J. Robinson Wheeler's  Audio

under construction This website is currently (September 2003) undergoing a complete overhaul, page by page and directory by directory. You may find many broken links during this process. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Music Comedy Audiography Other Audio

Sounds I Remember

My interest in music (listening to it and creating it) is a subset of my interest in pure audio, sounds for the sake of sounds. We got a tape recorder for Christmas in 1978, and I spent the next couple of years playing with it, recording household sounds that caught my ear, recording myself reading comic books aloud, and even making up weird little audio plays.

My freshman year of college, I was looking at a bulletin board in the student union, and someone was selling a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder, digital effects box, microphone, and mic stand for a pretty reasonable price. I somehow convinced my doting parents that this would be an excellent birthday present. A 4-track is a great thing: it uses regular cassette tapes (which have two stereo channels on each side), but lets you record independently to each track. In this way, you can be a one-man band, playing every instrument yourself, or you can put on wacky voices and pretend to be having a conversation with yourself.

It was not a waste of money; boy, did I use that thing. Used it and used it, for the next nine years, until it was just a 3-track (track 3 had busted years earlier) that could no longer fast-forward or rewind. I recorded audio skits, college bands, sound collage experiments, and musical compositions on it. Around that time, I became gainfully employed as a web designer, and immediately upgraded to a Roland VS-880 digital 8-track recorder.

Slightly before that, when I was in film school, I realized that I had trained myself to be a sound guy. I remember one teacher remarking that he'd never seen a student go from having no tracks of sound on a Friday to having four full tracks of audio, ready to be mixed, on the following Monday. Unheard of! When I quit film school and came back to Austin, I saw an ad in the local weekly: a NYC film school grad was making a movie and needed a sound guy. I applied, I got the job, it led to other jobs, both on the set and in the editing suite.

Oddly, as soon as I got that digital workstation, my output sloped off to nearly zero. I certainly don't do any raw creative exercises any more, of recording weird sounds for the sake of recording weird sounds. I still do quite a lot of audio work for film projects, but it's not the same. I wish I could recapture that earlier spirit and passion I had for pure audio, but I guess you're only 22 once.

---jrw 09-25-03

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