In PSN, we often boil the idea of “good sound” down to equipment specs, but that only tells part of the story, because pro audio is ultimately about communication. Sounds share ideas; they conjure emotions, resonate in ways that have nothing to do with acoustic treatments, ring inside us long after the sounds themselves have passed. That kind of connection—the experience of communication deeply felt—may be the most impressive spec of all, but there’s no test equipment that can quantify it. All audio pros aspire to make that happen, though, and how could they not? Sound people are the advocates of connection.
I was reminded of that recently when I read about Van Taylor, Jr., owner of 310 Recording Studio, a small facility in Monroeville, PA. Open only a few years now, the studio was contacted by a local mental health group with autistic patients who wanted to experience what recording was like. While other studios in the region had turned them down, Taylor said yes and later recalled in the New Pittsburgh Courier, “After I quit my job to dedicate all of my time to building this business, I began to have doubts. [Before,] I worked and I made good money. Well, needless to say, I don’t see a check every week anymore. Up until the day of this, I had wondered if I had moved a little too soon by quitting my job, but after the first young lady, Kaylee, finished recording her song, she exited the vocal booth crying, saying it was always her dream to do this. I realized then that if I hadn’t been a risk taker, this would have still been a dream to many. That day meant more to me than any money I could have earned.”
While 310 Recording was able to connect with its community, there are always cases where facilities are not as welcome. Take Atlanta-based Street Execs Studio, which found itself at the center of controversy in November, as nearby residents blamed it for a spike in shootings, car break-ins and assaults in the area. Owner Charley Jabaley met with the local neighborhood association and told TV station WXIA afterwards, “We really want to be better neighbors. We’re adding security. We brought in a new studio manager. We’re going to get the noise down. We’re changing our booking process with the artists so they don’t overlap, so it’s less people at one time.”
Whether those changes will solve the problem remains to be seen, but they’re more than a show of good will; they’re indicative of listening, discussing and acknowledging others’ views. That’s communication in action—the bond that builds community—and it’s the exact opposite of what happened in Paris on November 13.
As I write this, it’s only three days since a series of violent attacks there left 129 people dead and 352 wounded. Emotions are still raw as people around the globe mourn the lives that were taken, but it has struck particularly close to home in the concert sound community because the deadliest attack was on the Bataclan concert hall. There, gunmen killed 89 people at an Eagles Of Death Metal show, including the band’s merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, and the venue’s lighting director, Nathalie Jardin.
What happened in Paris sickens us as human beings, but I think for sound pros, it is even more incomprehensible because, again, the audio profession is about facilitating connection—and the attacks were the very antithesis of that. Violence is about many things, but communication is not one of them.
Doubtlessly, by the time you read this, more details will have emerged about what happened and the path forward for the world’s leaders will have grown more complicated. In the wake of the tragedy, however, there is one thing audio pros can do to push back at the attackers’ intended darkness, and that’s to keep doing what you do best: Keep helping people connect, whether you mix, design, install, record, repair, instruct, manufacture or whatever your role is in pro audio. Keep facilitating communication. Keep laying those building blocks of community. Keep going—and don’t stop.