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Remembering That Recording Is About Remembering

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Here we have Detroit’s own swoozydolphin –– producer, DJ, instrumentalist, engineer, and more –– reflecting on the magic of the recording studio. He even made a mix of all originals specifically to accompany this writing, which is at the end. Thank you swoozy!

"The medium is the message" –Marshall McLuhan

“I was talking about time. It's so hard for me to believe in it. Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay. I used to think it was my rememory. You know. Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it's not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it's gone, but the place—the picture of it—stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean, even if I don't think it, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.” –Toni Morrison, Beloved

I’ve been recording for a long time… My first recording interface workflow was an M-Audio 2 channel usb audio interface with a bundled Pro Tools LE software over 13 years ago. I initially made some scratchy demos on it, consisting of a microkorg, guitar, bass and not much else. Things have come a long way. Now the tech has only gotten more sophisticated and my abilities as an engineer and musician–though there’s always more to learn–have developed into a comfortability and reliability among my peers in Audio. In all the years of being a recording artist and serving them I’ve come to value the unknowable magic that is imbued in any recording. From setting up a room to record and monitor a recording in, to the enigmatic star power of a performance; there are so many special factors that go into the final 2 channel mix that meets our ears.

To record audio is on the face simple but really quite complex technology and as an existential prompt. When an individual or group comes to record something, in effect it is about creating an artifact out of a sonic space. A simple expression becomes a time and place encased in amber–albeit soundwaves, grooves on a record, digital bits... These artifacts like all art become displaced from that place and time they originate in and going into the future only become more valuable and salient as markers. Markers of who people were, how they like to be remembered, what they want to be remembered. Many stories and events are told, retold, created and happen in a recording studio. My specific studio–perennially known among collaborators in Detroit and beyond as the West Stu across iterations–is no different. Voices are developed there and they speak truth to their experiences in one way or another. I feel that I would never have enough space or ability to express what even a few recordings done there mean to me or the artists who recorded them. In a sense it's all laid bare in the music. The process of listening back always brings to mind those emotions that were so apparent in the room at the time however–remembering fortifies the whole experience.

I wonder sometimes where posterity comes from in this situation. Is it ego? Perhaps we document our art in this way to prove we were Here. Commerce certainly has some position in all of this. (Records were initially pressed at scale to sell record players etc. as the common story is told.) Regardless, to close these musings I’ll leave a few recordings I was involved in (either in tracking throughout to post-production) that mean something to me–marking my place and hopefully inspiring through these sonic artifacts that others take up the tradition and practice, taking a part of their world and keeping it around to return to again and again…

“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.” ―Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices


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