It was about ten minutes until doors. I was the sound engineer for the show. Something about the statement got my mind going. I refilled my Coke and walked outside for one last cigarette before the show. Five bands…business as usual.
There’s a video on the internet. A friend shared it on Facebook. The video is very unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it. There is a cross hair in the middle of the screen and, on either side of the cross hair, there are images of people’s faces. The images change from one face to another – strobe light style. The idea is to focus on the cross hair while the images of the faces change. While staring at the cross hair, the images take on a whole different, bizarre appearance. The faces become monstrously disfigured. Horrible, hideous, disastrous faces! However, if you focus on one flashing series, the faces are quite normal. I watched the video over and over. VERY STRANGE!
So, I commented on my friend’s post: “how bizarre is THAT!?! “ The usual Facebook back and forth banter began. Nothing unusual, pretty normal stuff. That is until someone stated: “It’s kind of the opposite of drawing one person’s portrait where you get to see the beauty and divinity of every curve, every wrinkle, every hair, every shadow…”
The first band started with a Led Zeppelin cover…”Dazed and Confused.” They did a pretty good job of it. I manipulated the console to create just the right delay/reverb effect so that if you closed your eyes, and tried really hard, you could almost believe it was Robert Plant himself. (not really…just humor me) While I was setting the delays and reverbs, I was also cutting offensive frequencies, setting and re-setting levels, pan pots, adjusting equalization. The sound was perfect. Well, as close to perfect as one gets on local spotlight night.
The band finished the song and roared into an original. This song (which I had never heard before) called for a totally different palette. Drier, smaller drum sounds, minimal reverb and delay. The guitar player also changed his tone causing me to re-adjust the equalization on his channel. Nice!
Next song is another original – this time, a ballad requiring big reverb on the drums and vocals, with a nice 600ms delay on the lead vocal – just barely audible. The bass player added a chorus to his sound and the guitar was now clean. Again, I adjust EQ, levels, pan pots, etc.
Then, it struck me: The same friend who posted the video once told me that I was an artist. I blew it off saying that I didn’t believe that what I do is art. All I do is mix live sound. I take what the ARTIST on stage is giving me and make it sound like it should sound. Or, at least how I believe it should sound. I suddenly understood that I am taking all of the “beauty and divinity of every curve, every wrinkle, every hair, every shadow…” and bringing those aspect to the foreground. All the while minimizing anything offensive or ugly.
I now agree with my friend. I am an artist and, your ears are my palette.