Mastering Engineer, Bordeaux
His profession ranks among the most mysterious in the music world. In his words, it’s the art of “applying the coat of varnish that gives that final patina”. Starting with a mix of recordings, Alexis Bardinet works on the arrangement of the songs,...
...the nuances of each track and the coherence of the whole. Here and there, he muffles a breath, amplifies the warmth of the bass, lessens the presence of a voice, and flushes out a host of little noises… all to better conform the sound to the sensibility of the artist. And depending on the day, that could be Youssou N'Dour, Jean-Louis Murat, Les BB Brunes, Michel Legrand, Ibrahim Maalouf, Yaron Hermann or the Archie Shepp Quartet for Hear Palmer in 2016. Not bad company!
How did you get into sound mastering?
It was a matter of pure atavism. Back in Bordeaux, my father, himself a jazzman, opened a recording studio. So my childhood was filled with music. It wasn’t long before I started studying drums, piano, and finally the sounds themselves and their recording. The technical sophistication of that process, and the mystery surrounded it, all of that attracted me. And so it became my passion. Which proved to be stronger than the fear I had that I would get sick of it if I made it my job. Which was the worst advice someone ever gave me, by the way. And so followed my degree in sound engineering in Paris, various experiences in mastering, and finally the creation of my own studio, Globe Audio Mastering, in Bordeaux.
What do you enjoy so much about this discipline?
Many things. To start with, the perennial nature of a mastered work. I like the idea that the interpretation of a raw material, in this case recordings, can endure through time – that this transcription of an artistic sensibility will live on after us. And all because of a long series of rather subjective choices made over micro-details, using totally esoteric machines. So this is why I spend hours chasing away dissonance!
"In mastering, the nuances we deal with are warm, cold, hard, acidic… just like wines can be. Not to mention, in both of these domains we must accept the absence of any absolute truths – there is never only one way of doing things. Each of us, in our own ways, must oscillate back and forth between emotion and reason, meaning and technique."
Alexis Bardinet, Mastering Engineer, Bordeaux
It seems there are many parallels between your art and that of winemaking...
Of course! Of course! A winemaker’s work is about interpreting as well – interpreting a terroir, a given vintage. Moreover, the winemaker too will almost certainly be survived by his cuvées. And the vocabulary is also similar. In mastering, the nuances we deal with are warm, cold, hard, acidic… just like wines can be. Not to mention, in both of these domains we must accept the absence of any absolute truths – there is never only one way of doing things.
Each of us, in our own ways, must oscillate back and forth between emotion and reason, meaning and technique.
What is your relationship to wine?
That of an aficionado. I enjoy tasting it, but also reading about it. The stories of different blends fascinate me. Among the wines I love are those of Pessac-Léognan and Graves, which my father introduced me to, but also white Burgundies and some curiosities from around the world. I’m guided by my thirst for discovery. But also by the context. Close friends, a fine meal, a special event... they too influence your perception of a wine, be it a grand cru or a modest one. Indeed, I’ve experienced as much pleasure while savouring Chilean wines with Argentine meats during my honeymoon as I have in tasting a 1989 Cheval Blanc at my mother's birthday or discovering Zinfandel with good company. By the way, I’ve since tasted it again, in other circumstances, and the emotion was gone... But the Alter Ego 2006 I shared with the Palmer team after the Archie Schepp Quartet concert in the wine cellar is a memory that remains etched in me. Forever.