An In-Studio Echo with Philadelphia’s own Time For Three

Today, I had the opportunity to help out at the Echoes studios before and during a live in-studio recording session with Time for Three, a rather fascinating Philadelphia-based “new classical” string trio. The group consists of Zachary De Pue and Nick Kendall on violins, and Ranaan Meyer on upright double bass.

My job today was to work as an assistant to the sound engineer, Jeff Towne, and to help make the three band members and John comfortable during the three-hour-long recording session. When I arrived at the Echoes studios today, I began by setting up the recording booth with seven microphones in preparation for the day’s performance and interview with Time For Three. Each musician was given two microphones (one for instrument and one for voice parts in interviews/commentary) and the host, John, was given a microphone so he could provide commentary throughout the afternoon’s activities. It was a great experience getting to know how the inner workings of this recording studio come together in order to produce a full radio show.

After my work in the recording space was finished, I was able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the performance by Time For Three.

As soon as the first note of their performance rose from their strings, I became entranced by the colorful melodies that were blossoming from within the recording booth. The smooth and harmonious sounds of this trio blended much like the voices of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash on CSN’s “Guinivere”. Themes both of classical and contemporary origin echoed throughout Time For Three’s compositions, and improvisation added a silver lining to the soundscapes weaved by these prodigious musicians. Their set shifted from dreamy ocean-sized melodic pieces to energetic and spontaneously jagged upbeat tunes with ease. Every note was clean and clear, and I was unable to detect a single falter in their performance. To put it simply, I was completely blown away by these three incredible players.

After they had finished their short set and interview with John, the band members, Zachary, Nick, and Ranaan, chatted it up with me briefly before they had to leave. I was elated to discover that these three men were all incredibly humble, and very easy to talk to as a result. I spoke with Zachary specifically about the work of his older brother, Alex De Pue, with one of my musical heroes and greatest influences, guitarist Steve Vai. All three of these musicians come from very artistically strong families, and have all been playing music for as long as they can remember. I found a lot of common ground with these musicians. I hope that at one point I may be able to share experiences with my own musician friends that are similar to those that Time For Three has had over the years.

This was a great conclusion to a fantastic two weeks at the Echoes recording studios. The performance by Time for Three definitely made up for the fact that three events similar to this one were canceled during my internship. As a result of this, I walked away from the Echoes studios today with a true sense of closure and accomplishment.

Images of Live Echoes

These are some pictures that I took before (no photography allowed during) a performance hosted by Echoes at the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA.

This performance featured the Bill Frisell Trio

The beautiful Sellersville Theater:

The Echoes information booth that I manned before and after the show, and during intermission:

The on-stage set up:

I really enjoyed this performance by Bill Frisell, a incredibly unique and talented musician. This night was loaded with quirky, entertaining, and fascinating musicianship.

Echoes in Motion

Greetings from…Chester Springs PA!

Although that introduction may not be nearly as exciting as those coming from my peers, I believe that my internship at Echoes has certainly provided me with a set of equally fascinating experiences thus far.

The past few days inside Echoes have been a tad hectic, mostly due to the chaotic nature of this area’s winter weather. The recent snow storm has unfortunately forced one of this week’s featured performers, Phil Keaggy, to cancel his recording sessions and performances with Echoes. When one takes into consideration that the roads near the performance venue were very poorly cleared, and that late-night travel conditions were almost certainly going to worsen, it becomes clear that it was a good decision to cancel these two sessions. Additionally, the performance that was supposed to take place on Monday with Balmorhea was canceled due to a band member’s family emergency. All of these sudden cancellations illustrate the unpredictability of the radio industry. On Monday, I sat in on a meeting with the entirety of the Echoes team (John, Kim, Jeff, and Liz), during which they planned how they would fill in the gaps created by these cancellations. It was interesting listening in while they reviewed recordings they had made in previous years, and discussing how they could possibly fit some old features in the holes where these new features were supposed to fit. As a performer, it was thought-provoking to see how one decision (canceling a show or an interview, for instance) has the potential to jam up other processes taking place throughout the music industry. These events have made me both more aware of how my decisions as a musician affect others, and how, as a potential radio worker, I would be able to face and overcome challenges similar to those faced by the Echoes team this week.

Unfortunately for my internship, these cancellations only mean one thing: more desk work, and fewer opportunities to interact in hands-on situations. Mr. Diliberto has done a great job of keeping me very busy this week, assigning me jobs such as artist biography research and filing, CD library organization, and everything in between. One of my favorite jobs at Echoes is to take a chunk out of the mountains of new CD releases piled around John’s office, and be the first person to give them a listen-through. During this process, I check to see if any material on any of the CD’s is playable on an Echoes program. John told me that over 80 percent of the albums they receive do not make it to the second round of consideration for airtime. Interestingly, a radio station that has a musical focus primarily in the abstract and ambient world of music rakes in piles upon piles of CD’s of a wide array of genres. Within a pile of ten CD’s, I would often find anything from classical artists, to avant-garde noise music, to free form jazz,to modern pop, rock, electronica, and even so-called “sounds of nature” (entire CD’s consisting of recordings of, well, nature!). This was a really interesting part of my desk work at Echoes.

In addition to the desk work that I have been carrying out at Echoes, I have now begun to inch my way into some more hands-on work. John  and Jeff (Co-Producer and Sound Engineer) have been introducing me to the intricacies of the computer program Pro Tools. This program is the industry standard for nearly any type of sound recording. I have always wanted to work and experiment with this program. However, the several-hundred-dollar price tag that comes along with this program has unfortunately limited my ability to do so. Today and yesterday, I sat in while Jeff mixed a recording taken two years ago of a British group called “The Mediaeval Baebes”. Jeff told me that this was one of his most difficult mixing jobs to date. The band consists of eight musicians total (five singers, two stringed instrument players, and a percussionist). This video can give you a better idea of the depth of the instrumentation of their music:

As you can see, this is some crazy stuff! Jeff’s job was to set the level of each instrument and voice so that the Baebes’ live recording sounded as close to that which is on their album as is possible. Jeff’s work is truly an art. He spends hours on end analyzing each individual part of each song, adding reverb, boosting or lowering volume levels, removing speech pops. His ability to make a disorganized and unequalized piece of music sound beautiful is truly unbelievable.

I will be in close contact with Pro Tools next year while I take my gap year at a recording studio house in Long Island, NY. I am very excited to explore the possibilities of sonic manipulation, especially when it comes down to my own personal compositions.

Tomorrow, I will be working at the first (and, unfortunately, the final) live performance session happening during my internship. I will have the amazing opportunity of experiencing a performance by the world-renowned Bill Frisell. His ambient and experimental guitar technique is astonishing. He is a true master of the instrument. Being a guitarist myself, I will be in awe throughout the entire performance tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with a video of Frisell’s playing. By this weekend, expect a post about the performance!

Images of Echoes

Hello All!

These are some pictures I have taken over the course of the past week. I thought you would all enjoy seeing what I get to work with every day!

My temporary workplace at Echoes, in the archives room.

Reel-to-reel taped shows in the archives.

Some famous guests on the show:

Famous Electronic/Ambient/Experimental Composers Brian Eno and John Cage.

The legendary Frank Zappa.

Bill Bruford of King Crimson, Yes, UK, and many others.

Robert Fripp of King Crimson.

The CD album storage cabinets. Thousands of CD’s in here!

The recording booth.

Inside the booth:

Mr. Diliberto reads the script for each radio show here.

Jeff, the studio technician, works to assemble the next show next to the recording booth.

Last but certainly not least, MANNY!

The beloved studio dog and my best friend at the studio!

Day One at Echoes

Today was my first day working as an intern at the Echoes recording studios in Chester Springs PA.

I woke up at about 9:15 AM this morning after sleeping through two alarms. I had ten minutes to get ready, eat breakfast, and head off to the studios, which are about thirty minutes away from my house. Fortunately, I arrived at the studios at the same time as Kimberly Haas, the Echoes’ executive producer. As we walked in the front door to the studios, we were greeted by Manny, the “studio dog”, who would eagerly be keeping me company for the rest of the day. I turned a corner and found John Diliberto perched over a computer keyboard, organizing and arranging various sound files that would come together to build an Echoes broadcast that would be airing later this week. I was then given a tour of the studios.

The recording room, or the “black room” as it is known, is small, but has fit up to nine musicians during one show in the previous years. The walls are covered with echo-eliminating foam, which improves the room’s acoustics greatly. Outside of the recording space sits a console piled high with computers and various recording interfaces. It was fascinating seeing the guts of a radio recording studio. Next we visited Kimberly and John’s offices, which were both adorned with the autographed works of a favorite artist of mine, Roger Dean. If you are unfamiliar with him, he did much of the album artwork for the progressive rock band Yes. His futuristic imagery and beautiful space-age landscapes are absolutely captivating. Next, we visited the room where I would spend most of my day, the archives room. The first thing I saw when I entered the archives was a bulky, twenty-year-old reel-to-reel tape machine. The room was filled to the brim with stacks of magazines and tape reels containing recordings of shows from the analog age. Gazing along the walls of alphabetized tapes, some of my favorite artists jumped out of the stacks, namely Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Michael Giles, and many others. I was in audio-geek heaven.

My hypnosis was lifted by John’s deep voice, “now, let’s get to work!” My first task was to successfully boot up and clean up a very old computer that had very clearly seen better days. My experience in computer maintenance helped me complete this job quickly. Next, I did some biographical archive work. This consisted of locating and organizing each biographical article sent to the Echoes studios by record labels, so that the people at Echoes have background information on each person they interview. It took me about four hours, including a thirty minute lunch break, to sort through a massive stack of biographies and various press releases that Echoes had received in the past month and a half. It was fascinating to read these articles, especially those that were focused on my favorite artists.

At around 3:30, I had finished my work for the day. Despite the fact that this day revolved around digital housekeeping and organizational tasks, I still had a fantastic time becoming more comfortable in a studio setting and familiarizing myself with the process of radio show production. At the end of the day, John and I reviewed the schedule for the next two weeks. It is clear that the busy work I did today will soon be replaced by more hands-on activities.

In addition to coming in every day at about 10:00 AM, I will be attending and helping out at a few live in-studio, living room, and theater performance events being hosted by John and Echoes:

Friday, February 26th: Phil Keaggy in-studio recording session.
Monday, March 1st: Living Room recording session with Balmorhea.
Thursday, March 4th: Sellersville Theater concert featuring Bill Frisell.

I am incredibly excited to be meeting and working with these globally acclaimed and celebrated musicians.

Some examples of music that appears on Echoes regularly:

Robert Fripp: Soundscaping

Brian Eno: Music For Airports

Where I’m Headed…

Hello everyone!

I’ll start off by introducing myself. My name is Mike, and I am currently a senior at Westtown School. This is my seventh year at Westtown, and I’ll be honest, I’ve been looking forward to the Senior Project experience throughout the entirety of my years as a high-schooler and middle-schooler here. Although my academic interests have changed vastly over the course of my Westtown career, I have always been certain that I wanted to center my Senior Project around my greatest passion: Music.

My Senior Project will be taking place very close to home, in Chester Springs, PA. I will have the pleasure of spending two weeks working as an intern at John Diliberto’s studio, where he records, produces, and assembles his radio show entitled “Echoes”. This radio show features a variety of soothing sounds ranging anywhere from chimey singer-songwriter acoustic melodies and harmonies to ethereal and hypnotizing ambient soundscapes. If you’re interested in hearing some of this refreshingly unique and peaceful music, his show airs on 88.5 WXPN every night at eleven o’clock PM. During my time in the studio, the work I will carry out will vary from office-type jobs, such as CD-burning and music library organization, to more hands-on work, like setting up microphones and aiding sound technicians in the actual recording process. I have recently been told by Mr. Diliberto that I may also have the opportunity to help out at one of the Echoes trademark events, a live Living Room Performance.

What I hope to gain from this project is to become very familiar with the inner workings of the radio industry, and the production and recording processes associated with it. Working in radio is a career choice that I may seriously pursue during and following my years in college. Additionally, I hope that I will begin to build a valuable network among fellow musicians and important figures in the radio industry throughout these next two weeks. The relationships I build among these types of people will serve to be extremely vital over the course of my future musical career.

The only fear I have at this point is possibly getting lost in a territory that is new and unfamiliar. I have had very little experience in the realm of the radio industry, and I could see myself becoming overwhelmed and confused at some points during these next two weeks. Fortunately, I believe that these hiccups will only make my Senior Project experience more valuable. As the reality that is college begins to grow on my horizon, I am slowly realizing that I will at times have to rely only on my self to solve problems that will emerge from independent living. My Senior Project at the Echoes Studios will teach me vital problem-solving techniques that will be important throughout my college years, while simultaneously providing me with a insider’s perspective on a career that I may pursue throughout the rest of my life.