George Massenburg's latest: live studio performances

George Massenburg

George Massenburg is a legend in the recording industry.  His innovations include the introduction of the parametric equalizer in 1972, and his work on preamplifier design, dynamic range controllers, and other engineering equipment has also led the field for years.  His contributions to audio engineering go beyond mere tools: as recording engineer, mixing engineer, and as a producer, his name is on some of the most important records ever made.  And he has the Grammy Awards to prove it.

A new discussion thread on the bulletin board tells us that George is continuing to work well outside the box, by capturing a live studio performance as a performance.  What’s most exciting to me is that it sounds very much like what I’ve been writing about co-production at The Miraverse

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Slow Food makes its way to the table

The objective of Fast Food, it seems, is to maximize short-term profits.  The eater profited by “wasting” as little time as possible eating, and the producer profited by sourcing the cheapest possible ingredients from the global economy, assembling those ingredients as rapidly and mechanically as possible, without regards to any externalities (such as the health of the eater, the quality of the food, the fairness to the farmer, and especially without regard to the environmental costs of the endeavor).  By contrast, the the objective of Slow Food is to create food that is good (pleasurable to eat), clean (healthy and regenerative to the environment), and fair (to farmers, chefs, and all who bring the food to the table).  Good, clean, and fair create a new triple bottom line for measuring the quality of food, and as the New York Times now reports, locally grown food is becoming de rigeur among the trend-setters.

“What I’m seeing with my clients is not the trendiness or the politics,” [chef] Mr. Welch said. “They are looking only at taste.”

Mrs. Howard said she ate local vegetables growing up in northern Michigan and Chicago. But her husband, a private equity fund manager, ate a lot of expensive imported food with little thought about where it came from. But all that has changed.

“It’s like the first time you start drinking good red wine and you realize what you were drinking was so bad you can’t go back to it,” Mrs. Howard said. “It’s that same way with vegetables.”

If a hedge fund manager can get this excited about vegetables, what might the future hold for music that is good (pleasurable to listen to), clean (faithfully recorded and produced), and fair (to the musicians, engineers, and all who bring the music to the listener)?

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small is possible: reconstructing local music

small is possible book coverI just read Lyle Estill’s manifesto small is possible, an account of how he and others in Pittsboro, North Carolina (population 2,500) discovered how to feed, fuel, heal, and govern itself as a community.

First off, the writing is simply first-rate. Lyle writes with humor, but also with a very keen eye to the forces and effects that operate on multiple levels. But unlike Alexis de Tocqueville or Michael Pollan or Malcolm Gladwell, he is not merely an observer, but a passionate actor as well. And because Lyle practices the teaching “be the change you want to see in the world,” he has learned to farm, write software, weld steel, wire buildings, extend credit, teach classes, pull permits, and make peace with hunters.

Not all these many careers have been successful: he tried and failed yoga. And he tells this story of how, at the peak of the Internet Boom, he had the opportunity to Make It Big and utterly failed to comprehend the potential, as he explains:

“When Scott came to me to explain the future, I yawned. We would sit around after hours with core employees and argue about the coming of the net.

One night, our sales manager, Skip, said “Travel. Let’s take travel. How do you buy your tickets right now?”

I thought of Lisa, the preacher’s wife turned travel agent, who matched up the itineraries of Tami and Lyle [who would later marry] like a marriage counselor scheduling appointments, and I answered Skip’s question honestly:

“The other night I came out of my bathroom and found my travel agent at the kitchen table cutting up a lime on the cutting board. She had let herself in, and had brought over a ox of Corona beer.

“I sat down, grabbed a beer, and she told me that tonight we were going to get clear on whether or not Tami and I were going to Belize or Jordan. Tami came home late from work, grabbed a beer and settled into the conversation.

“Are you telling me that one day I will replace that with a computer screen?”

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House Concerts and 21st Century Touring

Last year Chip and Dan Heath wrote Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, and since them I have had a new appreaciation for sticky ideas and the market or strategic position they create. This morning I came across the gem featured in my blog post title, house concerts and 21st century touring.

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Magic Numbers

Kevin Kelley has got me thinking.  While he’s blogging away in California, I’m having the exact same thoughts and discussions with people here in North Carolina.  Wild!

Consider this article written in March: 1,000 True Fans.  It quantifies what life in the long tail is like if an artist has a number of  “true fans” who would basically buy anything at a given price level year-in and year-out.  And it concludes that with 1,000 true fans, art is sustainable at a very reasonable cost.

But then in April, he argues against himself in The Case Against 1,000 True Fans.   His argument is that while the math is valid, there simply are not any musicians who have 1,000 true fans (other than those who benefited from the legacy of the old-world music biz).  And he’s asked his (substantial) readership to either help him find three (3) such people, or concede his case to Jaron Lanier.

Do you know of any such people?  I’d love to meet them!

Creating value when copies are free

Kevin Kelly is a technology, brand, and design maven, not to mention Senior Maverick at WIRED magazine. He is in the process of writing a new book, and he’s collecting his ideas online in an area he calls The Technium. I just read his latest installment, and it reads like a manifesto for The Miraverse. To wit, he asks the question

If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?

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Creative Commons entertains ccMixter RFPs

Last year Creative Commons began a process to evaluate how to make their already-successful ccMixter project even more successful.  Yesterday they announced a full-blown request for proposals to make ccMixter a fully stand-alone entity (without compromising any of the core values of Creative Commons or ccMixter–forever free).

What a great opportunity!

Are any of you thinking of responding to this?  Want to chat about the possibilities?  If so, drop me a line or post a comment!  (Due to comment spam, I’ve required that only registered users can comment, and of course I promise I won’t ever share your registration info for this site with 3rd parties.)


Last night I was invited by some friends to sit down and watch Herbie Hancock: Possibilities, a DVD that embodies many of the ideas I’m attempting to realize with The Miraverse.

First, there is the premise, which Herbie lays on the line straightaway: that to grow as a musician, he must walk outside the lines of his comfort zone, meeting other artists halfway or more than halfway.  In the first few segments, he explains this idea of sharing, give-and-take, and you can see the chosen artists saying “yes” but acting as if “OH MY GOD!  IT’S HERBIE HANCOCK!!  WHAT DO I DO?!?!?”  It takes Herbie a few times to really get the message “just be yourself” through through to them.

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John McLaughlin — Meeting of the Minds

Meeting of the Minds (DVD cover)

The DVD of my dreams has just been released by Abstract Logix, and I’ve already started buying it by the dozen: John McLaughlin’s Meeting of the Minds, the making of Floating Point. It is my hope that when Manifold Recording opens and The Miraverse comes into existence that we will be hosting musicians and archiving such creativity and experiences as the Meeting of the Minds DVD captured.

I’m a big fan of John McLaughlin’s music and musicality. When he came to Durham last year, I was lucky enough to procure 4 tickets to his Fourth Dimension concert so close to the stage I could touch it. At that time we had already received zoning approval for the studio complex, but we had not yet received a building permit. I went to that concert at the Carolina Theater of Durham both as a fan and as a prospective producer. How would his live concert measure up to what I believe could be an even better experience–an opportunity to see and participate in the creative process with a musical genius like John?

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How would /you/ outfit the studio?

There are hundreds of posts on the various recording studio mailing lists and bulletin boards asking people to indulge in the fantasy of deciding how to spend large $$ on gear. And the most frequent response given is “FOR WHAT PURPOSE?” followed closely by “You have to match the gear to the room. If you’re not going to spec the room, the question of gear is meaningless!” Most of these threads intentionally omit any consideration of the room because the people posting all have roughly the same situation: a basement or bedroom studio with 8′ ceilings, tons of prosumer gear they’re ready to upgrade, and enough money to buy some serious pro-quality equipment, but not enough money to build the space needed to really utilize the gear. And so these threads rarely lead to anything.

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