THEATER SOUND DESIGNERS DESERVE A TEC AWARDI was delighted to open up this month's Mix magazine to find an article by Jonathan Deans ("Time for a Change in the Orchestra Pit," August 2000 issue). As I got to the end of Jonathan's article, I stumbled upon a little bit of serendipity: He mentions that "the most recent Tony Award winner for Best New Musical is a show called `Contact.'" What he doesn't mention is that of all the Tony Awards the show received, it did not get one for Sound Design. They don't give Tony Awards for Sound Design. Then I flipped to the Official TEC Awards Voting Ballot attached to the front cover of this month's issue and found that under "Outstanding Creative Achievement," Mix magazine doesn't recognize the work of theater sound designers either.
I guess Mix magazine and the Tony Awards both agree that the contributions of these theater artists don't merit the same recognition as a mastering engineer.
Rick ThomasPurdue University
OR, WE COULD JUST FORGET THE WHOLE THINGI just read the article "Time for a Change in the Orchestra Pit" in the August issue. The idea of moving the musicians to another room may solve acoustic problems in the theater, but it also begs the question of why there should be live musicians at all. Deans says that "the audience for musical theater is becoming increasingly sophisticated." At what, listening to canned music? With all the technology that these listeners use, it seems the human race is evolving to a state where we don't know how to listen to acoustic music anymore.
To add to your argument, acoustic musical instruments are really holdover relics from another age. If these listeners are so sophisticated, there is really no place for these ancient instruments in modern theater, especially if the patrons cannot appreciate the sound they make in the acoustic space they are placed in. Certainly, this sophistication dispenses with the fact that the performance experience is the human interaction between actor, orchestra and audience. Sophisticated audiences may not know, want or understand this experience anymore anyway.
Placing musicians in another room is the first step in placing them into the alley next to the theater. Next to go will be the actors when someone devises a way to project holographic images from a central transmission location. After all, theater acoustics are not designed to effectively project the human voice like 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound can.
Why even have theater anymore?Bill Koggenhopvia e-mail
SETTING THE CLASSIC TRACK RECORD STRAIGHTThank you for the Classic Tracks article ("Classic Tracks: Johnny Cash's `Live at Folsom Prison'") of July 2000 that took me back to Folsom Prison. I was there working for Wally Heider Recording and am on the far side of the stage with a cigarette in hand in the picture you used for the article. As Barbara Schultz mentioned, "There weren't a lot of records kept regarding the technical aspects of this recording." Some of those technicalities are in the memory banks of guys like me who were there in that prison cafeteria/echo chamber. On July 13, 1968 (32 years ago), I was a second engineer and truck driver at this recording and many other electrically charged live recordings, such as Chuck Berry Live at the Fillmore. I had serious doubts and serious anticipation as I drove through the imposing iron gates toward a huge prison in the middle of nowhere.
I'd like to add my memories to Jim Marshall's. I was at a little table with intercom so I could move mics or respond to any other problems that might come up as we recorded. Wally Heider Recording had a Bill Putnam-designed UA 12-position, 4-track console with EQ (ñ3 @ 100 Hz, and ñ3 or 6 @ 7.5 kHz). Wally didn't like compression to tape live, so we used no limiters. The vocals, amps and drums were all Shure 546, except overhead drums which were both Sony C-37 condensers. We preferred not to use a Shure windscreen, but instead the one on Cash's mic is an Electro-Voice 666 windscreen. We had one Scully 4-track and one Ampex 351 4-track.
Columbia Records had union engineers, so neither Wally Heider Recording nor I received any credit for our work on that day, as is true for many other wonderful musical events. My part is now only in my memory, since Wally's death in the '80s.
Again, thanks for reminding me I was at Folsom Prison 32 years ago. Without a doubt, it was a memorable day.
Bill HalversonProducer/EngineerPortland, Tenn.
SOMETIMES I WONDERHey, St.Croix: great column. I really look forward to it every month. However, may I correct you a tad? That was Blue Cheer that did "Summertime Blues" and not the Blues Magoos. But I don't know why they bothered, since we already had Eddie Cochran's. On second thought, it was kind of a pioneering grunge record. Keep up the good work, man.
Woody WilsonWoody's StudioJasper, Ala.
CORRECTIONI want to clarify one detail in Barry Rudolph's Field Test review of our KM180 Series microphones in your August issue. In the description of the differences between the current KM184 and the older KM84, Rudolph points to the fact that with the newer mic, "dynamic range is increased by 21 dB, self noise is reduced to 25 dB (CCIR)..."
I felt it important for the readers to know that the KM184 has an A-weighted self-noise of 16 dB, which is impressively low for a small-diaphragm condenser microphone and indeed quite low for any microphone.
Karl WinklerNeumann USA