Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The March of Progress has Some Heavy, Hurtful Boots

Back in my early twenties when I was filled with hope, optimism and bad ideas, I walked away from a promising (and tweedy) future as an academic to open a recording studio in San Jose. It quickly became apparent that my academic future had neither been in business nor economics seeing as the studio failed spectacularly. Had we just poured gasoline on our bank accounts and set them afire, the result would have been the same.

My partner and I were a Laurel and Hardy like team. He was a large, jolly industrial engineer. I was a skinny humorless musician prone to crying jags. Hi-jinks ensued. By working together we imagined our specialties would combine, Voltron-like, to create a knowledgeable audio engineer. We should have also found someone who specialized in reading trade magazines though. The recording industry was teetering on the verge of collapse and we were excitedly buying tons of gear and wondering why there were such great deals happening.

After two years it was obvious we were done for. Anyone with a good computer and some basic (and not so basic) software could now record their own music at that point. Fantastic for musicians, bad for recording studios. So we rewired all the speakers to be microphones and microphones to be speakers and sold them to past clients who wanted to record on their computers (it was a technique we used frequently for audio effects that people seemed to like).

Now I'm looking to record music again and I find myself thinking, "oh, I should just get a good computer." But that feels like a deal with the devil. So instead, I'm going primitive. I'm going to find an Edison cylinder recorder and charge people a fortune to use it. Hey, if tapes are becoming popular again, why not the wax cylinder? While I may have lost the hope and optimism over the years, it would seem that I'm still a fount of bad ideas.
post by jw