Day #1/Saturday 10-05 Edition:
If the familiar technical sessions and workshops form the heart of any AES Convention, the Special Events might be considered the eyes and ears of the ways in which new ideas will find practical applications. And yet with an important element of maintaining an ongoing appreciation of audio's past successes. As will be appreciated, our audio future is based on a rich heritage; a fact of life that will be underscored in several of today's Special Events.
The AES Historical Committee has laid on a fascinating series of working displays and presentations entitled "When Vinyl Ruled." Organized by Wes Dooley and Dale Manquen, these must-see offerings will provide attendees with an overview of technology during the age of vinyl, and spotlight its relevance to current music production. Carson Taylor will revels secrets of his unprecedented success with studio sessions at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, as well as location recordings. Other highlights include: film mixer Jim Webb's analysis of landmark microphones, with practical demonstrations; Kevin Gray and Stan Ricker's overview of disc mastering and record manufacturing; David Gordon and Ken Hirsch's chronology of the increased power and complexity of recording consoles (and the concomitant rise of the dual-function engineer/producer); and Toby Foster considering vintage condenser mics. Even day in Demo Room 304A; check the signs for specific times.
And two related Special Events will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of what is considered by many to be the world's first successful "talking" motion picture, "The Jazz Singer," starring Al Jolson. In room 304A Richard P. May, Warner Bros' VP of Film Preservation will outline the rise and fall of the studio's Vitaphone sound system," while on Sunday in Room 403A you can enjoy a fascinating live-radio "Lux Radio Theater" recreation of "The Jazz Singer." (For those with that sort of mind, Sunday's recreation will mark the precise day and date of the landmark film's premier in New York on October 7, 1927.)
In our recreation, Richard Halpern stars as Jack Robin, Linda Kaye Henning as Mary Dale, Larry Dobkin as Cantor Rabinowitz, Peggy Webber as Mama, plus Don King as Mr. Stevens and Dr. O'Shaughenessy. AES president Garry Margolis plays Mr. Yudelson, while AES VP Neville Thiele is William Keighley. Producer Shelley Herman takes the role of John Milton Kennedy. AES secretary and president-elect, Ron Streicher, will engineer this performance with Herb Ellis, a veteran radio actor, directing the show. Dean Mora will perform the music, with sound effects by Ray Erlenborn. Not to be missed!
And least we overlook the new generation of audio engineers, the AES Education Committee has organized a student program that includes two highly-relevant workshops: "Mixing and Mastering in Multichannel Surround," chaired by Michael Bishop, with panelists John Eargle, Frank Filipetti, Bob Ludwig, George Massenburg and Elliott Scheiner;" and "Microphone Techniques," chaired by Geoff Martin, with panelists Michael Bishop, Doug Botnick, John Eargle, Richard King and Mick Sawaguchi. Other student-centered events include mentoring sessions, an Education Fair, and a recording competition in classical, jazz/folk, pop/rock, surround, classical and surround, non-classical categories.
Finally: Make sure to visit the AES Surround Sound Demo Area (Room 309) that will be used in conjunction with various workshops for demonstrating 5.1- and 6.1-channel playback. With a 35-seat capacity, the room is equipped with JBL Studio Monitors, Crown Reference Series amps and a variety of multi-channel playback sources. Monitor the schedule posted outside the room.
Day #2/Sunday 10-06 Edition:
So it all comes together. Months of work, and we are off to the races. Downbeat was 11:30 AM as the crowds gather for a very Special Event: Opening Ceremonies and Awards Presentations. AES president Garry Margolis made a brief reference to the appalling events of a year ago that precipitated the last-minute rescheduling of our New York Convention, but offered that the current convention had got off to a wonderful start. "We had a stunning turnout for our first papers session at 9:00 AM," and on the exhibit floor, "we can find close to 400 companies eager to show off their new hardware. The future bodes very well for us all," he concluded.
Affable Convention Chairman Floyd Toole quoted his choice of subhead for the LA gathering: Science in the Service of Art "Technical accomplishments are nothing without the artist," he emphasized. "We serve their needs," he said, referring to the daily Songwriters Showcases that underscore to the Society's recognition of this vitally important symbiosis.
AES Awards Committee Chairman David Robinson announced a series of citations plus board of governor's and fellowship awards. Elmar Leal received a citation for "outstanding work over many years in South America, culmination in the formation of the Latin America region," while Roland Tan received a citation for "his work in Southeast Asia, especially in the formation and continuation of the Singapore section."
Board of Governors Awards were presented to Roy Pritts and AES president-elect Ron Streicher in recognition of their co-chairing the September 2000 109th Convention in Los Angeles. Fellowship Awards were presented to Durand Begault "for his contributions to our understanding of spatial hearing and its applications;" Gilbert Soulodre "for his significant contributions in procedures for subjective testing of audio systems," and 90-year old Carson Taylor "in recognition of lifelong contributions to the art and science of music recording techniques."
Keynote speaker Leonardo Chiariglione, VP of Multimedia at CSELT, Italy, addressed the thorny abject of "MP3 and Beyond: Friend or Foe to the Audio industry." As he said: "Imagine six million people sharing their content [via the Internet]; imagine six billion people trading their content [via the Internet]. Paraphrasing John Lennon's landmark homage to optimism, "Imagine," Chiariglione concluded with a plea to "making technology and content friends in one."
Day #3/Monday-Tuesday 10-07/10-08 Edition:
As in previous years, a capacity crowd at Saturday's 14th Annual Grammy® Recording SoundTable, 21st Century Recording Realities, organized by NARAS, sat spellbound as a sextet of experienced engineer-producers provided an inside glimpse of real-word life world in the studio. Moderated by Howard Massey, and keynoted by the ever-affable Phil Ramone, Saturday's two-hour panel - Ken Jordan (half of the alternate-electric duo, Crystal Method), Technical Grammy winner George Massenburg, Jack Joseph Puig, five-time Grammy winner Elliot Scheiner, nine-time Grammy winner Al Schmitt (plus two Latin Grammies), and Brian Garten - offered up a rich mixture of the challenges facing today's productions.
The wide-ranging subject matter extended from choices of recording environment and how to begin a session, through staying on top of the rapidly evolving technologies and coping with reduced budgets, to the impact of low-bit MP3 technologies and final delivery formats. And with successful records being made on laptops, are professional studios becoming an endangered species?
Of particular interest was George Massenburg's update on current deliberations by NARAS' Producers & Engineers Wing about mastering formats; what materials should be archived so that they will survive through generations to come? With a wide diversity of digital audio workstations, not to mention analog and digital multitracks, the panel responded with an elective range of media and file formats they turn into the record label, ranging from analog two -inch multitrack and half-inch masters, to 24-bit WAV, AIFF and SDII files or Sonic Solutions projects on AIT cartridges or Firewire-capable hard drives.
Each of the SoundTable participants would be the first to agree that the choice of recording venue is highly personal, and their choice of tools highly eclectic. But a common point underscoring the panel discussion was that a studio - in whatever form that takes, from a conventional 48-track venue to a bedroom or a converted two-car garage - it is a creative environment; any choice of technology is appropriate, provided that it advances and does not hinder the making of music.
Jack Joseph Puig described an innovative technique for capturing that essential "freshness" of a production as the session progresses. On a recent project he set up a PA system in the studio so that the process of rehearsal to the take would be seamless, and the band could retain the energy as the songs came together. When he felt a song had the structure he needed, he would have the band change one element - maybe move a section to a different place than they had developed in rehearsal - so that the band members would now add an element of immediacy, while retaining the carefully crafted impact of the track.
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