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Reinvented AES Convention More Relevant Than Ever

By Steve Harvey. The annual Audio Engineering Society Convention returns to New York City in October, bringing with it all-new master classes and workshops focusing on hip-hop, R&B and EDM, as well as several events that shine a light on podcasting, and a wider selection of product development sessions.

New York, NY—As regular as Christmas, the AES Convention is nearly upon us, once again co-locating with the NAB Show New York. AES New York 2019 takes place Oct. 16–19 at Manhattan’s Javits Center. This year’s technical program promises to be more comprehensive than ever, adding master classes and workshops focusing on hip-hop, R&B and EDM, as well as several events that shine a light on podcasting and a wider selection of product development sessions.

A simple list of the titles of the tracks provides a high-level view of the diversity of the topics being presented at this year’s convention: acoustics and psychoacoustics, archiving and restoration, audio builders workshop, audio for cinema, broadcast and online delivery, education, electronic dance music, game audio/AVAR/spatial audio, hip-hop/R&B, historical, networked audio, product development, recording and production, sound reinforcement, and student and career development. But dig deeper and you’ll find a slew of subjects being presented for the first time at an AES Convention.

Chaired by AES Governor-at-Large Leslie Gaston-Bird, the first African American to sit on the AES Board of Governors, “African Americans in Audio” turns a spotlight on a segment of the music production community that has been underrepresented at past AES events. The panel of award-winning engineers, producers and academics includes Paul “Willie Green” Womack, chair of the hip-hop and R&B track of the AES Convention committee, and recording and mixing engineer Prince Charles Alexander, whose clients include Mary J. Blige, Destiny’s Child, Faith Evans, P. Diddy, the Notorious B.I.G., and numerous others.

Related stories:
AES Diversity and Inclusion Committee Acts with Intention, by Katie Makal, Oct. 18, 2018
AES Formalizes Focus on Diversity & Inclusion, by Strother Bullins, Oct. 18, 2017

Womack’s track will take a deep dive into hip-hop and R&B production, another first. While the two styles are often linked, “The Soul of an R&B Mix” will demonstrate the unique skills and techniques specific to that musical genre. “Studio Design for Hip-Hop and R&B” takes a step back and details the different toolsets needed to outfit studios of all sizes and budgets for those producing in those genres.

A Tribe Called Quest had an outsized impact on hip-hop. Co-founder Q-Tip’s go-to engineer, Gloria Kaba, will detail the making of 2016’s We Got It from Here…, the innovative collective’s final album. “Chopped and Looped—Inside the Art of Sampling for Hip-Hop” will celebrate the art of the audio collage with a panel including legendary Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad team.

Hip-hop’s beginnings almost 45 years ago occurred during the era of the tape cassette. Academics and advocates will ponder the issues associated with the preservation and restoration of the genre’s recording assets during “Preserving Hip-Hop,” on the archiving and restoration track.

A workshop presented by Electronic Music Collective instructors bridges the gap between hip-hop and EDM. “The Art & Origins of Sampling: From Vinyl to DAW; From Hip-Hop to Dance Music” will demonstrate various sampling techniques, from vinyl records to DAW wavetable synthesis. Bridging numerous music genres, “Remixing—Breaking the Illusion” looks at the reality of remixing, from what elements to retain and how to develop the original idea to stamping a remix with your personal identity.

Related: Las Vegas’ Studio DMI Reinvents Itself for EDM, by Steve Harvey, July 1, 2019

Grammy-winning mix engineer Ariel Borujow, who serves on the New York committee for the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy, will lead a master class called “Mixing EDM.” Borujow will break down a full mix in a 45-minute presentation, followed by a 15-minute Q&A.

The line between traditional radio and television broadcast and podcasting is blurring as retailers, institutions and other entities increasingly build out small facilities and stream or upload programming, some with video, to a variety of platforms. This year the AES Convention program offers presentations about two high-end New York podcast production facilities: Gimlet Media and Stitcher. Chief engineers from both facilities will join WSDG Walters-Storyk Design Group principal John Storyk and partner/project manager Romina Larregina, who oversaw the construction of both facilities, in a discussion about the similarities and differences between podcasting and other types of production studios.

Stitcher’s Flexible New Facility, by Steve Harvey, April 19, 2019
Stitcher Chooses WSDG to Design NYC Headquarters, June 1, 2019

Stitcher’s 2,000-square-foot studio complex, comprising three studios, two edit rooms and two additional iso booths, is the destination for one of this year’s AES technical tours. Chief engineer John DeLore will guide attendees around the facilities, which occupy a section of the firm’s Midtown Manhattan office building overlooking Bryant Park.

Related: Gimlet’s Podcast Studios Serve Up a Cocktail of Content, by Steve Harvey, Jan. 3, 2019

As the inexorable march toward an all-IP transport future continues, AES and AIMS (Alliance for IP Media Solutions) are teaming up to present a professional media networking pavilion. At the center of the pavilion will be the AV-over-IP Technology Pavilion Theater, which will feature a continuous program of 30-minute presentations covering a wide range of topics relating to the transmission of audio and video over IP. The program, which is still to be announced, will be centered on the alphabet soup of technologies related to the Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) Roadmap: AES67, SMPTE ST 2110, AMWA NMOS IS-04, IS-05, IS-07 and IS-08, SMPTE ST 2059-1/2 and JT-NM TR-1001-1.

Not new, but newly in focus at this year’s convention, is the subject of automotive audio, which is part of the product development track. According to Scott Leslie, product development track chair, “This year, we have more sessions on automotive audio than we’ve ever done before, including workshops such as ‘Correcting Vehicle Audio’ and ‘Automotive Audio: A Systems Approach.’ Many of the other sessions also address the needs of the automotive audio product developer.”

A new initiative this year that is expected to attract more product developers to the AES Convention will follow up select product development track workshops with complementary exhibitor-led sessions in a demo room or at a show floor booth. To date, manufacturers Analog Devices, Audio Precision and Menlo Scientific have signed up to participate.

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Friday will be Virtual Development Day, which begins with the session “Product Management Modeling,” examining what product managers can do to pre-engineer products to speed time to market, increase market success and lower development risk. Other virtual development practices and technologies to be discussed that day include “Simulation Drives a New Era” and the “HW Development in Sprints” workshop.

Finally, and far from new, if you’ve never seen the documentary film Tom Dowd and the Language of Music, set a calendar reminder for Thursday and do whatever you can to squeeze into the limited engagement screening at the Dolby Theater later that afternoon. The 2003 film on the life and work of the late legendary music producer and recording engineer Tom Dowd, who worked with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers and so many others, is essential viewing.

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