Preserving Music History: Abbey Road Studios’ Microphone Legacy

Abbey Road Studios, in collaboration with the esteemed photographic and typology collective Legacy+Art, recently announced a captivating series of fine art photographs titled The Art of Recording: Vol. 1 – ‘Out of Thin Air.’

This extraordinary collection pays homage to the remarkable microphone collection housed at Abbey Road Studios.

Preserving Music History: Abbey Road Studios' Microphone Legacy
Image: @UMG Archive

These microphones serve as conduits to some of the most iconic recording sessions in history. The large format, high-resolution artworks crafted by Legacy+Art truly celebrate the witness marks and patina imprinted on these microphones during the culture-defining sessions.

The series features microphones used by legendary artists such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Ella Fitzgerald, Cilla Black, Fela Kuti, Shirley Bassey, Oasis, Kate Bush, Amy Winehouse, Frank Ocean, Celeste, and Adele, among a plethora of others.

At the heart of this collection lies the Neumann U47, the quintessential microphone at Abbey Road Studios. This legendary piece of equipment has been used by nearly all of the iconic artists who have graced the studios throughout the years and continues to be cherished by today’s biggest names in the industry.

Preserving Music History: Abbey Road Studios' Microphone Legacy

Renowned producer and composer Giles Martin remarks, “There exists an undeniable bond and intimacy between a singer and a microphone. For over 90 years, Abbey Road has been a sanctuary for some of the most extraordinary recordings ever produced, featuring the greatest voices in musical history. Rick Guest’s Legacy+Art Collective has brilliantly encapsulated the significance of these extraordinary microphones through their stunning photographs. Each image vividly illustrates the role these microphones have played in the creation of the music we hold dear.”

Legacy+Art has ingeniously employed one art form to describe another, resulting in hyper-detailed, large-format artworks that pulsate with life and intricate detail. These awe-inspiring visuals unveil the distinctive fingerprint left by each iconic recording artist and session.

Each final image is painstakingly composed of up to 100 individual photographic frames, each varying in focal depth and lighting. This meticulous process ensures a resolution, definition, and clarity that brings forth every mark and scratch etched into the surface of these microphones, connecting us directly to the recording artist and the incredible music they have produced.

The inception of this remarkable project took place when Rick Guest found himself in a soundtrack session in Studio Two at Abbey Road. It was during this session that he discovered Abbey Road’s meticulous session sheets, dating back to the early days of recording, which clearly documented the specific usage of each microphone.

Reflecting on this experience, Rick shares, “I was profoundly moved by the realization that a microphone could not only witness some of the most astonishing recording sessions ever created but also play an instrumental role in capturing and shaping the sound. It struck me that these microphones are akin to sacred artefacts for music enthusiasts and that large-scale artworks depicting them could serve as portals, connecting us to both the music itself and the moments in our lives when these incredible pieces of music served as the soundtrack.”

Mark Robertson, Head of Brand & Communication at Abbey Road Studios, expresses his enthusiasm, stating, “In conjunction with our recent 90th-anniversary celebrations, Mary McCartney’s captivating film ‘If These Walls Could Sing,’ and David Hepworth’s comprehensive book chronicling 90 years of Abbey Road’s history, this is an ideal opportunity to delve into and showcase the remarkable treasures in our collection. Our microphones are not mere remnants of the past; they are actively employed in recording sessions with today’s top artists and contribute to some of the world’s most prominent film scores. Each microphone is unique, a beautiful and intricate tool brought to life by music and engineering legends. They serve as gateways that have given birth to some of the greatest music ever created, quite literally emerging ‘Out of Thin Air.'”

In conclusion, The Art of Recording: Vol. 1 – ‘Out of Thin Air’ serves as a captivating tribute to the revered microphone collection at Abbey Road Studios. Through Legacy+Art’s masterful artistry, these photographs immortalize the cultural significance and historical weight carried by each microphone. They provide a glimpse into the rich musical heritage and the indelible mark left by the artists who have graced Abbey Road’s legendary studios.

These works of art seamlessly bridge the gap between visual and auditory realms, inviting us to connect deeply with the music we hold dear and appreciate the moments that these extraordinary pieces of music have accompanied in our lives.

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