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Tuscan studio brings POsitivo thinking

A new multi-function facility fills a gap in Tuscany, writes Mike Clark

Although a cultural association from a bureaucratic point of view, POsitivo is to all effects a facility featuring a recording studio and a multi-function room, which recently opened in the Tuscan city of Prato (Italy).

The idea for the setup came from two of the association’s founding members, Silvio Brambilla and Roberto Miscali, who financed the project and manage the facility.

Miscali explains: “We’re both Florence-born, but live in Prato, and some time ago we realised that there was a total lack of this type of service in the metropolitan triangle of Florence, Prato and Pistoia.

“The recording studio is also cabled with the stage in the multi-function room, enabling bands performing live to record, as well as making multi-track recordings of larger formations playing classical music, for example. In-house backline and instruments are available for musicians requiring them.”

Although Miscali is an amateur musician and singer, his professional background is in the expo stand design and construction field throughout Europe. In the case of Brambilla, as John Miles sang in the seventies, it would be impossible to imagine his life without music in some form or other: whether behind an audio console, playing on-stage or composing.

However, this eclectic Tuscan hasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll-only diet. He is head of the AV department at Florence’s new Opera Theatre, which hosts the famous Maggio Musical Fiorentino (MMF) and its programme of concerts, opera and ballet (now at its 80th season). With the MMF since 1981, Brambilla leads a team with an impressive array of digital audio equipment at its disposal, used to mix all the live shows in the theatre, for multi-track recordings and live TV broadcasts. The team records all the theatre’s productions, not only for the venue’s archives, but also – on request – for state broadcaster RAI and other networks.

His work with MMF involves increasing use of new technology in Operatic applications, such as live surround sound reinforcement and live electronics (for example, on Wagner works with Fura Dels Baus).

He recently began work on digitalising, restoring and editing of the tapes in the MMF archives for a series of CDs: Historical Maggio Live and Maggio Live.

With his own mobile recording studio, he records MMF operas and concerts, audio for soundtracks and advertising spots.

At POsitivo, as well as session drumming when needed, Brambilla plays with several bands such as Zero.55, DeadBurger and Jardin des Bruits, with genres ranging from classic guitar, bass and drums rock to more experimental sounds.

The Prato recording facility (pictured top) is ProTools HD 11 based (Avid HD I/O Avid HD OMNI Avid HD Native) and almost all the equipment was selected and purchased by Brambilla, who explains the reasons for some of his choices. “I particularly like the Avid HD cards and the Focusrite (OctoPre MK II) preamplifiers, which ensure top-grade audio and enable us to exchange files with top studios,” he says. “As far as the multi-function room is concerned, I’m really happy with our Behringer X32 40-input, 25-bus digital console and the 48-channel S32 digital snake. I think a lot of folk underrate this desk, but it offers excellent quality, thanks also to its 32 programmable Midas-designed preamps, and a vast range of functions.”

Brambilla also finds the studio’s iCON Qcon Pro control surface fantastic and adds: “It guarantees complete control of all the Pro Tools functions, with the feeling and speed of a mixer – I could throw my mouse away!”

The facility’s control set-up (pictured) also includes a PresSonus Monitor Station V2 (monitors are a pair of Genelec 8020A and two Yamaha HS4) and an M-Audio Keystation 49E USB/Midi keyboard controller.

Plugins include Waves Gold Bundle, iZotope Nectar 2 and RX Plug-in Pack, Eventide Ultra Channel, Lexicon LXP Native Bundle, Focusrite Scarlett Bundle and Arturia Modular V.

The multi-function room, which hosts a stage complete with a light rig, sound reinforcement courtesy of compact two-way Electro-Voice EVU-2082/95 enclosures and a 24-channel Yamaha 01V digital mixing console, is used to rehearse tours by bands such as Fantasia Pura Italiana, Verdiana Raw and Zero.55 (in which Miscali is the vocalist and Brambilla doubles on keyboards and drums), concerts and theatre productions, record videos and other projects, as well as hosting cameos and presentations by numerous bands.

It has also been transformed into a dancehall, hosted fashion parades, exhibitions, music lessons and a recently staged course for live sound engineers.

Florence’s Campus Della Musica recorded a live set for the presentation of the new compilation CD for its 3rd edition and video maker Giacomo Castellano shot a clip by singer/songwriter Noah Tortelli.

Numerous emerging artists have made their studio recording debut at POsitivo, and an eight-band compilation is in the pipeline, as well as an interesting collaboration with the Centro Studi Musica e Arte music school in Florence.

After just over a year’s activity, Brambilla and Miscali are rightly pleased with the facility’s really POsitivo results!

Second picture: (L-R) Roberto Miscali and Silvio Brambilia