Tesco Productions was recently called on to help out with a music project for several high school students attending an area Christian High School. The instructor has been a long-time client and family friend who wanted to help her students expand their learning and challenge their creative skills by writing their own songs. Each student wrote their lyrics and then with the collaboration of the instructor these were set to music. With that part of the process completed she came into the studio and laid down the keyboard parts along with some additional enhancements as well as a practice vocal line. I then added a few more keyboarded and drum machine elements to round out the songs. Mixes were then provided with and without the vocal so each student could practice their song. A concert was held during which each music piece was presented and I’ve heard it went well. I’m glad we all had the opportunity to participate in this creative process and I hope and pray each one involved will continue to glorify the Creator in all areas of life.
A couple of years ago – well more like nearly 40, I along with other college class members were assigned a project of illustrating a particular Bible passage at what was then Grace College of the Bible, now Grace University. I was there for my communications degree which was focusing on audio production. We could make a physical construction or drawing, use a musical instrument or most any other means to tangibly demonstrate these verses. I chose to do it in audio form in what was to be my first “recording studio”. I lived in a converted two-story house on campus and there was an area in the finished basement with a counter top where I could get away from the commotion of the other residents and set up everything I needed for this project. So equipped with a Sharp cassette deck, another borrowed cassette player, a Shure microphone, headphones and a small mixer, I hooked up all this gear and got to work. I narrated the text which was laid over various song selections and foley sound effects (ie. agitated water in the bathtub to simulate wave sounds, etc.) and mixed this all together. The Sharp cassette was a pretty decent unit and didn’t leave nasty clicks when it went in/out of pause so the finished product didn’t sound too amateur. Well it netted an “A” grade and I think I learned something (both technically and spiritually) from the work as well. The mic and mixer still exist and the final cassette tape. But alas, you can’t keep everything around and so recently the Sharp cassette machine went to a recycler (Cross Training Center) leaving behind the memories of this project and countless hours of music playback and recording (can you hear a few heart strings?). My big regret is not taking a picture of that first studio. A little late now I guess.
Another item to make the same recycling trip was the very first audio interface that Tesco Productions installed when I first went digital in 1994. At that time I was one of (if not the first) studio in Omaha to make the switch to computer-based recording as the main multi-track medium. This system was released by Digidesign and was called Session 8. It gave you 8 voices of playback and non-linear editing which was a big deal back then (still is, but of course everything’s advanced so much more) and so I was into the world of DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) recording. I have to say that the Session 8 software was still one of the most real-world-designed software releases I have ever worked with. I think real music engineers with computer savvy wrote it instead of the other way around, or could it be it just most closely matched the studio environment I was now being tranistioned out of. It was kind of sad to part with this piece since I cut my chops on that system while totally reworking my mindset on production. Since my college days were well before computers were involved in audio (at least for the average studio owner) and certainly were not in my class experience, I was now presented with the ominous task of creating the very same outcome – but with a whole new set of tools. I remember one of my earliest realizations was that another sense (sight) had been added to the recording/editing/mixing process and I caught myself being more enamored with what I was seeing on the (maybe 15″ CRT) screen than by what really mattered – what you hear. But I, and others working with me, made our way through it and I’d have to say I wouldn’t want to go back. However, there is an element of the old-school mix it “live”, make copious notes, need 5 hands, 6 ears and always just 1 more cable that I miss. Oh the end product is certainly more “perfect”, totally repeatable (forbid the client wanted to do a remix on a song even the next day pre-digital) and nearly infinitely tweakable, but there’s a certain loss of connection, adrenaline and joyous victory as you became another “player” actively outputting your best on a song mix. Now you can set all the parameters and literally go to lunch as the computer runs off the final mix – maybe giving it a listen when you return or maybe moving on. The price of advancement I guess, but here’s to change.