Conversation With Audio Engineer Scott Fahy

As always, spelling, punctuation, formatting, etc. of the original message is left intact.

>To: ronpell@microweb.com
>From: Scott Fahy <omnipro@uswest.net>
>Subject: General Observations
>Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 02:08:48 -0500

>Dear Dr. Pellegrino,

>I have been reading many of the articles on your web site regarding poor audio engineers destroying good music. I agree with many of your observations. (I don´t agree with how you present them, condescending and arrogant, but that is my personal opinion.) I have been doing live sound for 25 years. Yes, I have suffered some hearing loss in the upper frequencies, but I have my ears checked by an Audiologist every year. I know where my hearing is deficient and don´t try to compensate for it with undo frequency boosting. In fact, on many of the events I do, my daughter works with me to ensure the sound is enjoyable for everyone. (She is a member of her school´s classical chamber singing group, and strongly dislikes loud music). I am adamant on having the performers take an active part in "tuning" the sound system. I am not a musician and have always relied on the performer to direct me on how they want their music to be presented. I feel it is my job to be as "transparent" as possible. I recently completed an event for a local school which combines a 90 voice choir performing contemporary music with very active choreography and a full backup band (Drums, Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Brass.) I tuned the system using Smaart Pro, and time aligned the main speakers so the reinforced sound was in line with the acoustic sources. This creates a more natural sound for the audience. During the performances the musical director (Dr. David Henderson, Ph.D. in choral music) sat with me and gave me direction on what he wanted to hear and in what balance. His musical expertise combined with my technical skills provided the audience with a very enjoyable experience. The best comment was from an individual who has been to this event for the past 8 years, "I could hear everything but never noticed the sound system ". These words are the best compliment I can receive. Looking forward to more "Pearls of Wisdom"

>Scott Fahy
>OMNI Productions

******************************

To: Scott Fahy <omnipro@uswest.net>
From: ronpell@microweb.com
Subject: Re: General Observations
Date: 7/13/99

Dear Mr. Fahy:

Thanks for your response to the Quest for Audio Excellence section of my website. I´m always pleased that audio engineers are giving some thought to those essays and email exchanges and I´m even more pleased when they agree with at least some of the positions I take on fundamental audio issues. I´m also thankful for the opportunity to converse with them on issues that separate us.

Generally speaking, those who begin their communications with insults and name calling "(I don´t agree with how you present them [RP´s observations and positions], condescending and arrogant, but that is my personal opinion.)" are impeding their own learning progress and the progress of the communication by immediately setting up hurdles. Also insults and name calling and other such defensive ploys ("holier-than-thou," etc.) often signal an unwillingness to confront fundamental issues and to recognize and accept a direct challenge to the status quo to which they're committed. Better to resist the temptation to insult and name call even when you´re angry.

Any audio engineer who´s been doing live sound for the past 25 years has been subject to all the liabilities of the audio dark ages especially those that come from the lack of appropriate education and excessive sound levels. In the context of my professional work, especially in the first couple of decades of a 32 year electronic arts performance career beginning in 1968 that included many hundreds of events in the university world, I dealt with audio engineers without the most basic education in music styles, performance, and values. Often they had attitudes that were more suitable for the work of custodians and media center staff, basically uncreative and protective. Slowly in the past decade that educational and attitudinal situation has been improving but even recent education with rare exceptions tends to be more based on formulas rather than experience; and that tends to create a mechanical noncreative attitude towards problem solving in the performance audio arts. And that leads to a functional audio engineering level that is weak at best and destructive at worst.

In your message you admit to "some hearing loss in the upper frequencies." In other words, you have a hearing disability as do the majority of today´s audio engineers; that´s one of the main points of my piece on Why are audio engineers the enemies of our ears?. That fact is that most audio engineers would not admit to a hearing disability because they believe, and justifiably so, they would soon be out of work. The upshot is that the music loving audience is subjected to sound that threatens their hearing systems with the same "loss in the upper frequencies" that the audio engineers suffer. It´s not much of a stretch to consider the problem a social disease spread by sick audio engineers. Unless the music and audio worlds begin to police themselves, in the not too distant future we can expect government controls on the spread of the hearing loss disease.

You also say you´re not a musician; in today´s field of audio engineering that´s another disability. Nevertheless your efforts to compensate for those disabilities are admirable but you should immediately add the study of music and psychoacoustics to those efforts. Based on what you say in your message it seems you´re applying good principles (transparency) and making good decisions (consulting musicians) based on a good attitude (willingness to compensate for your disabilities); that´s a strong combination but there´s no question that you´d be a far better audio engineer if your hearing were fully functional and you had a good understanding of music and psychoacoustics. That combination of physical and conceptual skills would give you the tools to do your job on the fly when your assistants (your daughter, the other performers, and the musical director) were occupied with their performance activities. Audio engineering is a performance art; if you don´t have all the tools to do the job in real time you´re functionally disabled and basically flying your audio system deaf and dumb.

You´re absolutely correct when you refer to fundamental principles as "Pearls of Wisdom" which is what I prefer to believe you intended in your closing expression.

From the overall tone of your message it seems you truly enjoy your work and try to do it as well as you can. That combination is enough to move you up in the ranks of any field (including audio engineering) and deserves congratulations.

Ron Pellegrino



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