Editor's Note

Books, Books and Books

From The Editor 5/08/2017 7:45 AM

I’m a reader. I always have been. My mom has maintained all these years that one day, when I was around three-and-a-half years old, she looked across the dining room table and realized that I had taught myself to read. I was her sixth of what would become 12 children, and she read every day to me, so the story is a bit of an exaggeration. Still, at 4 I was attempting crossword puzzles and playing my grandparents at Scrabble. Words were in my blood early, much the same as music fills some other young boy’s bones. I love music—live, recorded or street-side spontaneous—and it’s been a huge part of my life. But my first love was books.

When I was 11, my dad gave me Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Tril- ogy, Ursula Leguin’s Earthsea Trilogy, and most of the early John Le Carre  and Robert Ludlum. There were bookshelves throughout our home, books on nightstands, everybody read. And it’s been the same as my daughters grew up. I don’t think I’ve ever boarded a plane or taken public transportation without a book in my bag. If I’m nearing the end of a title, I usually have at least one or two waiting in the wings. They are my escape, my meditation, and the roots of my never-ending education. I still read physical books; I look at enough screens all day long.

What does any of this have to do with audio? Nothing, really. It just all came together in my mind on a recent road trip from Oakland to Santa Barbara to Los Angeles for a couple of Mix cover stories with a couple of amazing songwriters. I began to think about the parallels between creating a song and writing verse or prose, the similarities evident in the craft and the output: In the end, there is a story.

The first stop was David Crosby’s wood, stone and glass-filled ranch home, imbued with a peaceful and tranquil energy—and custom bookshelves everywhere, some floor-to-ceiling, others hugging the line below the windows. Fiction and nonfiction, art books and music biographies. The complete Wilber Smith (Crosby does have a fondness for sailing), the edgy sci-fi of Iain Banks, Lee Child, and countless others, across all genres. There were, of course, guitars everywhere, too, including two 1968 Martin D45s, cherry-picked off the line in the first year they were built sincWorld War II.

The second stop was at the studio and home of musician/producer/songwriter Greg Wells, pictured on this month’s cover with artist/musician/songwriter Ryan Tedder, a frequent songwriting collaborator. That night, while Wells put his six-year-old daughter to bed after a long day at gymnastics camp, I did that annoying thing I do where I browse a new home and look at the bookshelves. The den, with its vintage pump organ centerpiece, was surrounded by built-in, rich-wood booshelves. In the sitting room, on the grand piano, were score sheets from the Royal Conservatory of Music next to a Calvin and Hobbes collection. On the shelves across the room, Jan Swafford’s biography of Beethoven sat next to The Complete Fawlty Towers by John Cleese and Connie Booth. Nearby, Kurosawa’s autobiography, On the Road, The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. It tells you something about a person.

The next day, driving home on I-5, I thought back to what the great film editor/mixer Walter Murch told me in an interview more than a decade ago. Books, he said, are the one form of storytelling where the listener, not the creator, controls the pace of the experience—in a nonlinear fashion, moving backward and forward at will, across any length of time—and where each individual creates a unique visual world through their own imagination, rather than being presented with one. The analogies to music, to the experience offeeling a song, each individual unique, seemed to make perfect sense as I pulled back into the Bay Area.

So again, there is no real point here except that audio engineers, artists and songwriters are people, too, and their creative influences might come from a painting, the architecture of a downtow1800s building, or the beauty of Zion National Park. You never know. For me, it’s all of those and more. Books, too.