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!

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! 

(Almost) Fall News 2017

It's September! I've been working on records all summer! Here are some new releases to pass through my mastering suite...

Lou Reed.... I have a history with Lou's music. I'll write about it someday. Out this month from the Bottom Line Archive series, hear Lou Reed and Kris Kristofferson tell stories about the art of songwriting and play intimate acoustic versions of their songs. There are some incredible stories in this one! The moment that got me though: Lou singing "Tracks of My Tears." Check out these kind words about the album from Rolling Stone.

Ron Pope released his latest album Work last month. It's intimate and raucous and solid top to bottom, and I am thrilled I got to work with Ron and with engineer Ted Young on this release. He's about to embark on a massive tour, so catch him at a venue near you! Here's the video for one of my faves from his record:

Divining Rod (the project of multi-instrumentalist Miyuki Furtado) released Hemlock Blues in July. I love the combination of songwriting, performing, production and all around great energy in this record.

I adored working with Irish-born / LA-based singer-songwriter Mairéad MacMullen on the mastering of her new release, Burn For Love. This is a lovely, passionate record, fiery collection of songs. I can't wait to catch a live show soon.

Outside the studio, I had the pleasure of jumping in to teach History of Music Production at SAE / Expression this summer, and I'll be teaching a pop culture class this fall. I relish the opportunity to think more academically about the music I listen to for work and for pleasure. Which is to say, it is utterly awesome to lecture on Brian Wilson, George Martin, Joe Meek, Black Flag, Kool Herc, Grimes... Who would you want to learn more about in a history of music production class? Drop me a line and let me know.

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.