Discovering "Lost" Recordings

If I had a nickel for everyone who send me a link to this story about the lost Bob Marley tapes that lay, forgotten, in a hotel basement for 40 years and turned out to contain original live recordings of his concerts in London and Paris in the mid-1970s... I'd be at least 35 cents richer. 

Of course a bunch of people sent me that link. Because I'm that person. I'm the one you call when you find the musty, moldy tapes in the basement and need someone to clean, digitize and restore them. I've been there: in a barn surrounded by stacks of A-list master tapes; in a basement lined with boxes filled to overflowing with tangles of DATs and cassettes, handwritten labels scribbled with names would make your eyes pop; having a friendly chat with a musician who suddenly recalls that, yes, she might have a few old recordings from early in her prolific career downstairs.

According to a meticulously researched paper published by AV Preserve in 2015, there are an estimated 537 million recordings in collection-holding organizations, the vast majority of which have not been digitized. That's just the stuff in libraries and archives! What wonders still exist in basements, closets and attics? 

That's what motivates me to do this work. That moment of anticipation and joy when you wind a reel on a tape machine, hit play, and hit pay dirt. I still remember when I dropped the needle on the scratched up original promo 45 of Scott Fagan singing "All For the Sake of Love," an utter heartbreaker. And when I popped in the cassette of early Jack Ruby recordings and heard this. There's something about the nearly forgotten that captures us and reminds us how powerful and yet how fleeting a musical performance can be. We are lucky that so many have been recorded, and luckier still that a few get caught into the sifter and are digitized, restored and sent back out into the world to remind us of our musical past.

Still, when I hear about the discovery of "lost" tapes like these Bob Marley masters, I get a little shot of happiness, because I know it's going to happen again. And maybe next time, it might be me crawling around in the basement of an old hotel, scraping off the mud, trying to discern the names on the labels, rescuing a nearly forgotten audio treasure.


While rifling through a very old hard drive to triple/quadruple/quintuple back-up some very old documents, I found this video that I edited and sound designed in grad school. It's so old it has my non-married name in the credits. I pulled the sound off of AM radio and other sources and used my brand spanking new digital audio editing skills to manipulate it. Presented without further comment:

The Making of Orchids and Violence

Here is a wonderful documentary about the making of Michael Daves' double album, Orchids and Violence, out last February on Nonesuch. I had the pleasure of mastering both the bluegrass and the electronic recordings for CD and vinyl release. Michael is a genius bluegrass guitarist, a great teacher (I've taken his bluegrass harmony singing class), and has a rare ability to communicate his artistic vision to engineers using language that we both understood. He can speak both Hertz and emotions! 

Saving Family Heirloom Recordings

A few times this fall, I've gotten calls from people with old, personal recordings of family or friends they want to digitize. These might be songwriting demos on cassette, or someone's grandmother singing on a direct-to-disc recording in 1947. On my last visit to Wyoming, my dad handed me a microcassette and told me it might be the only known recording of his high school band. (Alas, it wasn't).

These historic (heirloom?) audio recordings are locked on the physical media, playable only on machines that, for all intents and purposes, are obsolete in the consumer market. The contents remain a mystery until I come into the picture with my studio stocked with cassette decks, DAT players, turntable and styli, 1/4" tape machine. I digitize the audio content, clean it up, send it off to be shared with families and friends and given as gifts at holidays.

I love these projects. There's enormous joy in helping someone unlock memories. I think that's why I chose to specialize in restoration, preservation and music reissues. I'm an anthropologist and archivist at heart and an audio engineer in practice. It's a good combo.

So, bring them on! I am happy to digitize and preserve your heirloom cassettes, disks, DATs and reels. Let's find out what's on those tapes.

Ding Dong

When you google "beautiful doorbell," the results are all about the visuals: hand carved chime covers, intricate doorbell buttons. But I'm looking for a doorbell that sounds beautiful. I want one that rings with a proper ding dong in the classic major third. Moreover, it must be the proper third, not too high, not too low, with a rich, warm ring and decay. Where does one shop for a great sounding doorbell?

Unrelated - or is it? - one of the things I miss about living in New York City is randomly hearing car horns play "Speak Softly, Love," aka the theme to The Godfather. The vocal version was recorded by Andy Williams, which makes the second time he's made an appearance in this blog in the past two months.