Legacy Conversations: Adam Michalak

Randy Kerber (left) with Adam Michalak (Photo: Dan Goldwasser)

Music Scoring Mixer and Recordist talks his experience working at Sony Pictures Scoring Stage on numerous film score recordings, including many projects with John Williams

Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto
Special Guest: Doug Lacey

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The magic of a film score is made real and tangible by the genius of composers who write the music and the talent of the musicians who perform it, but there is another fundamental aspect that isn’t often discussed and celebrated as it should: it is the work of the great music scoring mixers and audio engineers that capture the orchestral performance through their expert hands and ears and make it sound as exactly as the composer envisioned. John Williams has worked with several great scoring mixers throughout his career (Eric Tomlinson, Dan Wallin, John Neal, Armin Steiner, Bruce Botnick), and since the early 1990s he established a long and fruitful collaboration with Academy Award-winning mixer Shawn Murphy, who recorded virtually all of his projects. The majority of Williams’ recording for film happens in Los Angeles, specifically at the Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, a.k.a. the former historic scoring stage of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where countless of legendary film scores of Hollywood’s Golden Age (Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Singing In The Rain, Ben-Hur, Doctor Zhivago, just to name a few) have been recorded. The stage became the composer’s preferred room in Los Angeles thanks to its very unique sound, always marvellously captured by the hands of Shawn Murphy and the team of recordists who work on the stage. And this is where the guest of this episode of The Legacy of John Williams podcast comes in.

Adam Michalak is one of the most experienced scoring mixers working today in Hollywood. He made his first steps in the industry at Sony’s Scoring Stage, first as an intern and then gradually climbing up the ladder to become one of the most trusted recordists working in the studio. In that role, he worked for such veteran engineers of the industry as Shawn Murphy, Dennis Sands and Alan Meyerson, recording for film scores by virtually all the great film composers working in Hollywood including John Williams.

Adam Michalak (Photo: Colin Young Wolff)

In 2018, Adam left Sony and joined Hollywood Scoring, a company that has provided music production for feature films, episodic television, popular video games, and varied broadcast streaming media, but also produced large scale stadium music performances, concert hall productions, and outdoor music festivals.

Adam Michalak with lyricist Glen Ballard during the recording of Randy Kerber’s score for the short film “Cello” (Photo: Dan Goldwasser)

In the role of scoring mixer, Adam worked on many important projects, including Randy Kerber‘s score for the short film Cello (recorded in 2017 at Sony’s Scoring Stage), the CW television show Stargirl (with music by Pinar Toprak) and scores for the videogame company Riot Games, including the widely popular League of Legends series Arcane featuring music by Alexander Temple.

The mixing room at Hollywood Scoring (Photo: Paul Peltekian)

Adam collaborated again with Randy Kerber recording his cues written for the Star Wars land “Galaxy’s Edge” in Disneyland, California, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In September 2021, he also did live mixing for the Lynn Harrell Memorial Tribute Concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall, featuring John Williams on the podium conducting Anne-Sophie Mutter in a new arrangement of “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz for solo violin and orchestra by Randy Kerber.

Adam Michalak with Randy Kerber (Photo: Dan Goldwasser)

In this conversation, Adam recollects the path that led him to become a recording engineer for orchestral music, from his early days as a film music fan to his first steps in Hollywood working at Sony’s scoring stage and experiencing first hand the work of great film composers and their trusted mixers, offering a unique insight into the creative process of John Williams and Shawn Murphy on several projects. Adam also reflects on the history and evolution of the recording process, offering a wide variety of examples and sharing anecdotes from his own experiences as a scoring mixer. Joining the conversation is film music and John Williams connoisseur Doug Lacey, who shares a friendship with Adam and also has a great experience working in the audio field.

Visit Adam Michalak’s Official Website

About Hollywood Scoring

Hollywood Scoring is a music production company delivering the highest quality media and entertainment content. From the studio to the stage, Hollywood Scoring is focused on leveraging cutting-edge technology along with its award-winning stable of producers, songwriters, composers, orchestrators, and arrangers to realize your vision.

Led by principals Michael Barry, Edouard Brenneisen, Noah Gladstone, and Adam Michalak, Hollywood Scoring’s team of veteran leadership has continued to push the boundaries of modern music and audio production in the entertainment industry.

The collective years of experience have led to the successful development of their proprietary end-to-end production process; a system that has produced large scale stadium music performances, concert hall productions, and outdoor music festivals. In the studio, Hollywood Scoring has provided music production for feature films, episodic television, popular video games, and varied broadcast streaming media.

Clients include Riot Games, Netflix, The Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios, Epic Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Microsoft, NPR.

About Doug Lacey

Doug Lacey is a multimedia forensics examiner and owner of BEK TEK LLC, a company founded by his mentor/colleague Bruce Koenig.  After flirting with the prospect of working in audio post-production following his graduation from the University of Miami’s Audio Engineering program, he landed a position with the FBI in their forensic audio/video laboratory in Quantico, VA in 1996.  During his time with the FBI, he conducted forensic examinations of audio recordings related to several major investigations/incidents, including the cockpit voice recording from United 93, the Linda Tripp/Monica Lewinsky telephonic recordings, and the Washington, DC-area sniper shootings.  Doug has continued his forensic work in the private sector after leaving the FBI in 2003, in both criminal and civil matters including the Robert Durst criminal case in Los Angeles, secret recordings from the office of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and the criminal allegations involving the Duke University Lacrosse Team.

Doug’s fandom of John Williams has its roots in a drive-in viewing of Midway in 1976 and the release of Star Wars in 1977, but it really took hold after seeing behind-the-scenes footage of Williams conducting the recording sessions for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial in 1982, sandwiched in-between Saturday morning cartoons.  He has had the pleasure of seeing Williams conduct the National Symphony Orchestra (on multiple occasions) and “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  In 2018, he attended the recording sessions for Williams’ “Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra” and the main theme from Born on the Fourth of July, a project spearheaded by Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’s Principal Trumpet Thomas Hooten and conducted by Williams.