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Accelerate Your Mac!
Bring in the Noise
Mac Audio Column
by Thad Brown


Thank You

No product announcements or reviews this week, no events in the audio world covered. No reviews of software or smart ass comments about late release dates. We're going to step back and reflect for a week about things, and more importantly I'm going to spread around some gratitude.

The first recipient of gratitude is Mike. I'm almost positive that the people who visit this site have no idea what it takes to keep it going, and I say that because despite being a very small part of xlr8yourmac I MYSELF cannot imagine what it is that he goes through. But whatever it is, we all owe him a great deal as a web community that uses his space and knowledge to help us stay informed and make good decisions. I personally owe him a great deal for giving me the space to talk about this stuff and with any luck help other people out by doing so. I also owe him five hundred bucks. This is because he was generous enough to loan me money [ I keep telling Thad it's not a loan and I will not accept anything in return so don't try to send anything other than articles my way Thad!-Mike] to go cover the NAMM show for all of you, which is another reason why we all owe him something. I haven't hacked into his checking account yet, but I don't think he's getting a Gulfstream any time soon. But Mike is the kind of guy who, despite the lack of a Gulfstream, will help out a person like me who he couldn't pick out of a police lineup. He answers questions, does reviews (they take FOREVER people, and mine don't have pictures), and stays on top of all of this stuff for you, and lends me money. Wow.

Another reason that I think I owe Mike a thank you is how reasonable he is about what I do. He doesn't complain when I'm late with things, he encourages me to speak my mind, and he has tried to help out what I do whenever I asked, and sometimes even when I didn't. This was brought into relief yet again recently when we discussed one of the things that convinced me to write this little self-indulgent letter to all of you. Since this column got underway, I have been contacted more and more often about writing for other publications, both on the web and in print. Up until a few weeks ago, I had turned all of them down for one reason or another, but for the first time, I am talking to somebody else seriously. The content is right, the time is (sort of) right, and I'll admit, the money ain't bad either. When considering this, I wrote an email to Mike asking what he thought of that possibility, while reaffirming my commitment to writing for him. He was understandably a little unhappy at first [ I would miss Thad's voice and opinions here, as he's been one person that has hung in there for the long haul which is not easy believe me.-Mike], but he didn't even tell me that I shouldn't write about Mac stuff for other people. He wished me good luck and gave the entire thing his endorsement. Not a lot of people would do that in that situation, and I want to publicly thank Mike for all of this.

The next people who I want to thank are the people at Apple. I am often critical of things that they do as a company, and I have had a grand total of 6 emails from Apple employees in my life (nearly all of the vitriolic, I might add), but the fact is that without Apple I'd still be working on a Tascam four track cassette machine. Or, if I was lucky, an 8 track quarter inch deck and a little four bus mixer. I did record on those things, and in fact, an experience with a borrowed Fostex may have been the final nail in the coffin for my career as college teacher, a career for which I was both socially and genetically engineered. But, as a sophomore in college, someone loaned me his four track and I did my first ever recording, a cover of "She Belongs To Me" by Bob Dylan. I was so underpowered in terms of recording gear that I lacked luxuries such as a mic cable. So, I plugged an impedance transformer into an SM58, plugged that into the quarter inch input on the fostex, and balanced the entire contraption on the edge of my desk and moved my chair around to change "mic placement" until I got a decent sound. After laying down my killer backing track, I must have borrowed a mic cable from someone, because I don't remember kneeling on the floor to cut the vocal. But the intoxication of "I can play one part, and then play it back and do something else" has yet to pass.

Things didn't improve much over that for a few years. I developed in irrational hatred of technology while pursuing authenticity as a blues musician. I got pretty good, but never all that authentic. I spent a year across the ocean playing a ton of shows and a ton of rehearsals, and recorded in my first good studio. While still in my anti-technology phase, I decided that it would be nice to get some tools to use for teaching myself how to play better. I wanted to slow down Charlie Parker solos and learn them on the guitar, no mean feat. I still think that Bird is perhaps the greatest study in blues that a musician can possibly undertake, and maybe I'll get back to it one of these days. But I was sidetracked by one simple realization about cost. The tools I wanted were a little box to slow down riffs like a sampler can, and an auto-accompaniment box to practice soloing over changes. What I realized was that for about the cost of those two boxes, I could buy a computer that could do both of those things, and just maybe it might do something else.

So, I bought a copy of Session from Digidesign and put it on the Mac that my girlfriend at the time used to (ironically enough) further her pursuit of a career as a college professor. When she wasn't in the house, I found that yes, in fact, I could do some stuff with a Mac and a mic and some software. So, I saved all the money I could from my horrible job in a law firm and bought a Powerbase and a copy of Cubase. After spending insane amounts of time learning how to work all of it, I saw a posting on macosrumors asking for people to be regular contributors to their site about topics that volunteers knew well. I wrote Mike (unannounced and unintroduced) and told him that I was thinking about contacting macosrumors, but that I liked his site better and would he be interested in an audio section. And here I am a few years later, with more gear and capability than I ever thought I would have, and still not finished with my first CD recorded on my own terms.

So, I went from being a blues musician who would spit bile at the mention of sequencers and techno to being a dance music freak who would like to have an Audity 2000 a lot more than a Strat. All because an interest in an Akai riff-o-matic and a Yamaha SY-77 led to a PARIS DAW, Cubase, and enough soft synths to get me thrown in jail in some countries. And this is largely thanks to Apple, and as much as I am occasionally critical about them, I realize that I wouldn't be doing what I do on this web site or working on my CD were it not for them. Today, having worked on PCs for a few years as a tech I can handle music on them, but if I had started on one, I would have given up long ago. So, thank you Apple, my current clone is so old it's on the low end Mac web site, so you'll be getting some of my money for a G4 one of these days soon.

Lastly, I want to thank all of you who read this site. (Uh oh, we're getting corny now). I have contacted so many people from this site, and learned of so many projects I can't remember them all. But a few memorable ones were meeting Sven from Croatia who was running a studio based on a 7300 in the midst of a war in his country, getting to know the guys at koblo when the entire company was two people, having Andy at Cactusfire nearly threaten to charge a PARIS system to my credit card whether I wanted one or not (audio tough love), and watching in horror as long time Opcode employees had control over something they cared about taken away and then dismantled piece by piece. It wasn't all good, but without this site and the contacts I have made, I wouldn't have seen anywhere near as much of it.

For all of those people, and many others that I don't mention, it's not just about the benjamins, it's also about the love of music. And that's what this has all be about for me, and I hope for you. It's been about love and music (getting REALLY corny now), two things that I think it's nearly impossible to have too much of. Like many of you, something about music has extraordinary power over me. I have forgone many easier paths in life to pursue music, and have suffered and caused suffering to continue that pursuit. I'm particularly sorry for the people who were hurt because of that, but I can't regret it. There are moments where I have been on stage or recording that are as happy and ecstatic as any in my life, and the greatest musical performances I have seen rank up there pretty close as well. This website and the stuff that I cover on it has made it possible for me and a vast multitude of other to try to make the best music we can, and that's an amazing and humbling thing to consider. I hope that the work I do here in some way makes for even a small amount of music to be written, recorded and played that otherwise would not exist.

As I said, part of this was spurred by the fact that my name may pop up some other places over the next few months, but you'll also continue to see it here. Before that happens, I wanted to take a minute and thank Mike, Apple, and all of you for what we have done. Next up is NAMM coverage, and then more info and more reviews and more interviews, and with any luck a CD from yours truly some time this spring. And I hope a few CDs from all of you.


P.S. Keep sending me questions for Dan Phillips, there's still room for more.

Have an Audio question? Check the Audio FAQ first, then the General FAQ Audio topic area.

Send Thad Feedback or new links at: tcb@caliban.grendelnet.com

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