Speech text from the grand opening of Manifold Recording and The Miraverse

He set his mind to work on unknown arts and thereby changes the laws of nature – Ovid, Metamorphoses

Welcome, and thank you for coming to the grand opening of Manifold Recording and The Miraverse!  Some years ago Amy posted a little quote on my side of the mirror we share in our bathroom that reads “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”  After five years of planning and construction, we have realized a dream, a dream that is now so real you can see it, you can touch it, you can enter it. You are welcome to do so-once we cut the ribbon.

Today we want to share with you an even bigger dream, the one that begins today.  This dream cannot be built with concrete and steel, but it can be realized the old-fashioned way: with magic.

In the book The Gift, Lewis Hyde teaches that once upon a time, humans lived in magical times.  This was not due to ignorance, but due to the nature of living an abundance-centered life.  Tradition taught that the act of giving was more than a transfer of property, because the act itself created goodwill between the giver, the receiver, and all in the community–a positive-sum outcome.  Magic.  When human communities achieved a certain density, different tribes might make contact, and suddenly there was a challenge: how could one tribe trade with another when they had different languages, different customs, different values?  A new medium of exchange was developed: money.  And for a long time–thousands of years, communities maintained two economies: a gift economy that worked within the community, and a trade economy that worked across communities.  That balance shifted when Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Locke, and others, transformed the discourse of morals, ethics, faith, and economics from community-centric terms to individualistic terms.  In this brave, new, post-reformation world, all individuals were strangers, each sat alone with their conscience, each stood alone in judgment by God.  History teaches that bereft of community, individuals often fall to baser motivations–fear and greed–and with Luther’s, Calvin’s and Locke’s blessing, usury replaced generosity as the perceived path to wealth.  We all now know how well that’s working for the other 99%.  But more seriously, just as we have seen seeds and species go extinct in times of great climactic change, actual magic, in this hothouse of rugged individualism, has also begun to disappear from modern life.

Amy’s forebearer Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote “every revolution was first an idea in one person’s mind”.  In 1980, an idea in the mind of Richard Stallman created a revolution in software.  Stallman saw his community destroyed when friends started competing companies based on software they had all written together.  Secrecy, non-disclosures, and license restrictions destroyed in a day the magic they had created over years.  Stallman vowed to create a new community, one that could give infinitely, but which could not be destroyed by taking.  He created a magic spell we now know as the GNU General Public License.  This “copyleft” license boasts “all rights reversed”, and it protected the development of a new revolution: the free software revolution.  I joined that revolution in 1987 when people still thought Stallman was suffering from delusion.  Steve Jobs liked to brag that Apple were the crazy ones, but to give the whole world rights to all one’s works–that was crazy!  And magical.  Our projects grew and multiplied, and today, there are millions of free software developers and billions of lines of open source software code.  Amazon.com could never have been profitable without Linux.  Google, Facebook and Twitter could never have happened without Linux and open source.  Evil forces [1] [2] [3] have done their best (or their worst) to co-opt, corrupt, buy-out, or sue to stop us, yet Red Hat’s business has never been stronger.  We are solidly on track to being a $1 billion-dollar open source pure play–the first in the world.  And the best.  First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.  So said Gandhi, and so it now goes in the industry, with Microsoft announcing open source initiatives, Facebook announcing the open compute project, and even open source prosthetics to help our wounded warriors regain some of their physical abilities.

An inscription in Rockefeller center reads “Prometheus teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.”  The sparks from free software and open source fired the imagination beyond the mere technical.  Larry Lessig took inspiration from our work to start the Creative Commons.  Honoring the GPL, he proposed a different twist on conventional copyright with the tag line “some rights reserved”.  Such modesty has allowed some magic to return, and since releasing the licenses in 2002, the number of works sporting CC licenses has grown from 1M in 2003 to 20M in 2005 to 130M in 2008 to more than 500M as of late 2009.  These works form a new world-wide cultural legacy, one that is rich and fertile and inviting of your participation, sharing, and shaping.  The story of the freedom singers is a story of creative freedom, changing one word here or there to give old songs the new meanings necessary to achieve their revolutionary goals.  Creative Commons is creating a legacy of freedom for the whole world.

The time seems right, therefore, to bring magic back to a place that needs it the most: the music industry.  Think of how difficult this will be.  It is too difficult for any one person, crazy or not, to accomplish.  Which is why we called Wes Lachot and Scott McLean.  Wes has been designing and running studios for 20+ years, but when I called him I told him this job would be different.  Really different.  Drawing from the whole history of sacred geometry and organic architecture, Wes traced the forms that would give magic a shape and give music a chance.  Amy gave her blessing.  Scott McLean took these scrolls and began to make the magic real.  Every block that was laid was laid with purpose, intention, and precision, so that when we open our doors, to you today, and to artists of all kinds in the future, the magic of this space will spark more magic–a means to mighty ends.

So let us open these doors, and invite you to share the magic of your presence with us, with our new studio, and with each other.  There is far too much to do all at once, so first, relax.  Inside the Music Room, the band Hindugrass is going to be doing some recording sessions, and you are invited to witness the magic of that creation.  They will do at least two sessions, so you can settle into the Music Room to hear what their instruments sound like in real life, but you can also head to the Control Room and the Lounge to hear the magic of recording and mixing conjured by our Chief Engineer, Ian Schreier.  If you want to try your own hand, join me in the Annex Control Room and hear how each acoustic element forms the whole of the experience and expression.  After each song, you’ll have a chance to exit the Music Room (to keep things quiet–we are recording), and after the first set, we invite everybody in the Music Room to make room for a new group and for you to experience the other environments.  Folks with a Red Sharpie indication that says “ASK ME”, they will answer your questions about how to open the doors (if you can see the hinges you are on the outside–pull hard.  If you cannot, you are on the inside, so push hard), where the bathrooms are (two in the Loggia, one in the Annex), how to find your way around, etc.  And please, if you have a story of magic to share, find Craig Witter, the event’s videographer, and share your story with us.  Booths A and B are good quiet environments for that.

And so, let the magic begin…

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