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Davis, California

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Magnets, Ones and Zeros

Pretend it’s the ’80s. A stranger approaches you on the street and says “I record my music digitally.” You would think to yourself, “Ah, this individual must be familiar binary code, aliasing, patching and has probably earned a degree in computer engineering or mathematics from a modest institution.” Thankfully, technology has managed to catch up with the modern boob; whereas now, participating in the digital home-recording revolution is as simple as clicking the red circle on your screen and yelling toward the computer mic.

Since introduction of digital, home-recording workstations such as Pro Tools, the market has been flooded with highly interactive and affordable software, simple enough to even capture Joe the Plumber’s musical musings. High fidelity recording, an art once restricted to expensive studios, can now be attained by virtually anybody.

This software falls into the category of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). DAWs are computer programs designed to record, play back and edit digital audio. Most DAWs contain more tracks than any mixing board and allow for greater sound manipulation and post-production than any analog console.

Arguably, the most widely used DAW software is GarageBand, an application included with the iLife package that comes standard with every Macintosh computer. Introduced in early 2004, GarageBand has since been updated five times and remains an entry-level standard.

Molly Raney, aka DJ Poppet, a senior German major, discussed the experience of recording her first album using only GarageBand and a MIDI controller.

“Many people consider GarageBand very limiting, but I don’t think that at all,” Raney said. “I have complete control of my music and recording schedule. The sound bank is enormous and is easily tweakable. Considering that I don’t have to rely on anyone else, GarageBand is very liberating.”

While many have discarded their eight-tracks and cassette recorders for various DAWs and digital music editors, the analog format is still far from obsolete. Sean Johannessen, a former KDVS DJ and current member of the experimental outfit Mucky the Ducky explained that, for him, the medium reflects the material being recorded.

“Unlike many local musicians, I have access to a variety of recording formats,” Johannessen said. “I can record both at home and at the KDVS studio.”

He said that recording on his computer has allowed for unprecedented mobility.

“With my laptop, I can record in any location or environment,” Johannessen said. “Some environments that are dripping with reverb can’t be manufactured digitally.”

Sacramento recording artist Daniel Trudeau, who goes under the stage name Pregnant, said he “would love to work in a [professional] studio” but simply doesn’t know how.

“And at this moment, I can’t afford it,” Trudeau said.

Last month, Trudeau released a new EP for the KDVS label, which he recorded using Reason, a popular and moderately priced DAW designed by Propellerhead Software.

Both Raney and Trudeau noted the challenge of translating their music into a performance setting. Trudeau, who doesn’t use prerecorded tracks during shows, says that he loses many of the nuances of the recorded track, and often has to spend a considerable amount of time looping different parts, before he can begin songs.

“In my earlier recordings, I never imagined playing live, so I would not limit myself in the number of tracks, or the type of instruments,” Trudeau said. “Now, whenever I’m new material, it’s always in the back of my mind: How would I perform this live?”


BORIS FREYMAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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