IoSR Blog : 01 July 2015

2015 Tonmeister Reunion

We hosted our 2015 Tonmeister reunion on 18th of June in Wates House: an opportunity for our students and graduates to catch up on what's been happening at Surrey, and to meet up with friends and colleagues.

The event was a combination of the annual end-of-year celebration for students with a reunion for our graduates. Over one hundred people attended, from first year students to some of the earliest to have studied on the programme in the 1970s.

This was also a gathering of staff who have contributed to make the course such a success. Making this an even more historic occasion, for the first time ever all four Tonmeister programme directors were present, and all gave presentations at the event, including research, recordings and reminiscences.

All four of the Tonmeister course programme directors, from left to right: David Pickett (1979-1983), John Borwick (1971-1979 & 1983-1984), Dave Fisher (1984-2009), Russell Mason (2009- ).

Technical programme

During the afternoon, there was a series of talks given by Tonmeister graduates and former staff.

Firstly, Rafael Kassier gave an overview of the development of high-end in-car audio systems, describing the difficulties of fitting the audio components into a car, to the advanced signal processing used to render a 3D soundstage.

This was followed by David Pickett describing surround sound recording techniques for classical music, including descriptions of a number of his experiments.

Towards the end of the afternoon, four Tonmeister graduates and staff from a range of industries contributed to a panel discussion about object-based audio. Chaired by Russell Mason, the panel included Martin Black (Sky), Rupert Flindt (ex-BBC, now Surrey), James Shannon (Dolby), and David Steptoe (Lionhead Games). Following an introduction to object-based audio, the discussion covered a wide range of aspects, including the capabilities already available to each of the industries represented, and the future requirements for development. One of the key themes that emerged was that there was a need for a standard to enable the various object-based systems to interact, and all of the panellists were optimistic (albeit in some cases cautiously!) about the benefits that object-based audio could bring.

The afternoon finished with a collection of demonstrations and posters. The final year Tonmeisters showed posters summarising their technical projects, which prompted some interesting discussions with the attendees.

There was also an possibility to hear the demonstrations of surround sound recordings from David Pickett, object-based audio mixes from the S3A project, and laptop-based demonstrations of IoSR research by students and staff.

Presentations and prizes

The evening saw presentations from three of the programme directors, plus a talk by one of the Tonmeister alumni, ably compèred by alumnus Michael Price.

John Borwick reminisced about the early days of the Tonmeister course, from his recruitment to retirement. He explained the ethos of the course, and the things that he did to make the course both unique and industrially-relevant. He also reflected that the unusual combination of subjects required (Maths, Physics and Music) would mean that Tonmeisters would be mentally tough, having had to argue for this selection with both their parents and their school.

Dave Fisher gave his usual humourous speech, which, among other things, gave an update on the state of the archive of Tonmeister recordings (almost two thousand recordings archived!). He also gave an update about the number of awards won by Tonmeister graduates; this year including a Latin Grammy, an Emmy, two BAFTAs, and multiple Gramophone awards.

Graduate Donal Whelan introduced the assembled Tonmeisters to a new service that makes it simple for audio engineers to set up a website, including many useful tools:

Current programme director Russell Mason gave final year students an overview of what they might get up to in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years from now, based on the careers of graduates. Including pictures from the archive, Russell picked out some of the more unusual career paths that Tonmeisters had taken, from professional banjoist to inflight entertainment.

The evening was also used to present prizes to final year students. We are fortunate that these prizes are sponsored by leading audio companies and individuals, and recognise the high quality of work in both academic and recording work that our students achieve.

The Richard Giles Prize for academic achievement in the second year of the course, was presented to Felix Mercer.

The Dolby Audio Engineering Prize for the most outstanding recording techniques seminar submission, was presented to Emma Towers-Evans by James Shannon from Dolby.

The Adrian James Acoustics Prize for the most outstanding audio research seminar paper, was presented to Rosanna Fish by Andy Thompson from Adrian James Acoustics.

The Focusrite Prize for the most outstanding technical project, was jointly presented to Thomas Aston and Thomas Greenwood by Mick Gilbert and Will Hoult from Focusrite.

The Dave Fisher Classical Recording Prize for the most outstanding classical recording, was presented to Will Anderson by Dave Fisher.

The Jim Abbiss Pop Recording Prize for the most outstanding pop recording, as judged by Jim himself, was presented to Matthew Glasbey by Jim Abbiss.

The AMS Neve Portfolio Prize for the most outstanding portfolio of recordings, was presented to Thomas Aston.

The Woodleyside Tonmeister of the Year Prize for the most outstanding contribution to the course and department, was presented to Dan Bishop by Jon Honeyball of Woodleyside IT.

Catching up

Finally, but most importantly, the reunion was the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and make new ones, over a beer or two and a burger.

You can find even more pictures of the event on Flickr.

by Russell Mason