THE PANORAMA STEELBAND- Sight and Sound

Many of us may not realize the critical nature of accurate sound reproduction, to the understanding and appreciation of orchestral music,for example Panorama music, when played by the steelband.
This is even more applicable to people relatively unfamiliar with the steelband, it’s culture, its makeup, and the different tonal qualities among the pans.
With any complex musical arrangement on the pan, it is sometimes difficult, even for people immersed in the culture , to distinguish between the different instruments ; unlike the conventional orchestra where parts played by different sections – strings , brass , reed and keyboard – are clearly defined and easily recognized.

This is one of the reasons I see the steelband as an audio- visual musical medium that has to be seen AND heard to be fully appreciated, whereby one can then follow the musical interplay between the different sections by sight as well as sound.


This is also one of the unique attributes of the steelband , and our best option for promoting the culture and art-form would be to create an environment with the necessary facilities that can support an increased influx of visitors to enjoy the steelband at its best in the land of its creation.

My recent visit to the panyards of T&T, and to the Panorama Finals only confirmed what I’ve always known.

That there’s no experience quite like being up close and personal with the big steelbands of T&T where you can feel the vibrations of the pan, and enjoy the sweetness and complexity of the musical arrangements.

Fortunately today’s access to multimedia can give us a decent alternative for simulating that experience, but our audio visual productions must be of the highest quality if we’re to make a mark outside of the “steelpan bubble”.

An audio recording of a complex arrangement by a full steelband is almost impossible for someone to fully appreciate if they cannot distinguish between the sound of a tenor pan and a double second.
To them that nuance is lost.

Going forward, we need to display steelband music to the world in its best possible light , and that means multimedia productions (videos)of the highest quality, with particular attention to reproducing the sound of the entire range of pans.
To those who think that today we can have some kind of audio musical revolution that takes the steelband to higher heights, I wish that were the case.
However, I’m inclined to disagree.

A steelband performance, especially at Panorama must be seen and heard.

On a positive note, this year 2020, I’ve noticed a vast improvement in the quality of panorama videos available online . Indeed, the quality is such that one can almost recreate the panorama experience with a large screen TV and surround sound.

However, having attended this year’s Panorama Finals, I can assure you that there’s nothing quite like being there 😀.

3 thoughts on “THE PANORAMA STEELBAND- Sight and Sound

  1. You are correct that the similarity of pan tones make hearing the complexity of the different instuments in an arrangement more difficult than in the ‘conventional’ orchestra. I have heard from several non-devotees, that “it all sounds the same”! To which I say, all pianos sound the same, but the music is all different! Some people don’t like the ‘carnival’ tempo (of Panorama performances) and want more dynamic range. This is not always true of course, I think of “High Mas” by Clive Bradley for example. The Pan is Beautiful concerts showed the expressions possible wonderfully. I also recently suggested HD film + superior sound for Panorama DVD sales. The cameras are certainly available, and more of them could capture the different pan sections, but they would need to be subtle so not disturb the players. The sound recorded at Panorama is getting better, but some bands sound better than others. I am convinced a great recording could be done. It might take multiple microphones (omni and uni directional) mixers, and maybe some sound screens to minimize crowd noise. Many concerts, even outdoors, have been recorded excellently over the world; but most of these send everything through a sound board to speakers for the audience. That would probably NOT be acceptable at Panorama! It would also take a large fast sound crew, able to adjust quickly any microphone changes needed for each bands pan set ups! You are right that seeing and hearing a steel band performance really helps understanding how such wonderful music is made! Thank You.

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  2. Gentlemen, I seldom take part in any online discussion on pan but here I decide to make an exception. I believe that the solutions proposed reflects a way around the problem and displays a lack of understand the complexity of the challenges facing the Pan tuning community. Dr. Anthony Willians,Rudolph Charles,Lincoln Noel, Bertram Marshall,Wallace AustinLeft us a legacy, a Blueprint if you will , so we could advance the technology further.. The problem face the pans today is the “masking of the Fundamental by the second partial,(the Octave). Tuners deliberately set that up, incorrectly assuming that that ring constitute a “sweet” sound. What that really does is deprive the note from expressing its natural timbre; each of the 12 towns used in western music have its own characteristic tone.colour. Forcing the octave to dominate the note(s), makes all the notes sound similar in timbre.I have heard some guitar pans which sound as if someone took a sample from a tenor pan and lower the pitch and put it on the guitar pan.The REAL SOLUTIONis to re-establish Sonic character to the pans in each of the four voices.Today with the understanding of the science of the pan, understanding of the Harmonic Series, manipulation of the Nodal Configuration of the note surface, Vibrational modes, it is possible to manipulate the sonic expression of each pan in the family produce inditifyable tones for each instrument. We could have been on our way to solve this problen head on, but most of the “masters left us before they could turn their sights to solving this problem. But there is good news. The know to do this is available , but not enough tuners with the mind set of Rudolph Charles Bertie Marshall, Tony Willians Allan Gervais or James Jackman (Bassman).THE SOLUTION IS POSSIBLE..

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