Sharpening Sound Skills to Pay the Bills

by Matt Cameron.

My experience in live audio production before joining the Digital Audio Arts program in 2009 was mostly in the context of sound reinforcement for small ensembles or solo performers. Events that I have engineered for include (indoor and outdoor): concerts, church assemblies, theatrical plays, and weddings. Even with about thirteen years of experience in live sound, however, I enrolled in this program of study to grow stronger as an engineer/producer, and to gain practical skills for my career in music and sound. The electro-acoustic ensemble course has given me a chance to sharpen my sound reinforcement skills in my third and fourth years of study; years which otherwise would not have offered such opportunities within class time due to the numerous demands of the full music degree program which Digital Audio Arts is.

Working toward a final concert involving numerous small ensembles as well as one large one has challenged me to streamline my workflow and to deal with more elements at one time than I ever had before. In my third year I was part of the tech team setting up mics and patching cables on stage. This year I am behind the mixing console as well, using my experience from last year to improve the overall experience for everyone, myself included. Along with a small team of techs, I will work to make the setup, rehearsal, and performance of this year’s concert a success, both sonically and relationally among performers and technicians. This excites me, as I have been jumping at chances to work in practical situations to improve my audio production and reinforcement skills since my first year, usually in extra-curricular opportunities. The fact that I am able to do this for course credit is refreshing to me, and I hope the availability of such opportunities increases as the Digital Audio Arts program develops.

Performers and technicians in the ensemble are all classmates, and the larger ensemble performance pieces incorporate students from both ensemble I and II courses. At rehearsals, which occur mostly during class time, students collaboratively create and rehearse, working on their specific tasks, be they electronic music creation, electronic audio software programming, controller interface mapping, acoustic instrument involvement, or technical setup and operation of equipment. The course is unique in the sense that it offers students the chance to choose the area of electro-acoustic music production they wish to focus on, while challenging them to try unfamiliar technologies and encouraging them to broaden their experience in performance.

In the future, the skills that I have sharpened through this course will prove useful to my career. From a more keen ability to hear problems and fix them, to the simple skill of plotting a stage diagram and setting it up, each task is turning into a tool that I can use. Besides that, the experience of working with a variety of people with a common goal is always invaluable to the building of any career. Here’s to building skills that will someday pay the bills.


Author: dndrew

Orchestral, chamber and interactive music composer Digital musical instrumentalist Real-time software systems designer Computer music educator

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