The 131st AES Convention last month in NYC was a celebration of, and immersion in, all things audio. Convention chair Jim Anderson is now a seasoned veteran of the process of hosting spectacular events, and he and his team lived up to the high standards they've established during past conventions. Some 300 technical program elements—paper and poster presentations, workshops, special events, tutorials, student competitions and other student activities—packed the four days of the convention with literally something for every interest. Now, even a month after the convention, the conversations and presentations experienced there still dominate my thoughts.
It's worth noting that AES is an organization run by volunteers, as are its conventions. The small paid staff of the Society, though hard working, could not produce these events on their own. There's a legion of individuals whose efforts are necessary to pull off these events successfully. Such is the passion of audio professionals for their craft that they are willing to devote an enormous amount of personal time and energy into the conventions. These efforts are not restricted to the conventions, of course. Local AES sections worldwide are producing local meetings on a regular basis, alongside regionally produced, content-focused conference programs.
While there are a few of our pro audio brethren who are secretive about their methodologies, it is heartening to see how many leading professionals are remarkably open. Having worked on many conference programs, I can attest to the ease at which an abundance of experience can be had for the asking. Audio professionals, by and large, love to talk about their work and their craft. When not restrained by the realities of competition, designers of hardware and software are extremely forthcoming about the technological foundation of their creations.
As a young audio tech, I was surprised at how easy it was to get senior technologists on the phone and their eagerness to share their insights. Such conversations often stretched on far beyond solving an immediate problem. Where a simple answer would have been satisfactory, I often came away from a call with new insights and possibilities that kept my head swimming for days. The same applies to the community of production engineers, from live sound to post production to broadcast to recording to mastering. In lieu of the mentorship/apprenticeship models of old, such opportunities are invaluable for tomorrow's engineers. Many, if not most, audio professionals consider it part of their duty to their craft to share their experience and hard-won knowledge.
The AES conventions provide a banquet of opportunities for hungry minds. From the popular Platinum series of panel discussions to the topic-specific workshops, a who's who of our community graced the stages of the 131st Convention with their presence and the often standing-room-only audiences with their wisdom.
Even with the challenges of the world economy and the ongoing changes in the business and workflow models of professional audio, or perhaps because of these factors, AES membership is at an all-time high. The more insular nature of modern production workflow is driving audio pros to turn to AES as a means of professional growth and for the networking opportunities that AES provides.
I've used this space in the past to encourage audio professionals to emerge from their personal cocoons, to seek out like-minded individuals. AES, from the local section level to the international conferences and conventions, is a singularly effective means to those ends. If you are not already, get involved. You'll thank me for it later.