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A Serene Oasis for Making Music

A Serene Oasis for Making Music


This article is a part of our Design particular part about water as a supply of creativity.


The first stuff you discover upon getting into Long Pond Studio are the glass home windows and doorways. They’re enormous — the doorways are eight-feet sq. — and body pastoral scenes of grass, bushes and water. Picture home windows wanting onto a pond can be merely fairly in a home. But on this setting — a recording studio within the countryside close to Hudson, N.Y. — they’re startling.

That’s as a result of recording studios extra usually resemble playing dens; they’re darkish, airless areas the place gentle and a view to the skin world would distract from the high-stakes act of music making. Large glass surfaces are additionally a no-no, as a result of they refract sound waves and presumably permit out of doors noise to leak in.

But Long Pond Studio, which belongs to the musician Aaron Dessner, a founding member of the rock band the National and an in-demand file producer, has a really residential high quality, with Scandinavian and Japanese design options, an inviting kitchen and even a pair of upstairs bedrooms.

Indeed, the deal with structure and design has resulted in a constructing that’s conducive to creating music not as a result of it’s acoustically appropriate, however as a result of it evokes emotions of readability and serenity.

Finished in 2016, Long Pond has already acquired a sure fame inside music circles. The first album to be recorded inside was the National’s “Sleep Well Beast,” which gained the Grammy for finest different music album in 2018. Its cowl encompasses a black-and-white {photograph} of the constructing taken at night time: a facet profile of a barnlike construction clad in cedar, with a steeply pitched metallic roof. An oblong window provides a lighted glimpse of the musicians working inside. The similar enigmatic picture appeared on the band’s tour T-shirts.

The studio additionally served because the set for Taylor Swift’s documentary “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions.” Ms. Swift, Mr. Dessner and the producer Jack Antonoff collaborated on her “Folklore” album remotely throughout the pandemic, and, within the movie — produced and directed by Ms. Swift — the musicians play its songs collectively for the primary time in stripped-down trend.

It is the uncommon recording studio that turns into a well-known constructing, and even then, the repute is due principally to the music made there, not the structure. But Long Pond, with its wooden inside stuffed with guitars and pianos and its deck festooned with string lights, seems within the movie as a country Shangri-la.

Erlend Neumann, a Hudson Valley-based architectural designer who based the agency To Form, led the studio’s design, which he stated grew from a modest thought and price range.

For a few years, Mr. Dessner, 48, lived in Brooklyn, first recording in his attic after which in a teeny storage studio. “There wasn’t any actual gentle or air in there — you would wish to step exterior,” Mr. Dessner stated by telephone.

He and his household ultimately moved from town to the Hudson Valley to guide a extra relaxed life. He heard about Mr. Neumann as a result of he had designed a home for one more guardian at Mr. Dessner’s baby’s college.

One summer season day in 2015, Mr. Neumann and Mr. Dessner walked the property, which sits on 10 sloping acres within the shadow of the Catskill Mountains and features a finger-shaped pond and a farmhouse relationship to 1791 (now Mr. Dessner’s foremost residence).

Mr. Neumann, 49, a strapping, bearded man who favors canvas pants and chamois work shirts, can be a sculptor. He’d by no means earlier than designed a recording studio. But throughout school, he spent 5 months volunteering on a venture to revive the Goetheanum, a concrete non secular middle in Switzerland designed by the architect and educator Rudolf Steiner, an expertise that noticed Mr. Neumann welding, chiseling and carving with little follow. Ever since, he stated, he’s been unafraid to strive new issues.

“I like to inform the consumer, ‘Don’t inform me what you need. Tell me why you need it,’” he stated, main a tour of Long Pond on a latest afternoon. “Why is it particular being right here? What will make that higher? I’ll select the orientation by listening to why.”

Mr. Dessner’s directives — he wished “a inventive oasis the place you’d really feel disarmed, you would really feel susceptible, you would be relaxed” — led Mr. Neumann to web site the studio downhill from the home, on the fringe of the pond.

“The land creates this oasis for the band,” Mr. Neumann stated. “Having this house allowed that communal factor.”

Given a decent price range, Mr. Neumann used industrial supplies like cement flooring and painted joists slightly than particular finishes. A small, derelict Nineteen Eighties pole barn on the property was torn down and its rafters reused for the stair treads and siding for the partitions within the dwelling quarters. The barn’s metallic roof, patinated with age, grew to become siding on a part of the outside.

Long Pond is 1,800 sq. toes complete and divided by a wall, with the massive, open recording room with its cathedral-like ceiling on one facet and the cozier dwelling space on the opposite. What is rapidly obvious, other than these huge views, is the dearth of an old-school, glass-boxed “management room,” as in lots of recording studios. Mr. Dessner wished an open-concept ambiance for artists to work collectively with out boundaries.

Other considerate design parts by Mr. Neumann assist to nurture the inventive movement. For instance, there isn’t any direct view line from the recording room of Long Pond to Mr. Dessner’s home, separating the work house from home life. The unattractive acoustical panels usually affixed to the partitions of recording studios had been changed with an undulating cedar sample impressed by the same design in Mr. Dessner’s Brooklyn studio. And cedar-clad sound panels on wheels equally match with the vibe of the room and permit for extra targeted management of the sound.

Long Pond breaks most of the conventions of sound engineering. “No acoustician was excited by having 8-foot-by-8-foot glass doorways in right here,” Mr. Neumann stated, including that for essentially the most half, he favored type over perform, with Mr. Dessner’s approval.

“We wished this sense,” Mr. Neumann stated, lifting his arms up excessive as if in an ecstatic church ritual. If an acoustical ceiling cloud had been hung over the recording room, as an acoustician recommended, “that feeling can be gone.”

The constructing of Long Pond has corresponded with a creatively fertile interval for Mr. Dessner. A music he wrote with Ms. Swift, “Cardigan,” grew to become a No. 1 hit, and he teamed with Justin Vernon, the founding father of the band Bon Iver, to type the indie folks group Big Red Machine. He additionally welcomed Gracie Abrams to Long Pond, producing and co-writing her 2023 debut album, “Good Riddance.” And he continues to file and tour with the National.

“Having this house has undoubtedly fueled my creativity,” Mr. Dessner stated. “I really feel nearly just like the studio is an instrument itself. It’s a spot I wish to be in.” (He just isn’t the one one impressed by the setting. Many artists come to file, he stated, they usually by no means go away the property whereas they’re working.)

For Mr. Neumann, Long Pond’s renown has led to an surprising profession collaborating with musicians on house studios, together with for the Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer Rob Moose on Orcas Island in Washington State. He has additionally been commissioned by Mr. Dessner to make giant sculpture installations for a number of music festivals.

Mr. Neumann stepped exterior and led a customer down a protracted grass discipline to the far finish of the pond. Long Pond Studio was silhouetted within the late afternoon gentle. Nearby was the firepit circle that was the setting for inventive discussions between Ms. Swift, Mr. Dessner and Mr. Antonoff within the documentary.

“I do know this constructing has its fame as a result of those who labored right here,” Mr. Neumann stated. “But additionally, there’s one thing about this constructing. Aaron put it on the album cowl. And then Taylor Swift doing the movie right here. It turns into a personality.”

He added, and not using a hint of ego, “And it’s due to the structure. Architecture subconsciously impacts individuals. It’s going to engender individuals to remain right here longer and create extra.”

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