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Why Recording Studios Are Unplugging From the Internet
And other recent articles of interest
I secretly envy those reclusive writers (Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy, etc.) who stay out of public view. They refuse to participate in publicity campaigns, and in some instances won’t even let their photo get taken.
I’m not at their level—either as a writer or recluse. But I have found a better way of shifting the attention away from me.
I do it by showcasing the work of others—both writers and musicians. This isn’t happenstance. I believe that celebrating and supporting other participants in the creative economy is a key part of my vocation. And Substack, with its community-building focus, is a good platform for doing this.
So with each passing year, I focus on this role more and more. You see some of it here at The Honest Broker, but a lot of it happens behind-the-scenes.
Today I’m devoting the entire article to other writers. Below I look at six recent articles that I’ve enjoyed.
This might become a regular feature at The Honest Broker.
The Honest Broker is a reader-supported guide to music, books, media & culture. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.
RECORDING STUDIOS ARE UNPLUGGING FROM THE INTERNET
In his manifesto “Against Innovation,” Damon Krukowski complains that he had to unplug his entire digital recording studio from the Internet. That wasn’t a choice; it was a necessity.
He’s no enemy of technology—in fact, he had to take this radical step because he had no other viable options. But routine software upgrades were making his work tools unpredictable and sometimes unusable.
I went online and started asking everyone I know in audio engineering how to deal with this situation. To my surprise, the advice I got back was nearly unanimous: unplug. Stop updating. Revert to the stable system you had before. And take everything offline so this doesn’t happen again.
It seemed a clever solution to my small-scale, personal studio problem. But I was taken aback when some of the professionals who offered this advice said it is what they do, too. Even with their very extensive skillsets. Could it be that some of the most sophisticated audio technicians I know—mastering engineers in particular, those tasked in our industry with maintaining and constantly improving audio standards—choose to ignore innovation for the sake of stability?
I’ve written several times about this ominous shift in technology—where ‘innovations’ increasingly punish users rather than empower them. But, as this article suggests, some users have started to take extreme measures in fighting back. Few pundits talk about it (so far), but this may be one of the key tech trends of the year.
THE RETURN OF THE JUKEBOX
The older the music technology, the more people want it. We’ve already seen renewed demand for vinyl and cassettes, and old microphones and tube amps are as coveted as saints’ relics. But the latest retro obsession is the antiquated jukebox, according to Josh Sims. He writes in his article “Is the Old-School Jukebox Poised for a Comeback”:
Hotels are buying them to replace pianos in their grander suites. Companies are putting them in their office reception areas to signal how cool they are….Inevitably, 21st-century versions might also come with the ability to play CDs, and nearly all have Bluetooth connectivity….I have to play vinyl though mine, but my kids just shout for Alexa to play something on it.
A HOLLYWOOD LEGEND NOW OPERATES OUT OF AN ASSISTED LIVING CENTER
Even if you don’t recognize the name of Hollywood insider Paul Schrader, you have definitely seen his work. He wrote the screenplay for Taxi Driver and co-wrote Raging Bull, and has directed 24 of his own movies (American Gigolo, Mishima, First Reformed).
Schrader is now residing in an assisted living center, near his wife of almost 40 years. But if you think that has slowed him down, think again—as Adriane Quinlan makes clear in her article “Paul Schrader’s Very Paul Schrader Days in Assisted Living.”
I found this article an inspiring story of how a creative person deals with aging.
The space is sterile but tasteful: big windows overlooking Hudson Yards, vaguely mid-century furniture, an open kitchen. Everything smells of jasmine. “Living in this place feels like living on the Cunard Line,” he says. “Sometimes I think, God, I’ve got to get to a dive bar somewhere.”
This place is Coterie Hudson Yards, a luxury senior-living facility that Schrader, 76, moved into in February. It’s a good spot to write in, he says, and he has been working near constantly since he arrived, managing to finish two scripts from the desk in his one-bedroom on the eighth floor. The first he optioned to Elisabeth Moss to direct; the second, an adaptation of one of the last novels by his friend Russell Banks, he is keeping for himself. He plans to shoot it this summer with Richard Gere in the lead role.
WITCH HUNTING IN THE YEAR 2023
One of the surprising twists in my life was my need to study witchcraft. No, I haven’t gone over to the dark side. But my studies of music history have focused on censored and marginalized songs, and these have often been associated with witches. They were sorta like the first punk rockers, and magic spells were their anthems.
So if you ever visit my home library don’t be surprised by all the books you would expect to see at Hogwarts.
But even I was shocked to learn that concentration camps for witches exist in the present day. In the article “Ghana’s Concentration Camps for Witches,” Stone Age Herbalist writes:
As of today Ghana has around six functioning witch camps, although others have opened and closed. Three of them—Gushegu, Nabuli and Kpatinga—are located in the Gushegu district. The infamous Gambaga witch camp is in the East Mamprusi district, and the Gnani and Kukuo camps are located in Yendi and Nanumba South districts. The exact number of residents is unclear, several thousand is a rough estimate….
Over time there was a movement to stop executing witches, as previously discussed, and banishment became more commonplace. Both earth-shrines and chiefly residences became sanctuaries for women and men fleeing persecution. Inhabitants of the camps even today refer to themselves as bagbenye, a ‘witch-slave’, harkening back to when a witch and her children would throw themselves on a chieftain’s mercy.
ALMOST 75% OF HOLLYWOOD GOLDEN AGE MOVIES HAVE BEEN LOST
People have such unwarranted trust in data storage. But so much of our culture is lost—even blockbuster hits from the 20th century.
Back in the 1920s, more than 40 million movie tickets were sold each week. But most of the films from that era have completely disappeared. Alexander Lee provides more details in the article “Lost Movies”:
There was no pattern to the losses. It didn’t matter whether a film was a success or a failure. Blockbusters were just as likely to disappear as flops. In fact, many of the period’s greatest hits are missing. Annette Kellerman’s ‘million-dollar movie’ A Daughter of the Gods (1916), which was filmed on location in Jamaica and which featured the first nude scene by a major actress, has been lost without a trace. Nor was genre a factor. Popular Westerns like The Phantom Riders (1918) vanished just as often as comedies and experimental pieces. Even star power was no guarantee of survival. Popularly known as ‘The Vamp’, Theda Bara was one of cinema’s earliest sex symbols, earning $4,000 per week in her prime; yet only two of her 39 films have come down to us.
A NEW MUSICAL INSTRUMENT PLAYS THE SOUND OF EACH ELEMENT IN THE PERIODIC TABLE
We’re slowly deciphering the soundscapes of the universe. We recently learned that plants sing the blues when under stress. Or, rather, they make their own equivalent of the blues, which sounds a bit like popcorn popping. although it’s outside the hearing range of human beings. Deprive them of water and the number of times they call out per hour increases from 11 to 35.
We’ve also learned that bacteria make sounds—scientists have even trained them to play a snare drum.
But what about the elements in the periodic table?
Iron and gold aren’t singing quite yet. But scientist W. Walker Smith is creating a musical instrument that converts the spectroscopic measurements of each element into sound.
Cassidy Ward gives more details in the article entitled “New Musical Instrument Translates the Sounds of Every Element on the Periodic Table”:
The result is a chemical keyboard which becomes increasingly chaotic the further along the scale you go. Light elements like hydrogen or helium are recognizable as collections of notes, something akin to a cord. As you approach the heavier elements, however, some become discordant as hundreds or thousands of frequencies blend together. Others sound like resounding choirs singing in harmony. If you’re planning to use acoustic chemistry to write the next hit song, there are some elements you’ll probably want to avoid. Smith endeavored to stay true to the data, even if it wasn’t pretty, which means some elements don’t sound particularly good….
A person might be able to tell the difference between the sounds of certain elements, even if they can’t articulate why. Future scientists might develop acoustic tools for analyzing spectroscopic data from distant planets, potentially streamlining our hunt for interesting worlds. If we do one day discover alien life or even a habitable planet around another star, it might be because we heard them before we saw them.
Feel free to share links to other recent articles of interest in the comments. And let me know if you would like to see more articles of this sort in the future.