Audio Clips of Rough Mixes

How cool is this?  A bunch of recording engineers sharing their works in progress so that they can learn and improve their craft.  (And maybe show off a little, too.)  This is one example of an organic version of what I hope to do when permission to share is granted.  As I explain in the thread:

While the Manifold Recording will certainly cater to high-end folks that want to lock it out and keep all the mixes and masters to themselves (until they release commercially), I’m also hoping that there are artists, engineers, and co-producers who are as interested in really developing not just an understanding of equipment and techniques, but creating works that are interesting and rewarding to others who try their hands at mixing and production. I detail that somewhat here the PROGRAMS section of the Manifold Recording website.

One particular technical challenge I have to address is the best way to tag all the data so that equipment chains can be easily annotated in the recording process and can be easily searched in a large (100TB) online archive.  As you can see from the thread, there are no standards as to the level of detail or the integrity of the data of these community-led efforts.  One idea is to use RFID to tag basically every piece of gear that can move (plus those that cannot) and then scan the chain from source to console and then attach each signal chain’s scan data to the respective track.  This will ensure that every device is scanned according to its canonical identifier.

Will this catch on?  I certainly hope so!

Starting a carbon neutral conversation

Yesterday I was thrilled to discover that Manifold Recording was the #1 Google result for the search term “carbon neutral recording studio“. I know that such a goal (achieving carbon neutrality, not the Google ranking) is a challenging one, and thus it makes sense to test the assumptions, even this early in its construction.

This morning I heard Alice Lloyd, Executive Director of North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light speak out against Duke Power’s plan to expand the Cliffside power plant with an additional 800MW of coal-fired capacity. As reported by the News and Observer (and contradictory to statements made in their “clean coal” coalition statements), the only way to bring this plant on line is to bend already broken rules related to mercury pollution, and to continue to ignore the enormous impact of adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, further exacerbating global warming. The statistics are alarming:

Continue reading “Starting a carbon neutral conversation”

What is music worth?

I’m very behind on my blog postings, so don’t worry—you’re not reading my postings out of order. In October of this year, Radiohead put their album In Rainbows up for sale at whatever price you’re willing to pay. There was quite a flurry in the blogosphere, particularly from techcrunch.com, which argued that the pricing trend of commercial music is headed inevitably to absolute zero.

I had two thoughts about this. Continue reading “What is music worth?”

What's your story?

Yesterday I heard Dave Isay promoting his new book, Listening is an act of love. The StoryCorps® oral history project began in 2003 in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Since then over 30,000 stories have been told and recorded, and the stories broadcast weekly on NPR have become one of my favorite features of WUNC‘s programming. The stories selected for broadcast are as eclectic as one could imagine: an American citizen of Japanese descent describing life in American concentration camps, a pastor whose simple act of charity changes the life of a man and a community struggling with poverty, a prominent doctor honoring his unschooled-but-wise father, an old woman recounting how she first fell in love. But what makes the stories remarkable are not just the circumstances and not just the actors—real people in this case—but the way in which the story seems to draw life from both the telling and by the listening of the interviewer in the booth.

Continue reading “What's your story?”

Chamber Music Returns

In the What’s Up? section of this week’s News and Observer, correspondent Roy C. Dicks wrote a wonderful review-cum-article about a renaissance of chamber music in the Triangle Area. He begins by observing the extent to which chamber music has strayed from its roots:

Nowadays, chamber music concerts are typically performed in large public venues, such as Raleigh’s Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke’s Reynolds Theater and UNC’s Memorial Hall. There, string quartets, piano trios and wind ensembles play to several hundred to a thousand people, with the musicians on a raised stage, separated from the audience.

Continue reading “Chamber Music Returns”

Tom Dowd & The Language of Music

Earlier this year I attended SPARKCON 2007, a conference set to “ignite the creative hub of the South.” I joined two days of “ideaSPARK” sessions, including one that covered my favorite topic—combining open source and music. I made many great connections and gained more than a few truly profound insights about how to make my studio plans better.

One of the folks I met there was Frank Konhaus, and he introduced me to the movie that gives this blog its title: Tom Dowd & The Language of Music. I immedately ordered it from Amazon.com and then promptly left for a 15-day trip to Asia, but the DVD was on my doorstep—and dry because of the drought—when I returned.

After watching the video, I can only imagine that everybody wants somebody like Tom Dowd in their studio, using their technical knowledge, musical knowledge, profound humility and wonderful optimism helping to make the best possible records. I certainly do! But more importantly, I believe that the environment we are trying to create will nurture new Tom Dowds, not box them in or shut them down.

I heartily recommend to any and all that this video demonstrates the viability of collaboration between artist, engineer, and producer. And I will start to build a library of quotes from that video that talk to the specifics of the successes Tom helped achieve for his artists, his label, and all of us, the music-loving community.

An Open Business Plan

What makes more sense: writing down a business plan that is limited to what you know, or writing down a business plan that asks the world answers to questions you don’t know? In my opinion the answer is “Both!”.

There are a bunch of questions about the business of Manifold Recording that I really have the data to answer: how much is the lease? How much can I afford to spend on gear? What should I charge as a daily rate? But there are some other questions that I am too biased to answer: what should be the first 10 projects we attempt? What is going to be the most popular use of the studio space? What is the fastest and surest path to self-sustaining profit? Then it struck me: why not use this blog to attempt to inform answers to these and other questions?  After all, my biggest risk is not whether somebody will steal my ideas, but whether I will be able to execute them at all!

I’ve created a new tag: +1/-1. The idea is based on the email shorthand of +1 for ideas that people support and -1 for ideas they thing are not so great.  If you want to see the questions that are out there, you can search for articles that have this tag, and you can add your +1 or -1 comments as you see fit.  Over time, I hope that this develops into a “wisdom of crowds” that can help me make the right choices in an unknowably large range of possibilities.  We’ll see!