One Sunday morning a month, a group of individuals can be observed in a parking lot not far from the Mix offices moving items in and out of car trunks and exchanging money. Drug dealers? Gun runners? Fences moving hot merchandise? Hardly: They’re 78 rpm record collectors who meet to swap century-old technology. So, 100 years in the future will there be similar meetings of enthusiasts trading vintage MP3s or WMA files? Probably not. Technology is constantly evolving, although there is something inherently cool about hearing a 75-year-old jazz performance on a wind-up gramophone.
I’m not proposing we go back to the days of 78 rpm records, but technology has made an enormous impact on audio workflows. The arrival of multitrack recording enabled works that were impossible to create in real time, where one player could perform several — or all — of the parts. But more importantly, multitrack opened the door for experimentation with multiple overdubs of different vocal or instrumental tracks. Its arrival also marked a point where the production phase became much longer, moving from a simple “record the band in the studio” process to becoming the center for creativity. And rather than just a few days, artists were suddenly spending months in the studio.
Traditionally, pre-production meant a lot of pre-session work — writing/choosing material, working out arrangements and rehearsing. True, nothing can match the excitement of working with a group of great players, but with a lot of today’s music, there is no “band.” In many cases, the producer assumes that role, writing beats, grooves and riffs, and often collaborating with the artist to work out the lyrics in the studio. Here, the DAW goes far beyond acting as an editable multitrack. Loaded with looping/beat-construction tools, virtual instruments and DSP plug-ins, the workstation becomes the studio itself and is capable of creating nearly any genre of music.
Just as playing a grand piano or fine acoustic guitar can help inspire the creation process, so can a collection of cool grooves. Technology serves art. Art serves technology. And the circle is complete, especially with digital tools shattering the barriers of affordability. Need a (virtual) 1928 Steinway “B,” LA-2A or a rack of Pultecs? No problemo. Technology has definitely changed the way we work, but whether rehearsing a band before tracking or knocking out beats, there’s still a creative human touch that makes the difference. And that song remains the same.
Speaking of creativity and technology, this issue includes our annual Technical Excellence and Creativity (TEC) Awards voter’s guide. This year, we’ve instituted a fast, online means that simplifies the process where subscribers can help select pro audio’s best people, products and facilities. (For more details, see page 69 or visit www.mixfoundation.org.) Another change this year is a new category that recognizes the increasing importance of Interactive Entertainment Sound Production. The online balloting begins August 1. It’s your industry, so take a few minutes and cast your votes.
We’re counting on you.