Here is a semi-random story about music…
More than 10 years ago, before I recorded, mixed, and co-mastered Bao Phi’s double album Refugeography (2002), I had this crazy notion about analog sound. I had grown frustrated by the tinny sound of MP3s. My idea was to run modern digital audio through analog tape in an attempt to attain the warmth and authenticity of older analog music. I wasn’t certain it would achieve the exact results that I wanted, but I told anyone who would listen that they should consider trying it. Especially my friends who were making hip hop music.
Man, I grew up listening to my parents music from the 50s, 60s, & 70s, and the contemporary stuff I was hearing simply couldn’t stand up to it. It still doesn’t. I have always been disappointed by the listening experience of the digital music revolution and since many of the artists & producers in Minneapolis had what I would call an “analog” sound, it made sense to me. Also at the time, securing used analog tape reels could be done on the cheap. They were probably prohibitively expensive if you bought them brand new, but a local studio owner I knew had affordable access to them.
Long story short, everybody thought I was crazy, and the idea sat on my mental shelf collecting dust… Until I met Bao. He had already invited me to produce the project so when it came time to record his album, I told him about my concept, explained the technology, and he backed me up by funding the process. We went to 8-Fold Path Recording Studios, the engineer got us some used analog tape, and we did it. Bao even got to keep the analog master of his album. The engineer handed it over to us in a huge plastic carrying case. It was cool. It felt like we had really created something substantial, both musically and physically. And we had. If you’ve created an album in the past 10 years, all you probably got from the studio when you were done, was a CD-R. Maybe 2 CD-Rs. One as a backup. Bao walked out with a big ass heavy reel. And a big ass smile. Word up.
Recently, in September of 2012, Neil Young (yes, THAT Neil Young) announced Pono, what Rolling Stone Magazine called “a new audio system that could rival Apple“. They went on to say this: “Beginning next year, Pono will release a line of portable players, a music-download service and digital-to-analog conversion technology intended to present songs as they first sound during studio recording sessions. Pono’s preservation of the fuller, analog sound already has the ear of the Big Three record labels: Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music. WMG has already converted its library of 8,000 album titles…”
Yep… I love music & technology. Don’t you? Around 10:30pm this evening, Neil Young was on The Daily Show promoting his new book and that is what reminded me of this whole thing, prompting me to share this story. You would think this story might be frustrating. But I love that this little morsel of an idea has come to fruition. Even if I had nothing to do with it’s current incarnation.. What I really find frustrating is occasionally being too far ahead of the curve for my own good, but trust me, if you have an idea or you feel strongly about something, tell anyone who will listen. And I hope you find a Bao in your life. Mr. Young’s battle will be uphill. And frankly it might fail. But at least he went for it. And I dig that.