Summer News (I Skipped Winter and Spring)

I know. It’s been a long time since I rapped at you. It’s been nothing but tapes and discs and WAVs and a steady downpour of albums, EPs, singles. A few highlights: I restored and remastered Yusef Lateef’s Hikima: Creativity from a pristine slab of vinyl. Lateef recorded this in Nigeria while on a fellowship to write and teach at Ahmadu Bello University in the early 1980s. Utterly transporting! And a real challenge to declick complex rhythmic music. Gratitude to Jonathan Sklute and Key Systems Recordings for entrusting this to me. I also got to work with the talents at Women’s Audio Mission on Versoul’s rich and vibrant debut Soulrise. Producer / mixer / engineer / all around talented gentleman Ted Young brought me Heavy Diamond Ring’s debut, helmed by Sarah Anderson and Paul DeHaven. Listen to lead single “Wild Things” and then dip into the whole album. I restored and remastered Barbara Howard’s On the Rise for Colemine Records, and ooh, the heat of album opener “Light My Fire”! I was pleased to stumble upon tracks from this record on the Danger Mouse Jukebox playlist on Tidal. Glad he’s digging it too! Buffalo, NY’s The Tins, oh my old pals The Tins! They never cease to amaze me with their creative output, this time “City Lies II,” an update of last year’s “City Lies.” I am patiently waiting for them to tour the West Coast. Last on this list (but only because I’m running out of time), two singles for International Dub Ambassadors, Ñam-Ñam and “Dos Amores,” which will slay your parties this summer. Check ‘em all out!

A few other work-related highlights of the past half a year:

I’m still working with the Arhoolie Foundation on the Harry Oster collection, funded by grants from the GRAMMY Museum and the National Recording Preservation Fund. Harry was a folklorist and ethnomusicologist, but he was also a decent recording engineer, so these 1/4” analog tapes sound far better than they might otherwise! I’ve been traveling back in time to Iowa and Louisiana in the 1950s and 1960s and eavesdropping on jam sessions, church services, dances, intimate performances. Much gratitude to the folks at Arhoolie for partnering with me on this project.

I was elected to serve as Vice President of the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy. I’m looking forward to serving with President Camilo Landau, Secretary Kev Choice, our amazing Trustees Leslie Ann Jones, Michael Romanowski and Piper Payne, and the rest of our board of governors.

McKay Garner and I gave a presentation to students at SAE/Expression for GRAMMY U about the Producer & Engineers Wing Best Practices technical guidelines. Didn’t know these documents exist? Download and read! They offer invaluable tips and templates for data management, workflow, organization, and delivery of recorded music projects. Top tips: use folder hierarchies and file naming conventions, document credits, back up your data!

In May, I traveled to Portland to drink magnificent cups of coffee and eat at the many delicious food trucks, oh, and to give a pre-conference workshop on Digital Audio Workstation Basics for preservationists with Konrad Strauss at the Association for Recorded Sound Collection’s annual conference. Once again, I snuck my Coco Chanel quote into the slides. She famously said (or didn’t? who can verify?) “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” This is my modus operandi with audio restoration. Before you print, dial back one click. You rarely regret it, and you can always add more. Keeps me from being too heavy handed. The rest of the conference was an inspiration, and I got to hear Endpoint Audio’s magnificently digitized magnabelt recordings of Rod Serling and Spyros Skouras, learn about the history of KBOO community radio and grassroots work of XFR Collective, engage in a little FLAC vs WAV debate, and regret that I couldn’t be in two places at once to attend more panels. I also snuck out one night to play pinball. We all need a little balance.

This October, I will be back in New York City, my beloved home for so many years, for the Audio Engineering Society’s 147th convention. I am chairing the Archiving and Restoration track again and putting together some prime time programming around archival audio. No hints until the schedule comes out next month! Hope to see many of you there!

My New Tape Machine

Honestly, I feel like I bought a classic Ferrari. Maybe the 1966 365 California or the 1960 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione. (Truthfully, I'm more of a 1960s Porsche 912 girl myself, but...)

I bought a cherry ATR-102 in perfect shape, lovingly refurbished by Mike Spitz of ATR Magnetics, with 1/2" and 1/4" headblocks and a Dolby SR unit thrown in for kicks. This beauty was commissioned on Halloween 1977 and still plays back tapes like a boss. I love it! Bring on the tapes!

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Late Spring News 2018

Yikes, I got busy for a moment and sorely neglected my website. Here is some of what I've been up to these past few months.

Mastering marvelous new albums by The Tins, Israel Nash, Occurrence, Matthew McNealProfessor Rhythm (Awesome Tapes From Africa) and many, many more, including a few knockouts that I can't talk about yet.

Celebrating the release of Barbara Dane's career-spanning boxset Hot Jazz, Cool Blues & Hard-Hitting Songs, in collaboration with Smithsonian Folkways, with her live performance at the Freight & Salvage.

Writing, researching, writing, revising an essay on The Sonics of Historic Recording Media, included in the new book Music Preservation and Archiving Today (Rowman & Littlefield), edited by Norie Guthrie and Scott Carlson.

Interviewing fellow mastering & restoration engineers Maria Rice, Josh Bonati, and Michael Graves for an article on The Aesthetics of Remastering Reissues for Tape Op Magazine.

 

Teaching the students at SAE/Expression in Emeryville about the making of Pet Sounds, about Ralph Peer and the Bristol Sessions, about phonautographs, magnetic tape, distortion as aesthetic texture, Max Martin's songwriting prowess, and so much more.

Plotting conference panels and talks for the AES Conference on Audio Archiving, Preservation & Restoration, happening at the LOC in Culpeper, Virginia this June. (And chairing the restoration track for the fall AES Convention in NYC - hit me up with ideas!)

Serving as a Governor and, now, newly elected Secretary of the SF Chapter of the Recording Academy.

And riding my bike, drinking coffee, planting a garden and eating radishes harvested from that garden, so even though sometimes it seems like it (and happily so), life is not all about my work.

But I love my work. 

Archival or mastering projects? Let me know! 

Winter News

It's 6am. It's dark and cold outside. Perfect time to update the website!

Well, autumn of 2017 has nearly passed, and I can look behind me at a beautiful mountain of work. I mastered songs/EPs/albums by French artist Julia PalombeThe Tins, Professor Rhythm, Benjamin Lee / Bass Pair, and a new recording by Ethiopian synth genius Hailu Mergia, plus a stack of others I can't quite talk about yet.

I started teaching History of Music Production at SAE/Expression College, and love the intellectual and creative challenge of speaking with authority on everything from acoustical recording onto wax cylinder to the invention of the DAW, from the mania of Phil Spector productions to how Grimes makes a record, from Nashville in the 1950s to a house party on Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx in 1973. 

In October, I traveled to NYC for the AES Convention. It was my first time back in my former hometown since I moved West in 2015. Oh, the heartstrings! I fell right back into the rhythm of the city and experienced intense sonic flashbacks - the sounds of stepping on cellar grates, the melodic whine of the subway rounding particular corners, the thrum of jackhammers, traffic, music seeping out of stores and restaurants. I walked along Crosby Street, now nearly unrecognizable to me, past the graffiti-covered heavy metal door to the Magic Shop, flashbacks of trying to lift that grate in the grips of winter, flashbacks of all the music made in that place. 

I was so happy to reunite with my former boss, the Magic Shop's Steve Rosenthal, and get a tour of his new studios, MARS, in Dumbo. I got to hear Wally de Backer / Gotye perform the music of Jean-Jacques Perrey on a meticulously restored Ondioline, hang with my dear friend and mentor Sarah Register at the Tape Op booth, and record a pilot podcast episode with another good friend, Arbo Radiko's Jocelyn Arem. 

And when the conference and social hangs ended, I slipped into the Union Square cinema and watched Blade Runner 2049 by myself, then retreated to the time capsule of a Tribeca loft where I was crashing and slept a few hours before my early morning flight back to California.

Ah, I miss you, New York City, but I'm a Californian now.

Up next, I actually spend a little time thinking about the musical moments that moved me most in 2017.