Progress Report (Video)

It has been a while since my last blog posting, which means there is much, Much, MUCH to tell.  I’m not sure that I can do it all justice in one evening, but there are some highlights I want to hit.

In early November, pianist Kimiko Ishizaka performed Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier in the Music Room of Manifold Recording.   The event was recorded in front of a live studio audience and webcast around the word, presented by The Miraverse.  We produced two videos, one for studio geeks showing all our microphones, microphone locations, and all sorts of other studio gear that would be involved in the session, and one of Kimiko’s actual performance (which was magnificent).  Thanks again to Robert Douglass for doing the legwork to make this event possible, and to Ms. Ishizaka for sharing her life’s study and practice of Bach with us.

It was very much my intention to write a blog posting shortly after the session–especially because it was such a great experience for all who participated, but we got too busy with all that this event put into motion for us. Continue reading “Progress Report (Video)”

Success Stories

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I have been talking for some time about the virtues of kickstarter funding for music recording projects.  The indie album Move by Matt Phillips and the Philharmonic could not have been made without kickstarter funding.  But the more I learn about the world of music kickstarters, the more I see there is to learn.

The Set Chopin Free project reached its $75,000 goal scarcely two weeks into its seven week funding schedule.  It is already more than $5,000 above its funding goal, and could well surpass $100,000 by the time its funding window closes.  And the Open Well-Tempered Clavier project (launched by Robert Douglass) has already reached 50% of its $30,000 fundraising goal from more than 450 supporters in its first 5 days!  That kind of strong start virtually guarantees funding success, and leaves us only to wonder whether it will achieve 160% (like Open Goldberg Variations), 200% (like Fractal Journeys and the Twelve Tones of Bach), 350% (like the Well-Tempered Clavier Tour), 600% (like Musopen’s Set Music Free) or more than 1100% (like Amanda Palmer did in her amazing 2012 record).  The possibilities are quite wide open.  But real questions remain: how did this happen?  what does it mean?

A press release today invites the press itself to consider some more pointed questions:

If both Open Goldberg and Musopen succeed with their Kickstarter campaigns, collectively raising over $100,000 for new recordings of standard repertoire, it is probably worth asking “Who is holding classical music in shackles?” and “Why do so many people feel it is so important to set Bach and Chopin free?” Continue reading “Success Stories”

The Miraverse: A Salon for the 21st Century

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Preparing the environment at The Miraverse

We are proud and fortunate to have created the inspiring space that is Manifold Recording.  But we always envisioned achieving something more than what we can do for artists, engineers, and producers.  We believe that there is a larger public sphere that is curious, excited, and even ravenous for new ideas, new experiences, new musical performances and productions.  We wanted to also create a space in which a newly-engaged public could bring new energy, new interests, and new resources to create a healthier, more vibrant, more sustainable future for music and musicians.

One thing I have learned as a former Trustee of a model Montessori school is the importance of the prepared environment. Characteristics of the prepared environment include: beauty, order, reality, simplicity and accessibility[1].  It may have required the genius of Maria Montessori to explain why these are crucial to child development (compared with, say, efficiency, authority, policy, technology, and convenience), but as adults, it is obvious to most of us that such environments are conducive to our own development, too!  Like fertile ground ready to bring forth an abundant harvest of whatever may be planted, prepared environments known as Salons helped bring about The Enlightenment by injecting academic discussion and debate into a newly formed public sphere (that was also a by-product of the Salon experience).  Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin presented and refined their ideas at salons, “inventing” large parts of modern capitalism and modern democracy in the process.

But commerce and politics were not the exclusive subjects of salons–they were but two of myriad subjects that excited those who participated.  Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt were proof of that.  Chopin, in fact, preferred the environment of the salon to public performances. Continue reading “The Miraverse: A Salon for the 21st Century”

Trying new things

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Gary Husband rehearsing at Manifold Recording

This week we have been given a gift.  Two of the most talented members of the Jazz fusion community are making a record at Manifold Recording.  And they are trying something new: the co-production model of The Miraverse.  If you are within 40 miles of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, or Pittsboro, you might want to consider becoming a co-producer on Friday, or at least having dinner with these artists and hearing what Alex Machacek and Gary Husband have been creating.

A lot has changed in the recording industry since John McLaughlin started recording with Miles Davis, but a few things have stayed the same: the laws of physics that govern acoustics have not changed, and the challenge of making a great record–from the technical practice to the acoustics to the critical decisions during tracking and mixing–remain challenges no matter how much technology one has available.  The co-production model is a new approach geared toward helping artists produce their art at the highest level, using both the most advanced technologies available and the most organic acoustic spaces in which to give their music life, and to do so in an economically sustainable way.

One major task of making a great recording is the recording process itself.  This process has its own magic, its own mystery, its own moments of enlightenment to offer.  And it is a process that is usually hidden from view, inaccessible to all except those directly connected to the process.  But what about those who love not only the music itself, but the process of producing the music?  In the world of local food, chefs are teaming up with farmers, bringing the restaurant to the field so that diners can experience food in a more complete and holistic way that just what is served on the plate.  Other artists are inviting people into their studios to witness the process of creation.  Why not do the same for the recording arts?

We are thrilled that Gary and Alex are trying new things.  And we hope that you might try something new as well and support the work of these artists in a new way.  It is quite something special to hear our 9′ concert grand piano in the Music Room.  It will be quite something special to hear Alex playing through our locally-made Carr amplifiers.  And if you decide to make a day of it and spend time not only hearing them play live, but participating in the recording process.

Leonardo DaVinci once said “Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom.”  Which means that art is defined by the choices made by the artist.  By seeing those choices being made, by understanding how those choices can be discerned in a recording, you might just find that you have a whole new appreciation for your existing library of recordings as you hear nuances (choices!) you’d never heard before.

Tickets for those who wish to attend are being handled by AbstractLogix here.

BREAKING NEWS: There is now an option to join only the post-dinner concert.  Contact AbstractLogix to check on availability of these $99 tickets.  We hope to see you Friday, either for the whole day, for dinner, or for the wrap-up performance.  Thank you for helping these artists produce the next milestones in Jazz recording.

Hindugrass Recording Sessions

Hindugrass will be recording next week, and they are kicking off their session with a performance on Friday night, April 12th at 8pm.  If you have always wanted to be a fly on the wall of a real recording session, the band is inviting a very limited number of people to be their guests in the studio via this Eventbrite link.

Why perform before recording?  Béla Fleck answers that question in this video from last year:

Continue reading “Hindugrass Recording Sessions”

Celebrating the Home Town Hero

We live in a paradoxical age: believe nothing unless you have seen it, yet trust outside experts more than the leaders of one’s own community.  All my life I have heard the quote “nobody is a hero in their home town” only to discover it’s a paraphrase of a verse from the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus says “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in their own hometown.”  Doubtless Plato complained about the same problem hundreds of years earlier.  I believe this is due to our tendency to confuse the familiar with the ordinary.  Since moving to Chapel Hill and becoming familiar with many of the great people in the region, I have come to appreciate just how extraordinary so many of them are.  Including those with a musical inclination.

That is not to say that we don’t appreciate talent from other states or countries.  As a board member of Carolina Performing Arts, I’m rightfully proud of the world-class roster of international talents that perform at Memorial Hall each academic year.  But the greatness that comes from afar does not preclude the possibility of greatness living amongst us as well.  The INDY week article is a great case in point.  Yes, it may seem like bragging to use my own studio as an example of a world-class music and post-production facility in our community, but it’s true.  Equally true, and perhaps more important because of the network effect, is that the local community is able to come together and celebrate that fact.  Today, artists both local and global are willing to give us the nod over more established facilities in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, and even London, which is now leading to greater opportunities for all in our growing community.  That is wonderful!

Continue reading “Celebrating the Home Town Hero”

Competition vs. Validation

 When I decided to leave the certainty of multiple steady paychecks to start a new company, everybody I briefed thought there was no possible way it could succeed, and that gave me the confidence that I’d have no competition.  The rest, as they say is history.  But since that time, I have also come to appreciate that sometimes it is more valuable to have at least some competition proving that the business idea has at least some merit.  Some percentage of a provable market is worth more than 100% of a market that simply does not exist.  Enter GrooveBox Studios.

GrooveBox Studios was born of a frustration that is nearly universal among all artists I’ve encountered: bands spend too much of their own money on projects and tours that generally enrich everybody else before the band earns a dollar.  Which is not sustainable.  The founders of GrooveBox Studios hit the business reset button and came up with a model that is really quite analogous to what we, too derived: the co-production model.  For starters, both GrooveBox and The Miraverse® promote the idea that instead of being an up-front cost that the artist must bear, the recording process is something that delivers cash and profit directly to the artist, up-front. Continue reading “Competition vs. Validation”