Monday, January 27, 2014

Evolution 001

Once upon a time, there was a wonderful music college that specialized in training young people for the cut-throat relatively-high technology world of modern music. That school had a great name, considering its mission; MusicTech College. The school's mission was to help young musicians and musical technologists find their way into a "life of music." Since modern music is technological in function and design, "MusicTech" was a terrific brand for the school. So much so, in fact, that groups of graduates from the school were called "MusicTech Bands": a description that indicated to other musicians that these kids were a special breed of skilled, theoretically informed, technically adept musicians who were a head above the rest of the pack. I know, that's not saying much since obtaining a music degree isn't known for being a smart economic decision

Being a MusicTech College instructor was a thing to be proud of. The faculty was focused and mission-driven and we were led by a man, Michael McKern, who epitomized that mission and focus. The school's two founders, Jack McNally and Doug Smith, were somewhere in the background in those days, but were not academically involved and barely seemed to know what was going on in the facility they owned. That was particularly apparent when the school moved to St. Paul from Minneapolis and in the last days of construction the two owners were occasionally shepherded around the nearly finished building marveling at the accomplishment. I was on the studio construction crew, which worked 18-20 hours a day for a couple dozen days to get the building in shape for the spring 2002 semester and, before they appeared for one of those tours, I thought McKern owned the school.

In 2005 and after a couple years of wrangling with accrediting bullshit, politics, egomania, and academia, general foolishness, and the usual American mismanagement disconnect from rational business conspired to force the school to "re-brand" the school and the mission went with the brand. The liberal arts community feels threatened by anything connecting "tech" to education. Apparently, MIT, Georgia Tech, Cal Tech, and the host of America's best institutions that proudly label themselves with the dreaded word "tech" don't live up to the dubious standards of today's for-profit fluffball liberal arts and Cardboard Blue trade school accrediting organizations. I'm sure the fact that a half-conscious, completely incompetent liberal arts accrediting agency disrespects "tech" bothers those great institutions deeply.

Sometimes I remember those days, probably unrealistically and overly fondly, and I do a search on "Music Tech" and hope to see some remembrance of that school and its students and instructors. In early February, I got a bunch of hits on that word (brand?) that was incredibly encouraging: The SF MusicTech Summit.

"The SF MusicTech Summit brings together visionaries in the evolving music/business/technology ecosystem, along with the best and brightest developers, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, journalists, musicians, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. We meet to do business and discuss, in a proactive, conducive to deal-making environment."

Shades of the good old days.

Another hit produced, which is the personal business site of "Award Winning Mixing Engineer" Stephen Sherrard. Sherrard has put together a fairly interesting "Resources for the Recording Musician" blog/informational website and also seems to be an echo of the old Musictech College mission.

One of the copout justifications for the name change was that their was competition for the name from the British music magazine MusicTech Magazine. That made no sense in 2005, since the school had been operating under the MusicTech College name for more than a decade and MusicTech Magazine came into existence in March of 2003. Anthem Publishing, the owner of the magazine version of "Musictech" didn't do much with the magazine for a couple of years, but after the college relinquished the name the magazine seems to have really taken off. Good for them. (Oddly, one of the school's most talented ex-instructors, Rob Schlette, named his mastering business Anthem Mastering. My wife would call that something more spiritually coincidental than "odd.")

My favorite MusicTech reincarnation might be the Musictech Society.  "We are the society in Imperial College Union for Music Producers and DJs. We meet to make music, mix music and discuss music (and drink and things)." Like rap (the printer left off the "c"), the whole DJ thing loses me, but I like their attitude.

Epilogue: It took me more than a few years to remove all of the old MusicTech College links and logos from my school presentations. Even in recent years, I have uncovered hidden MT logos or reference in my stuff. I, clearly, did not want to let go of the idiotic dream that MSCM would come to its senses and return to the name that implied a mission (and that mission). Instead of replacing it with the new brand, I eventually decided to stamp my work with my Wirebender logo and wait to see if anyone would notice.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.