Sound and Space

Last weekend, I went to Montalvo Arts Center to experience a collection of sound art installations. I was particularly keen on seeing/hearing an installation by my friend Shane Myrbeck and his wife Emily Shisko called Hyphae, which draws inspiration from the underground mycelium networks trees use to communicate. It's a mesmerizing piece that moves with you as you stroll along the switchback path among the trees. I took the same path home that night, and it was even more haunting, creeping up and surrounding me in the pitch-black darkness.

The evening also included tributes to Pauline Oliveros. I'm not usually much of a participator, but I joined in a circle to perform The Heart Chant (2001) (from her book Deep Listening: A Composer's Practice, which is sitting, unread, though not for long, on my living room shelves). During this performance, I felt something I haven't felt in a long time: the synchronized vibrations of many voices, resonating in chests and along arms and fingers, passing from one person to the next. It was a powerful experience and a fitting tribute to Pauline Oliveros.

Still ruminating on the experience, I stumbled (again) on old grad school writings about sound and space:

Thoughts on Bachelard, December 2003:

Walking outside this morning after reading [Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space], I was more aware of the change in soundscape as I moved from space (and place) to space (and place).  From my apartment--possessed by low level electronic hums, an occasional footfall from above, a car passing by--to the outside--sirens, loud wind blowing leaves off trees, constant traffic, pedestrians on cell phones. I thought of how Wyoming sounds to me in memories of my childhood--wind whistling, sometimes howling, through pine trees and through the edges of my bedroom windows, the muffled burble of hidden brooks, sounds unhindered by baffles of buildings, people, highway traffic. I thought of how loud air can be, as I rode my bike through Brooklyn this windy afternoon--it whooshed loud enough to erase the sounds of traffic and city life. I thought of how space--I mean outerspace!--sounds in 2001: A Space Odyssey--silent, seizing us with that vastness, deepness, that boundlessness Bachelard wrote about. But I did not think about Euclidian geometry or right angles or miles, meters, blocks of space. Except, then again, I did. Two more blocks to Smith Street, take a left at that corner, budget fifteen minutes to get there by three o'clock.

Summer News

I started this post analog-style while camping over the July 4th weekend. Woke up at 6am, and the whole campground was still sound asleep, so I had coffee and blueberries and wrote while the birds chirped and the sun slipped through the leaves.

Two upcoming events:

On Friday, July 7th, I join Jonathan Wyner (M-Works Mastering, iZotope) to talk about audio restoration and repair. Our discussion will be moderated by Coast Mastering's Michael Romanowski and takes place at Fantasy Recording Studios and is sponsored by the San Francisco Chapter of the Audio Engineering Society. There will be excellent examples of noises and demos about how to remove them, moderate them, love them, but mostly remove them.

On Saturday, July 8th, Jonathan, Michael and I will do our best to Demystify Mastering in two intimate sessions at Coast. We promise not to dwell on loudness but, rather, to cover preparing mixes for mastering, the art and craft of sonic sculpting, deliverables and more.

A few choice mastering & restoration projects:

Umoja's 707 is sure to liven your summer dance parties! This classic 1988 South African bubblegum pop record is out now on Awesome Tapes From Africa.

Ron Pope's Work drops next month. Truly a pleasure to work with this talented musician and with prolific engineer Ted Young. (Seriously, check out this guy's discography!) These songs are moving, intimate, fun, warm. Catch Ron on his Dancing Days world tour this fall.

Congratulations to Philly's Man About a Horse, whose self-titled album debuted at #11 on the BIllboard bluegrass charts! (You may remember their excellent and timely cover of Radiohead's Electioneering.) Exciting to work again with Matt Werden on this one. (We also worked together on Michael Daves's Orchids and Violence).

The Container's Self-Contained is a collection of early demos from James A. Smith of the Beach Bullies. These songs are hooky, swaggery and sweet, and I especially fell for "Rita's Legs." So glad these tapes were found, restored and remastered (by me), and released by Manufactured Recordings.

Rabasi Joss recently released her debut Heliotrope, a collection of jazz/soul/folk/genre-spanning songs produced by Baba Israel and featuring Soul Inscribed. I take full credit for convincing her to record a cover of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic"!

In case you missed it, I also published this zine - Save Your Stuff! Beginner's Archiving For Musicians - with illustrator/graphic designer/musician/mother of two Kelley Vaughn-Kauffman. I used it in a workshop I led for Women's Audio Mission in June and (hopefully) inspired a room full of women to adopt file naming conventions and back up their hard drives. The first printing was gone in a matter of days but we printed a second batch. If you would like a hard copy, please donate $4 (to cover printing and shipping) and we'll send you one! Digital version coming soon... 

Acetate Acquaintences

I used the Finder to search my laptop for a jpg I made that illustrates, visually, the frequency spectrum available in 192 kHz wav files compared to 44.1 kHz wav files compared to 160 kbps mp3s. Couldn't find it. Instead, I discovered this: a paper I wrote in graduate school in which I speculated whether Theodor Adorno would spend $500 on a 40GB iPod. HAHAHAHA! Those were the days.

Acetate Acquaintances & Passive Regressive Listening: Theodor W. Adorno on Music and Technology

“There is no longer beauty or consolation except in the gaze falling on horror, withstanding it, and in unalleviated consciousness of negativity holding fast to the possibility of what is better.” - Theordor Adorno in Minima Moralia

Would Theodor Adorno buy an iPod?  What would he put on it?

If he had lived into the twenty-first century, long enough to plug a quarter into a jukebox and pull up a string of lonely country songs, to peel open the shrink wrap on the first pressing of Sympathy For The Devil, to witness Ozzy, Devo, Madonna; if Adorno had been able to see The Kronos Quartet perform “Purple Haze” followed by a Steve Reich string quartet, or download an illegal mp3 of Dangermouse’s mash-up of The Beatles and Jay-Z; if Adorno had the opportunity to look back on the first century of recorded music, what would he make of it?  And what would he make of the record players, boomboxes and iPods, vinyl, cassettes and CDs – the artifacts - that litter living rooms and hide in backpacks and coat pockets?  Would he throw up his hands in frustration at the ostensible distancing of artist and audience?  Or would he begrudgingly shell out five hundred dollars for a 40 gigabyte iPod and load in Beethoven’s entire works? 

That image I was looking for? Found it. Take a gander at a visual representation of what goes missing when you down sample and compress your audio.