Moving forward in the Year of the Arts
Traditionally, these are the words a recording engineer utters when he’s about to begin to capture a musical performance in a recording session. Think of your favorite music, in whatever format it may be…LP, 45, eight-track, cassette, CD, mp3…have you ever wondered about the effort it took, both creatively and technically, to have that music reach you as a music lover?
As a singer/songwriter/producer and longtime veteran of the music business, I understand that many people consider the recording process a technical, rather than creative one. As we move forward into the Year of the Arts: Crossroads of Creativity, I would propose, however, that the recording process happens at a true crossroads, in a collaborative effort uniquely blending art and science in order to achieve the desired vision and goal of an artist.
In the glory days of recording, from the 1940s through the 1970s, large sound stage studios in New York and Los Angeles captured magical moments with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Kate Smith, and Nat King Cole. Studios in Detroit, Nashville, and Memphis produced the music of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Elvis Presley. In addition to these artists whose names we know, countless musicians and audio engineers from these sessions whose identity is known only to audiophiles and record jacket junkies, were essential in giving us the music we love…the soundtrack of our lives. Studios make it possible for music to get to us.
Who could have known that when little Dolly Parton recorded some of her first music in a small studio in Lake Charles, Louisiana, that she would go on to become the megastar she is? Who could have known that Macon, Georgia would be put on the map because of the Allman Brothers (after they were first mesmerized, they say, by B.B. King performing in Nashville)? Or Lubbock, Texas, due to the recordings of Buddy Holly? Or Muscle Shoals Sound and Fame Studios in Alabama?
Mississippi has been identified as the Birthplace of America’s Music, and it would be almost impossible to dispute that fact. We proudly lay claim to the Father of Country Music, the King of the Blues, the King of Rock and Roll, and more Grammy™ winners per capita than any other state in the Union.
As the next generation of young musicians, singers, songwriters, and entertainers are working to hone their craft and “find their voice,” let me pose again the thematic question of this series of essays for the Year of the Arts:
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE HERE?
The Delta Music Institute on the campus of Delta State University is a recording arts and music industry program now in its fifth full year of operation. Approximately 50 students take courses in music business, audio engineering, songwriting, and other aspects of the music industry. The DMI, housed in what was previously Whitfield Gym, contains three exceptional recording studios. Studio A is a large format tracking room, large enough to hold a 150 piece choir or orchestra, and is one of the few studios of this scope in the eastern United States. Studio B is a digital room, versatile enough to record various types of ensembles and mix in 5.1 surround sound, and Studio C is a practical demo project studio. The DMI promotes two student ensembles…one R&B/Soul/Funk/Blues band called Ol’ Skool Revue, and one Classic Rock band called DeltaRoX.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE HERE? To further the educational mission of the DMI and Delta State, the DMI studios are made available to the public in order for our students to learn and practice the art and science of recording clients in a real world situation. Grammy™ award winning artists Keb’ Mo’, Ashley Cleveland, and Kathy Mattea have visited our facilities and worked with our students, and they stand amazed at what we have here. Combine the art of music and the technology of recording at the DMI with the history, mystique, and vibrant culture of the Mississippi Delta, and we’ve definitely got a ‘win-win’ situation in which to honor the past and embrace the future of music technology and the recording arts.
SO, DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE HERE? WE DO: The opportunity to capture for all time the music and the sound of what could be the next wave of great moments in American music. There is much to look forward to. Right here: Cleveland, Mississippi.
Everything’s in place…the red light is on….we’re rolling.
Director, Delta Music Institute