May 31, 2010

A lecture on the Third Ear Band at Pelago (Florence) on next July.

On next Sunday 4th, July at "On the Road Festival" in Pelago (near Florence) Luca Ferrari will do a lecture about the Third Ear Band with the title: "The Third Ear Band: the utopia of a sound with no limits in the music-ware Age. Minor story of a dream choked by the popular discography".
In that occasion it'll be possible to listen to some excerpts from the unrealised "The Dragon Wakes", recorded by Electric Third Ear Band in February 1971.

May 24, 2010

Martin Benge, the E.M.I. sound engineer of Third Ear Band music.

Martin Benge was the E.M.I. sound engineer that worked at two TEB albums - "Third Ear Band" (1970) and "Macbeth" (1972).
Here’s a biography published on February 1st, 2010 by MIX, a magazine on “professional audio and music production” (
"The headlines generated by the wave of consolidation that's swept the recording industry in recent years might make it seem as though such turmoil is a recent phenomenon. But the truth is that the business of studios has as much of a history as many of the studios themselves. And former head of EMI/Virgin studio operations Martin Benge not only witnessed it, but has been a big part of it during a career that's spanned 37 years and shows no sign of stopping.

Benge's professional history began in 1962 when he joined EMI in London as an "electronics engineering apprentice," back in the days when such apprenticeships lasted for five years and the recording industry was ruled by intensely serious men in white lab coats. You didn't even get to touch the tape until you'd put in a couple of years of hard labor. Benge was assigned to Abbey Road Studios, then the crown jewel in an empire of dozens of recording facilities in 14 countries. In those days, artists were routinely assigned to staff producers working in recording facilities owned by their labels. And so Benge found himself working with EMI's best-known group, The Beatles, on occasion, as well as many top classical players and conductors, including Jacqueline du Pre, Yehudi Menuhin and Otto Klemperer. "That was it-that was the way the world worked at the time, and no one thought about it much differently," recalls the 55-year-old Benge, who still retains some of the polite formality that was instilled by EMI's rigorous training regimen.

But the studio business was on the verge of upheaval. The rise in the power of the rock artist and the producer gave them more influence over recording venue choices, and by the early 1970s, independent studios had gained the edge in the record-making process. When The Beatles chose Olympic Studios in London to record "Baby You're a Rich Man"-the first Beatles recording outside of an EMI-owned facility-it was the beginning of the end for label-owned studios. Throughout the 1980s, labels such as Columbia and BMG shut down their studios in New York and elsewhere. "By the mid-'80s, it was all over for them," Benge says. "That model was through."

Benge moved to Australia in 1971, going to work at the EMI facility in Sydney, all the while watching the studio industry change focus. "The interesting thing, though, was that even as the major labels were shutting down rooms, Richard Branson's Virgin Records was going the opposite way," he says. "He opened The Manor in Oxford in 1972, and Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells put both the label and the studio on the map, so to speak. As the labels were closing down their studio networks, Branson was expanding his." Indeed, Branson next opened the Townhouse Studios, then bought The Who's Ramports in Battersea and renamed it Townhouse III, then bought Olympic. "It was curious to watch this whole contrary process," Benge says.

In 1984, after a ten-year independent stint, Benge entered the domain of studio management, taking over the reins of EMI's Sydney facility, which had been renamed Studios 301. But by 1992, even EMI's studio empire was a shadow of its former self, with just a handful of facilities remaining, including Abbey Road, Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, and a joint venture with Toshiba in Tokyo. EMI then asked its expatriate alumni to guide a new phase in its studio operations when EMI acquired Virgin in June 1992.

"There was already a strategy in place to perceptually decouple the name 'EMI' with the individual studios," Benge says. "To survive, the [EMI] studios had to get business from artists on other labels, and you couldn't have them thinking that they were on one label but recording in studios owned by another."

 Kevin Ryan and Martin Benge at the "Recording the Beatles" celebration (Abbey Road Studios - November 9th, 2006) (photo © Mike Banks).

Benge embraced that strategy, but was also faced with the effects of another fundamental change in the nature of the studio business when home recording began to make its presence felt globally. "So here we were in a situation in which the big record labels had pretty much divested themselves of their own studios, yet EMI now suddenly had a much larger studio collection when Olympic, Townhouse and The Manor came along with the Virgin deal,"  he recalls. "On top of that, big studios suddenly found themselves losing business to home recording. And I was now heading up EMI/Virgin's studio operations and faced with the prospect of having to make a profit when the rest of the industry was moving in the opposite direction. I thought, 'This is a bit of a challenge.'"

Fortunately, Benge was up to the task. In addition to continuing to fade the EMI moniker and build the brand names of studios like Abbey Road, he also spent more than a year reviewing the economics of all of the studios and closed several mid-level rooms that were losing the battle to personal recording. At the same time, he had to reconcile two disparate corporate cultures he was supervising-staid and traditional EMI and the younger, brash Virgin. "I think a large part of why I was hired was because, even though I had started at EMI, I had been away in Australia for all those years and could come back and be more objective," he explains.

After putting together a team composed of employees from both EMI and Virgin, Benge began to significantly upgrade the remaining facilities, making them even more upscale to blunt the effect of personal recording technology and to position them for new markets, including video post. In 1995, he helped start Abbey Road Interactive, the group's new media arm, which went quickly from a staff of three to 15. He closed The Manor-which was located in a huge Victorian country estate that required a tremendous amount of overhead, including gardeners-and dedicated more resources to mobile recording, expanding the operation from one to four trucks. Then he expanded the company's presence in Europe by opening an office in Paris.

But perhaps the most innovative move of Benge's tenure-and one that reflects a much larger business trend-was the creation of a merchandising division that capitalized on a resurgence in Beatles nostalgia, sold Abbey Road T-shirts and coffee mugs, and took the museum-shop approach to profitability in the studio business. Another offshoot of that idea-branded pro-audio products like pop screens for microphones aimed at the home recording market-will take effect sometime this year, although Benge left the EMI/Virgin post in 1998 and is now happily ensconced in Sydney with a new career as a consultant.

"It's all about branding now, isn't it?" he asks rhetorically. "But the business, and the world, has changed quite a bit. And studios simply have to change with it."

Martin Benge works behind the desk (a selection)

Daniel Barenboim – Beethoven “The Complete Piano Sonatas” (EMI Classics 1966-1969) (sound engineer in some tracks)
Third Ear Band – “Third Ear Band” (Harvest Records 1970) (sound engineer)
Third Ear Band - Soundtrack of “Macbeth” (Harvest Records 1972) (sound engineer)
Ross Edwin Ryan – “A Poem you can keep” (1973) (sound engineer)
Patch – “The Star Suite” (EMI-Harvest 1973) (sound engineer for some tracks)
Ross Edwin Ryan – “My name means horse” (Aztec Music 1974) (sound engineer) Don Burrows – “The Tasman Connection” (Cherry Pie 1976) (sound engineer)
Stephen Sondheim – “Side by Side” (RCA 1978) (sound engineer)
Michael Franks with Crossfire – “Live” (1980) (mixed and recorded by)
The Bushwakers – “Warrigul Morning” (CBS 1983) (sound engineer)
James Galway – “The Celtic Minstrel” (1985) (sound engineer for some tracks)
Ariel - “The Jellabad Mutant” (RareVision 2002) (sound engineer – tracks recorded in 1975)
Wendy Grace - (sound engineer and production)
Mike and Zeph – “Mike and Zeph” (?) (production)
The Beatles – “Past Masters” (Apple 2009) (sound engineer in some tracks recorded during the Sixties)
©2010 Luca Ferrari

May 19, 2010

New Third Ear Band t-shirt...

A Third Ear Band t-shirt is sold on line by English Ubiqutees at but who's getting the royalties for using the great "Alchemy" cover logo?

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

May 18, 2010

A contact with Steve Pank, original TEB road manager.

Thanks to Dave Tomlin I’ve got a contact with Steve Pank, original promoter and driver of Third Ear Band, hausband of cellist Ursula Smith.
Here’s a kind letter from him that preludes a proper interview to come.

"Hi Luca,
its good to hear from you, I heard of you from Carolyn, and from Glen when he was around, and more recently from Dave Tomlin. I had a quick look at the website and it looks really good.
I got to know Glen from answering an ad in the 'Melody Maker' musicweekly, a few years before he formed the Third Ear Band. At the time Glen was playing free Jazz [mid 1960s] and his group then was called Sounds Nova - it is mentioned in the sleeve notes for 'The Magus' which I wrote under the name Steve Barker, a name I use on line.
I also have a small piece about the early history which I wrote for Carolyn to read to Glen in the later stages of his illness.
I promoted the Third Ear Band in the early days in All Saints Hall, and then became the driver for two years till the early 70s also helping with promoting.
I have recently been in touch with Richard Coff who as you probably know, runs a successful Suzuki Violin school in Miami.
I mentioned your email to Ursula and she is quite happy to be interviewed as am I.
I heard somewhere that you were interested in getting archive material from EMI.
In my opinion the best archive will be in the vaults of the BBC mostly recorded for the John Peel Show. They might be easier to negotiate with than EMI and I am sure that Richard, Ursula or Carolyn would support you in getting hold of the tapes for reissue.
I was there for most of the early epic appearances, in Hyde Park with both the Floyd and the Stones, with Bob Dylan at the Isle of Wight, in the Albert hall, with John and Yoko and the concerts in the Queen Elizabeth and Festival Halls.
Being involved with the Third Ear Band was an important part of my life and it is pleasing to that you are reviving interest in their work...
Good wishes.
Steve Pank".

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

May 11, 2010

Swiss underground filmaker Clemens Klopfenstein used Third Ear Band music in 1979 for his b/w film "Geschichte der Nacht".

After the famous Roman Polanski's "Macbeth" and the less-known Werner Herzog's "Fata Morgana" (read at - thanks to the reader 'Spirito Bono' I've discovered that a Swiss underground filmmaker - Clemens Klopfenstein (b. 1944) - used Third Ear Band music in 1979 for his b/w film "Geschichte der Nacht" (Story of Night).

As journalist Chris Auty ("Programme Note London Film Co-op") writes, "It's a black-and-white record of European cities in the dark (2-5am), from Basle to Belfast. Quiet, and meditative, what ermerges most strongly is an eerie sense of city landscapes as deserted film sets, in which the desolate architecture overwhelms any sense of reality." 

"The only reassurance that we are not in some endless machine-Metropolis is the shadow of daytime activity: a juggernaut plunging through a darkened village, a plague of small birds in the predawn light. The whole thing is underscored by a beautiful 'composed' soundtrack, from quietly humming stretlamps to reggae and the rumble of armoured cars in Belfast. A strange and remarkable combination of dream, documentary and science-fiction".

You can watch this intriguing film (about 61 minutes) for free at
TEB music is just at the end, from minute 54...

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

May 04, 2010

A brief profile on Richard Coff from the Web.

Here is a brief profile on Richard Coff from the Web site (

"Mr. Coff is the founder/director of the America's Suzuki Music Academy and is a recognized expert in the Suzuki Method educational field. He was among the first teachers in the United States to receive training from Shinichi Suzuki, the creator of the Suzuki method. As a member of the faculty of Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department, he was one of the first in America to use Suzuki Violin Method to train children musicians, age 2 years old and up. 

 Shinichi Suzuki and Richard Coff in 1990.

Richard Coff has performed in major concert halls throughout the world, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Boston Symphony Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Moscow Philharmonic Hall, and Leningrad Phiharmonic.Mr. Coff is the founder and director of America's Suzuki Music Academy, a leading music school, providing Suzuki method training and located in South Florida. As one of the first teachers in the United States to receive teaher training from Shinichi Suzuki, the creator of the Suzuki method, he is a recognized expert in the Suzuki Method educational field. His teaching career began at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music in the Conservatory's Preparatory Department. As the youngest teacher ever to be appointed as a faculty member in that division and the first to teach using the Suzuki Method, he specialized in training gifted children musicians".

Interesting the fact that here, as in his personal site at or in other pages on violins/violinists (as at, there's no any references  to his past with the Third Ear Band...

no©2010 Luca Ferrari