LOS ANGELES, CA—The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing celebrated its 10th anniversary during Grammy Week with “Shaken Rattled & Rolled,” a gala event at which 10-time Grammy-winning producer T Bone Burnett was honored by the Wing for his “significant contributions to the art and craft of recorded music.” Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow made the presentation in mid-February at the standing-room-only event, which was held at The Village recording studios in West Los Angeles. Elton John and Leon Russell, whose album, The Union, Burnett produced last year at the Village, served as honorary event co-chairs and provided congratulatory videos.
“When the P&E Wing was established,” Portnow says, “an essential voice was created for music makers: the voice of those ‘behind the glass’ that work so diligently to ensure that the quality and integrity of recorded music is captured and preserved. As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, it is only fitting that we pay tribute to one of our industry’s finest: T Bone Burnett, whose visionary talent and masterful skills have greatly impacted the landscape of audio production.”
Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow (left) with producer T Bone BurnettBurnett, a longtime proponent of ensuring high audio quality, directly stressed the importance of both sonic and artistic integrity in music. “We care about music, and we care about sound, and that fact makes this night all the more real to me. But we are experiencing a shift. The market has spoken: ‘People want convenience and don’t care about sound.’ Yes, the market has spoken, yet it will speak again. I don’t want to make music for someone who doesn’t care about music.
“The record business made a strategic mistake when it rushed to embrace digital technology. To me, digital doesn’t sound as good as analog, and it never will. It’s an insane fact that, for the last 15 years, movies, television and games have been releasing their products with a higher level of audio than music releases. We, as artists, should not allow our work to be distributed at such an incredibly low quality that it diminishes what we are doing and reduces the value.”
“When we abandoned analog,” Burnett continued, “we lost the chance to maintain sovereignty over our work; we have to get that sovereignty back. Fortunately, technology changes at an ever-increasing pace. We’re approaching the end of the era of the MP3, and good riddance. Bandwidth has the will to make MP3s obsolete. It’s also an important tradition in the U.S. that we record a set of songs from an artist— an album. We have to continue this. It’s not something that we can give away control of so easily to people who only care about monetizing it.
“Marshall McLuhan said that a medium surrounds another medium and turns the previous medium into an art form—as television did with movies, and the internet has now done with television and music. We now have to treat what we do as an art form. I look forward to working with the Recording Academy to arrive at a new audio standard for the 21st century, and to explore the recording arts in their highest potential.
“We can’t abandon the world of analog sound; guitars, drums and voices are analog. We live in an analog world. The digital world is an alien language—great for word processing—but it can’t carry waves beautifully and eloquently. We know that. It’s incumbent upon us to let the world know,” he concluded.
Burnett’s work spans 40 years and includes producer credits for such artists as Elvis Costello, Jakob Dylan, Elton John & Leon Russell, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Ralph Stanley, Cassandra Wilson and many others. He has also produced soundtracks for such films as Across the Universe, Cold Mountain, Crazy Heart, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski and Walkthe Line. Most recently, Burnett received Grammy Awards for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media for his work on Crazy Heart, and for Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media, along with Ryan Bingham, for “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart).”
The evening’s presentations began with a welcome from The Village Studios CEO Jeff Greenberg and P&E Wing senior executive director Maureen Droney, who thanked those in attendance and all members of the P&E Wing for their dedication to the art and craft of recording. The invited audience included a large number of leading producers and engineers, artists, managers, manufacturers, label personnel and other recording industry professionals. Droney acknowledged co-chair Eric Schilling who, as co-music mixer for the Grammy Awards telecast, was delayed by rehearsals and unable to make the presentation, and introduced P&E Wing co-chair James McKinney, who enumerated P&E Wing initiatives and accomplishments over the previous decade.
“T Bone Burnett is revered for the quality and integrity of his work,” Droney stated. “His career spans 40 years, yet he remains on the cutting edge and is eminently respected by his peers. I can’t think of a better individual to represent the spirit of this event, which celebrates the people who work behind the scenes to create music; people who devote their lives to making not only great recordings, but also great sounding recordings. It’s the fourth year for this event, and we are celebrating a milestone anniversary with many of our founding members in attendance. These days it takes a great deal of blood, sweat and tears to keep a recording studio open; we acknowledge everyone who does that work, and makes all of our lives better by doing it.”
As Portnow offered: “There is a wellknown saying, ‘It takes a village.’ All of us tonight know how true that statement is. We know that it takes a recording studio like The Village, and the skilled creators, producers and engineers, to make the kind of recordings the world most loves and respects. We at The Recording Academy know this well, which is why we are so proud of our P&E Wing. They’re an important resource for us, and we rely on their experience and expertise all year round. Members of the Wing provide a nationwide network, and they all work together to move many important initiatives forward. P&E Wing members care about technology, quality, and most of all, music.”
The fourth annual Grammy Week culminated with the 53rd Grammy Awards broadcast on the CBS television network.
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The Recording Academy, P & E Wing