one evolution further into the future of DJing. With three Technics turntables and Pioneer CDJ-100 and CDJ-1000 digital turntables, the Dutch native, who also produces as System F, crafted a mix CD along the lines of his Global Trancemissions offerings (Moonshine, 2001 and 2002). He selected tracks, cleared them, figured out the order he wanted and then created the mix live. But this time, the crowd and music ambience took on a more three-dimensional form.
Christian Dwiggins, the Dolby 5.1-surround mixing engineer for Moonshine, has worked on Mixed Live for Baby Anne, Donald Glaude, Carl Cox, Dave Audé and others. He recorded Corsten's set with a Tascam DA-88 recorder, a Panasonic WZ-AD96M preamp, a Rolls line mixer and five microphones. Seven tracks were then dumped into Pro Tools: two lines direct from the DJ booth and five mics (a stereo mic in the center, one up front by Corsten and two in between at the left and right). “You don't want to hang the mics too low so that you're just getting one conversation all night,” Dwiggins says. “And you don't want to hang them too high so you're getting nothing but music and no crowd.”
Clocking in at 110 minutes, the 16-track mix was cut down to fit on an 80-minute CD. In addition, Corsten had a couple of other fixes to make. “One guy swatted the tonearm by accident, and it was a record that was playing, so it was a big skip and jump,” Dwiggins says. Fortunately, Corsten had the foresight to start the record over before the buildup where the record skipped, so it could be edited out later. During two other instances in the mix, the beat matching fell off a little, so Corsten replaced those sections on the direct line tracks. The mic tracks, however, could not be fixed, as the crowd couldn't be re-created. “If he just totally wrecked really bad, the beats just fell way off, then the crowd mics would have picked it up, and there's not a whole lot I could have done here fixing it,” Dwiggins says.
The DJ himself makes no bones about his perfectionism. “When it comes down to a CD, it should sound flawless,” Corsten says. “It's like everything that disturbs you when you listen to it disturbs you even more the second time you hear it.” But it's not only the perfect beat matching but also the transitions between styles that make for a good mix. “I look at the rising tension and buildup throughout my set time,” Corsten says. “And I look for the transition records, such as [my track] ‘Indigo,’ that make my set go from trance to techno.”
Dwiggins has received some criticism that Mixed Live isn't true 5.1 surround, as the music itself isn't in 5.1, but he sees that coming in the next two years, when clubs have 5.1 DVD-player setups. Corsten is preparing for that day by producing his own 5.1 tracks (using a Sony DMX-R100 console). “So by the time the clubs are set up with 5.1 systems,” Corsten says, “the records that I'm producing will sound right.”