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Bring in the Noise
Mac Audio Column

Returning to Zero
by No More Mousing

This past week I was at the AES (American Engineering Society) show wading through all the new computer hardware and software that promises to make life easier, and help us create better music. Tools to make a better 'feeling' rhythm track, tools to create the sounds we hear in our heads, tools to make our lives less...difficult. Recently I have been re-thinking the role(s) computers have taken in recording and producing music. Are they really helping to create better music...or not?

I decided several months ago to completely abandon my computers for the purpose of recording music, it was time to go back to good old dedicated hardware. The decision came almost immediately after talking to a friend of mine who was building a studio. We were discussing what tape format he was going to use, and out of nowhere he said, "...no computers allowed", just like that. Yes! I can see the light! This of course got me thinking about my own recording setup, and my own productivity since I had went the computer route. What I came to was the realization that I missed many things that I spent my life doing, things like; using my ears rather then my eyes, turning knobs and riding REAL faders, arming tracks with my hand, not a 'pointer', and most of all...having limitations.

I am a firm believer that creativity comes through limiting ones self. If you look throughout music history you'll find that some of the most 'magical' moments in recorded history were produced with minimal equipment, and minimal time. I'm sure you can think of an album or two. Maybe The Beatles "Sargent Pepper" recorded and mixed with several 4 tracks. Pink Floyds "Dark Side of the Moon", with just one EMT plate reverb, and two delay lines used on the entire record. Led Zeppelin or Jimmy Hendrix records that were recorded and mixed in 1 week...distortion, mistakes and all. It was the music, the vibe, if you will that was important, and not the technology. However today, technology seems to be the focus. The production is overshadowing the songs. Pitch up, slow down, correct this 'phonic', correct this phrase, make that drum hit on the beat, that one off, make this bass part work, move the vocal here, which 'phaser' plug-in should we use? I don't think these were the thoughts George Martin was thinking when recording "The White Album".

Today we are at an interesting point in the history of music. Anyone with even a small budget can record a record at home, with excellent results. I'm not saying that computers are bad, I think they're a great tool just like everything else. But when you start letting technology become the most important aspect, I think it's time to re-evaluate why you started doing music in the first place. And that's why I'm returning to zero. By the way have you heard the new "12-String" plug-in? It sounds just like a real one!

Note: Thad's been busy with other things and I'm glad this column has gotten him some much deserved recognition in the audio world. (See below for links to Thad's 60 issues of the Audio column here). I welcome any reader submissions on the subject of Mac audio. If you have an article or commentary to submit, please contact me. Thanks!-Mike

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