The Big Think

October 29, 2006


Filed under: Music — jasony @ 11:18 pm

When I was studying music in college, one of my favorite things to do was to go up to the music library at Baylor and check out orchestral scores. I’d sit and listen to the recordings and follow along in the scores. There is no better way to learn how to write than to sit at the feet of the masters, and next to being a copyist (a duty I’ve had the privilege of executing), following a score while listening to a recording (or better yet, to a live orchestra), is Schooling with a capital ‘S’.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do this since my Baylor days ended. Scores are expensive to come by-roughly $50 for a good one. I’ve often dreamed of getting a small collection together slowly so that one day I might have some of the great ones around for reference and learning.

Erin returned from visiting her family in Houston today. While she was there, her father filled her trunk full of legal-records-size boxes. When she brought them home, I carried them in, wondering what he had given us. Upon opening the boxes, I was shocked to discover his gracious, unbelievable, wondrous gift. This man, who spent the better part of a century as a sought after choirmaster and conductor in Houston, had given us his entire collection of orchestral and choral scores. Faure’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven Masses, Wagner, Berlioz, Puccini, Bach. On and on and on. For some of the works there’s just the full score, while some of the packages have the individual part sheets as well, complete with markings by the performers. I just got off the phone with Erin’s dad, gushing my profound thanks for his generosity. It’ll take me several hours to catalog the prizes that are there and make a full list (which I’ll post here), then I’ll embark on the task of tracking down a recording of every piece in the list. I’m giddy.

It may seem silly to someone who doesn’t understand the profound impact music can have, but as I type this I have tears in my eyes. What a treasure trove.

Fall Back

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 1:07 am

It happens every year. I’m all excited about the extra hour of sleep from the clock readjustment and I end up squandering it because I simply can’t go to bed. There’s just too much cool stuff to do and see. I wish you could bank time.


Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 12:02 am

One of the things I’m looking forward to after the current Sing season is over is a full-out gut and rebuild of my home studio. I’ve been working out of extra bedrooms of wherever we’ve been living for as long as I’ve owned my business. Because of money and time considerations (it’s not easy to shut down work and take everything apart for an extended period of time), I’ve never had the kind of environment I’d really like. Since we bought our house 5 years ago I’ve been working in a 200sq ft enclosed loft on the second floor of our house. It’s a bit of a drag since I’m right across the hallway from the master bedroom, but it’s a decent size for an arranging studio.

Unfortunately, priorities have mandated that other stuff get focussed on first (paint downstairs, bathroom treatments, curtains, etc). But now we’re to the point where I can put some serious time and effort into my workspace. Yesterday I had a tracking session here with Storme and a voice actor named Adam Creighton. Adam and I met quickly at a party a few months ago but didn’t remember each other very well. It was good to get to work with him a bit. We got some great audio reads out of him and comped together a very smooth and natural track. I was happy with the results. The session was a narration for a thanksgiving project, and I was able to get a good recording out of my Sennheiser mic, but it was only after very careful positioning and blanketing of sound sources and ambient reflections (windows, big glass pictures, noisy computer fan, etc). It just reinforced to me how much I need to have a basic vocal/single instrument booth for single mic tracking. So I’ve gone back in and revised my remodeling plans to include a small corner vocal booth. Basically, I plan on walling off a corner of my studio into a 10 square foot or so space, and then doing a number with the sound insulation. That’ll keep the studio noise out and all but the biggest truck rumbles should be eliminated. Plus, it’ll make the place look more like a studio than the current “mostly empty extra room with a big pile of equipment” look that I have going now.

The vocal booth means more building than I anticipated, and it’s a big step up from the tool closet I built in the shop a few years ago, but it’ll sure help things out. And after we move, the vocal booth will make a nice closet in this otherwise uncloseted room. Jan had the good idea today of wiring up an LED light to keep the heat out (thanks, Jan). I probably won’t duct A/C in there because of the noise. Besides, I can cool off the room before I close the talent up in the box. Gotta also work out some kind of window arrangement so the talent can see out, and so I can see the monitor and control the computer from inside if I have to do foley work in the box. Hmm… I wonder if it should be bigger for foley? What about headphones and talkback? Lots to consider here.

One other thing: I plan on also rebuilding all of my furniture and selling this black Raxxess desk. It’s been good to me (and is in great shape), but it no longer fills my needs. I’m a big fan of an ergonomic environment. I feel that a well designed workspace is hugely important during those long, long days in the saddle. So the desk is getting a complete makeover and the mixer is getting a custom case. This’ll be a fun challenge. But the biggest challenge will probably be the vented, ducted, active cooling case I plan to build for my Mac. It’ll be a box-within-a-box design. It’ll have FOUR 22.5db, 120mm fans pulling air through a series of ducts and directing it to the computer. My goal is to have the computer be the same temp in the box as out. But even with all the airflow from the new fans, I still plan on the computer being totally silent. My machine right now puts out probably about 45db (estimating here). Normal conversation is about 60db, and you cut in half for each 6db you lose, so it’s about like a semi-whisper at my deskside. So why do I plan on building the box? Total Silence in the Studio. I think I’m becoming obsessed.

Between the studio remodel and the location audio equipment purchase, there’s some major financial commitments in the next few months. I’ve reached a point in the career when I think I need to revamp some studio stuff. Lots of my equipment has been good to me, but much of it is dated and that needs to be addressed. Part of the game, I guess.

Oddly enough, I got a call this morning from a panicked director. They are shooting a short this weekend and their sound guy walked off the set and took his gear with him. The director was freaking out because the whole shoot could be ruined (unless they decided to make a silent film). I understood her predicament. I mean, you can’t very well shoot a film with the on-camera mics (this is rule #1 and is STILL broken occasionally. I’m amazed when it happens). Unfortunately, when I gave the director my day rate he countered with a rate that would have left me with a ridiculously low profit following two sunrise-to-sunset days. And I got the impression that my preferred position would have been as a “much appreciated volunteer”. I’ve lost my capacity to be surprised when someone asks me to work for free. 16 years in music and audio, three college degrees, tens of thousands invested in equipment, and some directors still don’t understand that it’s worth it to get a good soundman. I politely told the director that anyone worth getting wouldn’t be cheap (especially under the circumstances), and anyone who would work for free wasn’t worth getting. Someone like that would probably cost them more in the long run (though not always). It’s hard and expensive to fix audio mistakes in post. And when you have a crew and actors standing around, and a whole weekend of planned shooting about to go up in smoke, you’re not in the best position, you know? Felt sorry for the director, thinking that the project ultimately wouldn’t live up to their hopes for it. I just hope he realizes why. I guess that’s a lesson every director learns once. Hopefully only once.

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