Friday, February 12, 2016

Getting My Geek Vitamins

I’m obviously vitamin-starved. At the last Fair Trade Book Store open mic, I blew off my usual mediocre acoustic guitar piece and brought my MacBook Pro to demonstrate a vintage musical piece to the small group of musicians and musical kids. My wife warned me to “keep it short,” so I wouldn’t bore anyone (meaning her). I did my best to make it brief, but mostly what I pointed out to myself was how much I miss having a few friends to talk about recording, recording technology, and music.

For a few years, working at Musictech (then McNally Smith College of Music) was a full emersion geek-out experience. Every day, I was close to instructors and students who not only loved music but who were fascinated with the physics, electronics, acoustics, and psycho-acoustics that is core to the production of modern music in any of its forms. The geek factor slowly vanished from the school as many of the tech-intensive instructors left and were replaced by people whose claim to fame was Pro Tools expertise. I guess there is a geekiness associated with being really good with function and quick-keys, but it’s not something I care much about. You can polish turds until they shine, but they are still just little bits of crap. Without some knowledge of how the physical equipment works (microphones, preamps and signal chain, acoustics, signal processing, and human hearing), knowing how to cut up performances into well-aligned bits just isn’t very interesting.

So I retired and moved from the Twin Cities to Red Wing, where we made new friends, found more things to do than we have time to do them, and picked up some new hobbies (like guitar building and cabinet-making). It turns out that I miss some of what I lost.

25 years ago, I quit my last full-time music industry job and found work in medical devices. Admittedly, too much of my motivation was money. Eventually, it turned into lots of money. While the money was good, one of the first things I noticed about the people I worked with was “this is not my culture.” While there were a few outdoor recreation types in Engineering, most everyone in medical devices and medicine was focused on making money, getting promotions, and acquiring stuff. I could easily go for months without hearing anyone hum atonally to themselves, let alone sing or play a musical instrument. I felt a little like a Stranger in A Strange Land. Or a lot.

I guess I have to do something about that. It turns out that not working with musicians and technical people is more of a deprivation than I expected. Go figure.

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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.