Friday, March 1, 2013

It's a Take: Life in the Studio

I'm no stranger to the recording studio. During the 1980's, my friend Richard Zapata and I, recorded numerous episodes of "Cho & Lo", at the University of the Pacific's KUOP-FM, an NPR affiliate, a street-savvy duo from the barrios who through satire and humor addressed issues of culture, language, education, and gangs. (A CD of actual recordings from this period is in the works).

So the recent production of a companion CD of selections from my newly-published book, "Songs From the Barrio" was certainly familiar with the exception that the recording industry has come a long way since the 1980s: completely digital. I clearly recall the "dubbing" process during the production of each "Cho & Lo" episode, the ability to record new "takes" each time we made an error, and the reel-to-reel squeals of the fast-forwards or rewinds, and the actual cutting and splicing of the tape! At first, we did the episodes "live" over the air which was plain riveting, complete with errors for all to hear!

Working with Mike Torres, Jr. in his recording studio in Stockton was a bit different. Familiar was the masses of wires leading to and from computer monitors and the stacks of  machines, but the process was completely new for me. Mike made certain to include me in every decision as to the quality of the recording, intonation and pace of each story or poem I read. 

New takes were easy: stop/pause/and re-read and re-record the entire story, or just a single line or passage . No more reel-to-reel machines; all was plainly visible on the computer monitor and fast-forwarding or rewinding was done at the click of a mouse. His enthusiasm for the project was simply infectious.

Once the tracks were laid down we discussed adding sound effects to certain parts of the pieces and again, all it took was to go to YouTube, type in the kind of sound desired, a passing train, water pouring into a glass, a flushing toilet, a woman screaming and scroll through the links to find the one which would work. 

Mike then downloaded the sound and dubbed it in at just the right place! We could manipulate exactly where to place it - before, just after or during a certain word or passage, then its volume could be adjusted, louder, fainter. We could also add echo or reverb to the sound!

As with the designing of the front and back cover of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire creative process, aside from the writing and the self-publishing experience on my PC. Working with my friends, graphic designer, Roberto Radrigan, photographer, Arturo Vera and of course, Mike Torres, Jr. was special. It felt like "familia."

As I have learned from years of teaching Literature, the Literary Experience, that of reading a story or poem is a silent and private journey into the imagination which readers cherish, but the "listening" to of a poem or "story" read aloud by an animated reader, is another, completely different one. Notice how children love for adults to "read to them." No matter how noisy or boisterous they might be, once the reading begins: silence. Adult audiences are the same. They have just forgotten how to use their imaginations until someone, a poet or an author, re-awakens it in them.

As you might suspect by now, I am making a "pitch" for my new CD! It is not available on any sites, so If you would like to purchase one contact me personally and I can make arrangements to mail one to you. The cost of the CD is $6.50 + shipping and handling.
You can also contact me on Facebook by visiting my page "Songs From the Barrio."

Give it a "listen" and become a child, again.