I hadn’t yet turned sixteen – that magical age where a young man suddenly gains control of the entire universe thanks to wheels and a license – but I was old enough to know that I loved anything mechanical, especially if it made noise. Imagine my giddiness when Art, the sound man at the church we attended, approached me one day and asked if I could give him a hand with things that morning. I followed him past the “No Admittance” sign and up to a room full of wonderful equipment – a mesmerizing array of boxes and panels buzzing with electricity and loaded with knobs and switches just waiting for my anxious little fingers to command them!
“Can you watch the tape recorder for me this morning,” he asked?
His voice snapped me back into reality, and I offered a “yeah, sure,” but my mind was already further down the road. I helped with the tape deck that morning, but made myself a regular-enough nuisance that I had soon become familiar with every piece of gear the church used in their audio department. At the time I felt quite useful and even needed, but it wasn’t until years later that I came to realize just how patient Art had been with this bumbling kid who probably spent more time getting in the way than actually being a help to him. Regardless, the seed was planted, and I owe a debt of gratitude to a guy who was willing to make an investment in an ordinary teen’s life.
My father, Noah, was the son of German immigrants, and despite overwhelming hardships of that time, managed to scratch his way to several music-related degrees and thereby make a career out of his passion. (I’m working on a blog post that will detail his life and accomplishments, but we’ll save that for another day…) Sadly, my father passed away while I was still young, but I truly believe that the same passion for music which drove him to become great flows through my veins as well. No, I’m not a well respected composer and I haven’t really mastered any instrument. Yet I’ve found over the years a sort of ease when dealing with audio issues and mixing sound — it just seems natural to take all the individual pieces and coax them into cohesion, painting a picture of vivid colors for your ears. My father found his place in front of the audience, but my calling seems to be in the back — if I’m doing my job well, I’ll go completely unnoticed.
In my father’s time, musicians and singers had to truly master their craft because there was no technology to cover for their shortcomings. Gone are the days of men and women who could breathe a song from their soul with such clarity and perfection that made it seem criminal to remix or add to it in any way. Today’s “talent” is defined by the budget allocated for all the hired musicians, studio time, and glitzy production that it takes to cover for the newest star’s lack of true talent. In so many areas of life, technology has “dumbed us down,” and music is no exception. As wonderful as some of these modern tools are, I don’t ever want to get to the point of replacing true musical passion with a newer much more marketable 32-bit quantized, auto-tuned robotic rendition of said passion.
Laughter is one way to maintain some sense of sanity in a mixed up world, so here are a few short videos poking fun at the modern sound tech, and the joys we deal with . . .