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Guest Podcast: The Origin of Charter Schools

Charter Schools Shawgi TellI’m posting a podcast presentation by Shawgi Tell regarding the origin of charter, or more accurately, contract schools. It is with this point of origin of charter schools in the market logic of the contract that we see both the private and corporate essence of charters. This arrangement is not an “innovation”. It harkens back to some features of colonial times (e.g., notice charter chains emphasis on a ridged morality of work — e.g., “grit”), to public/private ventures such as the early academies and charity schools, including those in New York State. It was, in part, the failure of these (pre-public school) arrangements that helped create the conditions for the advance of public school systems and state constitutional amendments mandating common schools. Most importantly, the struggle for public schools gave rise to the historic and yet unrealized aim of providing quality education to all as a right. As charters are bound to the logic of contracts, they are also bound to give rise to the same social, political and economic inequalities as competitive markets, especially under conditions of economic monopoly and in particular the domination of the claims of finance capital over public rights and the common good.

Song: Refuse the Tests, Refuse Receivership!

Here’s the song “Refuse the Tests” to inspire everyone as the new school year begins — inspiration is key amidst a variety of attacks, uncertainties as well as to support the growing movement for real change that favors the public interest and democratic renewal.

At Sound Garrison over the summer, I recorded this group of Buffalo students, teachers, parents, youth and community activists organizing to defend public education and fight for the equal right to education for all. They wrote “Refuse the Tests” to both represent and inspire this movement.

This was a very quick session, as it was difficult to coordinate everyone’s schedules. We focused on the energy that is to be conveyed by the song, and the spirit of all joining in! Hope you enjoy!

Education for the Public Good: Audio of the Public Good Radio Show, October 1, 2013

On October 1, 2013, I was interviewed by Sam Magavern, from the Partnership for Public Good (PPG) in preparation for the forum on high stakes testing at Kleinhans that took place on October 2. The archive of the show can be found here or streamed below.

The Public Good is a weekly radio show organized by PPG. It airs Tuesdays from 1:00 to 1:30 pm on WUFO AM 1080.

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Pete Lund’s blocSonic fortyFive release

Pete Lund’s blocSonic fortyFive release “Back from ’91” has been receiving some interest, judging by the nearly 2,500 downloads from the Free Music Archive.

This gives me an excuse to talk about some of the key components of that recording!

First up is that its a great example of Michael Joly’s K47H capsule designed for the Oktava MK-012 SDC body. This was one of my first tests of the mic, and I believe it shined. Here’s the chain: K47H -> Buzz Audio Elixir -> Purple Audio ODD eq -> JLM LA500 compressor. For Pete, the mic worked great, and so did the ODD eq. There’s something about the sound it imparts. And while I’ve not spoken much about the JLM LA500, let’s just say this: if I win the lottery, I’m buying everything he produces! Yeah, it adds some color, but not too much. It’s great to track with, and really “levels” in a way that never ruins, but always makes things sound better. In case this wasn’t clear up front, that chain went to “tape.” Of course there’s the debate about outboard gear vs. plugins. But my experience is this: getting the sound right from the get go really makes things move along, both artistically and time wise. And, while I believe if one knows what they’re doing they can get a “pro” mix with plugins, my own experience is that a complete front end chain just brings things to a new level.

Enough tech talk. The fact is, we managed to capture a great performance and feel for these two great songs. Without a great song, and a great performance, what’s the point?

Pete Lund’s “Time Lines”

This production took on a life of its own, and was crafted in a unique way — at least from the point of view of my experience. The production was built around a drum loop, “hand made”  by Pete and myself (one he heard in his head and practiced to prior to recording). As the original song was over ten minutes, we thought a loop might be interesting to try. And, as the song was inspired by Pete’s motorcycle expeditions, we wanted something that drove, in a mechanical, yet, musical way; we thought the loop might contribute to that feel. We used only two mics (stereo pair), which, given the simplicity of the part, was appropriate. It allowed us capture the right floor tom sound, with just enough low-end to mitigate the need for bass; by not directly mic’ing the tom we captured a more open and expansive feel, like that of the open road.

I was, I’ll admit, skeptical that this would yield positive results. But I was wrong! We ended up being very happy with the results and initial feedback has highlighted this rhythmic feature of the song. Of course, no rhythmic element, however strong, can save a weak artist endeavor. So, in the end, the song stands on its own merits, and is an example of what is becoming quintessential “Lund”!

This production was also the first to deploy Wave’s new Non-linear Summer. This plugin is designed to emulate the sound of  mixes on large format consoles. While I don’t entertain the digital vs. analogue debate — in part because I think it is a false debate, and in part because I don’t have experience with Neve or SSL large format consoles — I did demo the plugin and found that it offered a means for affecting the sound of my mixes in new ways that were almost always pleasing. The plugin offers one a chance to introduce subtle eq shifts, as well as pleasing distortion. There is also some affect on the stereo image as well, creating a sense of a more expansive sound stage. On a single channel, the “drive” control allows one to push an instrument forward (or tame it) in a subtle but effective way, not equal to moving the fader. And, I did sense some “glue” as a result of the NLS — hence, I forked over the dough and bought it. So, this mix serves as an initial showcase of that plugin.

Another unique feature of the production was the use of the Electro-Harmonix POG2. In lieu of having this (hint), we forced a vocal track through the Pog and then a guitar delay, driven by a Groove Tubes Ditto box in an effort to push the signal. What we came up with is the “mothership” sound you’ll notice during the break; it serves as a great underlay to the guitar riff.

All in all, I believe the song is a great showcase of the “Lund genre” and a great sounding production; there is, of course, more to come!

Oh, BTW: don’t miss the “re-mastered” versions of Pete’s other material (all available here). After mastering a few recent projects, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the work of professional mastering engineers, and continue to learn from them as I study and practice this part of the process.

JLM Audio LA 500

Well, I have had time to get to know some new additions to the studio over the last two months, including the JLM Audio LA 500 compressor (500 series). I’d been looking for sometime for a great compressor for tracking — easy to set, with great action and big sound. Short of a full review, for now I’ll simply say I’m extremely happy with this. Pending artist approval, I’d like to post some examples of this, and other gear I’ll be reviewing. It’s all coming soon.

More Absorbers!

It’s not as easy to get excited about room treatment as it is to get excited about a new microphone or compressor. But in an effort to get my mix room to have as flat a response as possible for a room of its size, I decided I needed more absorption.

Up to this point I’ve built every single absorber in the studio, using a variety of materials, techniques and designs. For awhile it felt like life was nothing but building absorbers. My family began to wonder if I had developed a disorder, possibly as a result of inhaling the aerosol spray glue I sometimes used during their construction! But I am certain that each and every absorber is needed.

But measurements taken over the summer indicated that more was needed in the mix room, and I wasn’t convinced another home crafted absorber was going to cut it, nor was I enthusiastic about building more absorbers. So off to the Internet I went.

While I had never ordered from him, I’d read many of Ethan Winer’s writings on room treatment and decided to purchase some of his “real traps.” Well, I just received and installed them, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

On occasion, I’ve seen folks diss Ethan’s work on some forums, some claiming the traps are not as effective as claimed. Some have said that the traps are not very aesthetically pleasing (admittedly, the Real Traps website does not present the most flattering photographs of their products).

But both assertions are false — they are effective and great looking. They came well packaged (diffusors I had ordered from another company came damaged), with an excellent set of hardware to support their installation, not to mention a great installation guide. They are extremely well made (far better than some other acoustic treatments I have seen). And, the folks I spoke to at Real Traps were great — talking me out of a more expensive product they felt I did not need.

Recording Photo of an Old Motel

One of the things I enjoy most about recording and producing is testing out new ideas — Pete Lund’s new release (September 2012) is a good example.

For this track, I wanted something softer and less direct than in the other recordings I did with Pete. I thought it might be interesting to record both the vocals and acoustic guitar with a room mic during tracking. Typically this is done in much larger rooms, but I heard a certain richness to the guitar when walking by the drums during set-up; so I set up a Rode NT5 to capture what I heard.

Panned hard in the mix, the result is some eerie depth and a less direct sound than in “Last Addiction” (released June 2012). Of course, a key effect is the POG (polyphonic harmonic generator), something of a signature sound for Sound Garrison, appearing on many of Charles Mansfield’s released and upcoming material (e.g., “Ghosts“).