Project: U47w

Haere mai!  We have a fantastic opportunity to record brand new, never heard before, original compositions by two of New Zealand’s most prominent pianists.  The performances will be conducted on immaculate Steinway and Pleyel pianos.

To make the recording even more close to perfect, we would like to use the perfect microphone, the rare Wagner U47w.  Its signature sound would provide the highlight, amongst a wider range of microphones, that would be used on the session.  The only fly in the ointment, however, is that we don’t have one, therefore, we need to buy it!  

We have started a crowdfunding campaign to make this project a reality and if successful, our supporters will see pianists Flavio Villani and Michael Bell walk away with recordings of their latest work, that can be shared and enjoyed by all of their loyal followers.

The original recording idea has been triggered in light of the recent global events. We all enjoy real-time, live performances but the reality is, audiences can no longer be accommodated as they were before. The next best thing, is to listen and appreciate musicians work, in your favourite listening environment.

Roomservice Media has taken on the challenge to make this recording a possibility.   In return for the effort, the agreement is that Roomservice Media will have the microphone, that can then be made available for any future artistic endeavours with musicians, singers and actors.   

What is Wagner U47w exactly? Philosophically, it is a technological work of art. Mechanically, the Wagner U47w is a modern day, indistinguishable remake of a Neumann U47.

Why is it special? The Neumann U47 is widely regarded as one of the finest vocal and solo instrument microphones ever made.  They were produced between 1948 and 1963 and were made both visually and sonically famous by the Beatles in particular. 

When describing the sound of the U47 a common description of it is “larger than life”, big, lush, smooth and vibey.  If a good workable example is available to use on a recording project, they are typically the preferred choice by producers, engineers and artists alike, more than 80% of the time.  It lends an authority to any voice recorded with it and when offered up to any talent to perform in front of, it’s presence alone can inspire greater performances purely because of the rich history associated with it.  If there was such a thing as a technological muse, or a performance enhancer for the acoustic arts, then this would be a very strong candidate! 

To find an original U47 in any condition is hard enough, but to find one that works or that doesn’t need a complete overhaul is even harder.  If those two planets do align, however, you can expect to pay in the region of $20,000USD ($35,000NZD) for one.

Why is it Unique? Some would argue, that unless it wears a Neumann badge, it’s not a real U47.  Anything else is considered a ‘clone’ and subject to the basic laws of marketing hype.  

Please enter the frame, Gunter.  Gunter Wagner is an ex Neumann engineer, master craftsman and is widely regarded as one of the finest Neumann technicians around today.  Not only does he service Neumann mics from around the world, but for a very short period in time, he also re-created them.  In the 1980’s, Gunter re-manufactured by hand most of the key U47 parts in order to service and maintain original U47s.  In 1998, he built the first completely new U47 reproduction as a special order for an international client and the response was off the charts.   Finally, it was possible, to achieve 100% of the look, feel and sonic quality of the classic U47, but without the reliability problems associated with a 60 year old unit.  Over the years, Gunter made just over 250 new U47 microphones, labelled as the Wagner U47w.  

Gunter’s website goes in to much greater detail than makes sense to here, but what makes the U47w so different and unique compared to all of the ‘clones’ is two fold.   The component level accuracy and the acoustic characteristics.  

Gunter went to pain staking lengths to refabricate all of the components as per the original plans and materials where possible.  To the extent that any part of the U47w is interchangeable with an original U47.  

Due to the fact that the components are as near identical to the original, it should be of no surprise that the sonics of the microphone are also indistinguishable from an original reference U47.  

No other microphone manufacturer can or does make these claims, therefore, this is the nearest you can get to a brand new, perfectly identifiable, easily serviceable and sonically inimitable, U47.   

Why it’s worth funding?

Michael CW Bell is a pianist, organist and composer from Auckland. He is passionate for the music of J.S. Bach and blends Baroque elements into his compositions and improvisations.

Flavio Villani is a pianist and composer in Auckland as well. He is passionate for the music of the Romantic era and is currently working on a Doctorate through the Waikato Univeristy, aimed on reviving the art of improvisation in the study and performance of classical music. His latest works on Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff repertoire aim on combining the study of the language of those composers into his own compositions and improvisations.

The pianos on offer in the local recording studios aren’t best suited for classical compositions, so in order to maximise the performance potential of this project, other more suitable pianos have been sourced for us to record on location. 

John Gray has both worked with and recorded Flavio and Michael Bell on several occasions in the past, so is in tune and best placed to take on this experiment.   

To be clear, we are not looking to purchase an original U47.   To double down, we are not talking about a beaten up example of a U47w either.   The person selling this specific microphone in question, is the original owner and was put in touch with me directly by Gunter himself.   He purchased it in 2012 and is from a well-known entertainment family in Australia.  The microphone is in mint condition, perfect working order and has been a treasured possession in his commercial studio.  He is winding things down and in his own words, is selling off items he still desires, but no longer requires.  The seller has agreed to give us first refusal on the microphone and will hold on to it until the campaign finishes. 

In short, these opportunities don’t come along very often.  Only 250 were ever made, they are highly sought after and they have the capacity to lend a sound of folklore to your projects .  You will not be able to find a better working example of a U47w available.  Having a microphone of such heritage available to enrich the NZ arts community is a long term vision and we feel that Boosted is the perfect platform to make it happen for all parties involved.

Why it’s an incredible opportunity? Right now during this Covid madness, there are people without jobs, without a roof or food on the table and the world is full of uncertainty.  Why would anyone want to support this?  In our view, it is exactly times like these that foster creativity.  It is times like these that fuel a voice and inspire stories to be told.  Everyone backing this project could be part of a community that went on to capture, instill hope and inspire other artists here in our very own Aotearoa, for years to come.    

Tax deductions and donations

Thanks to Boosted and the Arts Foundation, all donations are acknowledged and are 33% tax deductible within NZ.  If we also crowd fund more than $1000, then the Arts Foundation will give a $1000 koha to sweeten the deal.  Ka Pai!

Any funds raised over and above the threshold, will be donated to the Patience project.  They are a fantastic charity dedicated to supporting young people with long-term illnesses, by using innovative technology to connect them to their family, whãnau, friends and school.  I have supported one of their projects in the past, and I would be honored to support them again.

If you would like to find out more detail or discuss how you can help in other ways, then please feel free to get in touch directly

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