my music

What is it about music consumption that elicits a feeling of ownership? Why do we refer to our personal collections of files, records, CDs (or recordings from a streaming service stored in the cloud – hello, 2018), as “my music.” It was written, performed, and recorded all by people who are not you. And yet, because you have picked it and deemed it to be enjoyable to your ears, it becomes yours.

I can’t find an analogous example in other art forms. We don’t get prints of our favorite pieces of art, hang them in our homes, and proclaim them to be “my art.” While we may refer to a stack of books or DVDs as “my books, my movies,” the same ownership context isn’t attached.

And let us not forget the judgement attached to the ownership. For serious music fans, meeting someone who doesn’t share *your* love of the same type of music can be disastrous. We all know those who look down on others who we feel do not exude the same standard of taste, because clearly, “our music” is better than “their music.”

Herein lies my theory: I think that the inherent ownership of music is routed in the consumption. First, let’s take live music off the table – that deserves a separate discussion. Recorded music is cheap, and often free. It’s everywhere – aural wallpaper when you go to a store, the background to your conversation in the car, your phone ring tone. Music fills in the silence. And because it’s everywhere, it’s not valued the same as other media, and other art forms. Why would we value something that permeates our lives?

I do not mean this as a disgruntled rant against the music industry. As someone “in it,” whatever that means, I am perpetually interested in how people consume music and claim it to be worthy of their time, money, and interest.

How did we get here? It can easily be pinpointed to the rise of downloading music, both legally and illegally. The iPod made music so portable, it decimated the radio industry. And sure, the rise of Napster et al. blew up the traditional model. But is it that simple? For sure, movies and books can and are downloaded, but not on the scale of music. Further, you have to sit down and read a book, watch a movie, look at a piece of art. It interrupts you and demands your attention. Music can do that, but it just as easily can not do that, if the listener so chooses.

I offer no solution here, because there isn’t one. This is simply how we live with recorded music, at least right now. I think I’m more interested in what others have to say. What is your relationship to recorded music? How has that changed over the years? What value do you place in recorded music, if you can be completely honest with yourself? Feel free to write to me using the contact form. I truly want to hear from you.

tune the room

I’ve found that a key to me staying afloat in this strange business is to be able to do a number of different tasks. For example, last week included recording strings for a couple of folk songs for the prison project, doing my radio show, producing another radio showplaying a gig on bass, and mixing audio for a Monster Truck show. I love the variety, and each situation is a learning opportunity.

I recently got a call from someone who needed help with their home studio. Their goal is voiceover work, but the control room and tracking room needed a lot of help from an acoustics and connectivity standpoint in order to achieve professional results. I love this kind of work. Not only did I build and treat my own home studio, but I have consulted and implemented acoustic plans for several clients. I jumped at the opportunity to work on this project.

As an aside, I was extremely lucky to study with the mad scientist/genius acoustician and architect, John Storyk. His class was incredible, not only from an informational/real world/knowledge perspective, but also for his personality. Some memorable moments include an answer to the question “will it do anything acoustically if I put (fill in the blank) in the corner?” Storyk: “I don’t care what you put in the corner – a plant, a table, your mother-in-law, it’s doing something!” Or the time when we had to take a break in the middle class so John could take a call from his longtime friend, Eddie Kramer. Storyk also pronounces “reverb” in the most wonderful way. It was a formative experience to learn from this man, and I still revisit the texts and materials he gave us. It’s also an interesting twist that I frequently work out of a studio that Storyk built. The room is unmistakably his – the man has many signature fingerprints in his designs.

For this home studio project, I applied many of the tools I learned from studying with Storyk: assessing the scope and goals of the studio, testing and tuning the room with tones, white noise, and pink noise to discover the frequency response, designing and wiring custom wall patch plates, and working with the client on a solution that meets their needs, while also building out enough for the client to expand the scope of the studio’s capabilities should the need arise. And of course, staying within a budget. I’m pleased with the results. With the help of some well placed absorption, diffusion, ceiling clouds, de-coupling speaker stands, and an easy to use wall patch panel, the studio is fully functional and turning out great results. And we fit the aesthetic already established in the room, so it looks good, too.