I have several fond memories of my first AES convention, but one looms large. Let’s not bother with calculating how long ago it was.
Today—if you are working entirely in the box—double-clicking opens your session exactly as it was when you last worked on it. Not so, in the analog days of my first convention. Mixes could be recreated exactly as they were, but it was a labor of love. Assistant engineers would carefully document the position of every knob, switch, slider, and thing-a-ma-gig on the console, and on every piece of outboard gear used. The paper-based notes could then be used to recall that mix at a later date—two hours of work, not two clicks of a mouse.
At this particular AES convention, SSL was showing off Total Recall. Their innovation allowed software storage of the position of the analog controls on the console. With faders, EQ, compressors, expanders, aux sends, and more, each individual I/O strip had more than 100 controls demanding careful notation. 108, if memory serves. Total Recall saved the assistant considerable time as those consoles regularly had 64 or more such modules demanding documentation.
So how was Total Recall introduced to the attendees of the AES convention at the Javits Center that October? By recalling a mix naturally. Right there, on the floor, was an SSL 4000G with Total Recall, producer and engineer Tom Lord-Alge, with the multitrack playing Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It,” a song very much in rotation on the radio at the time. To this new student of audio, it was rather sensational. I’d not yet seen how elaborate the processing could be on a pop mix, but here was a studio’s worth of gear in action, meters dancing. I’d never worked with an engineer at that level, and here was Tom Lord-Alge happily chatting with the AES crowd he drew. On the AES convention floor, we were listening to a master multitrack tape, mixed before our very eyes. And there it was: the same mix that was on the radio, conjured before our very ears.
Thanks to AES, this story was only the beginning. My first AES Convention gave me a view of the top—invaluable for anyone interested in a career in music recording and mixing.
Within the year, I would start my first internship at a studio in Boston with an SSL (and Total Recall, thank goodness). The internship became a full-time job. I got to learn from the extraordinarily talented and generous engineers who worked there. And in about five years, I would be working at a studio in New York—SSL again—and I would have the pleasure of assisting Tom Lord-Alge. I’ve never stopped learning from him and other luminaries, on these and other consoles.
That is but one thread of many that defines my particular career. Local AES section meetings and future conventions would also help guide me on my way. There is very little I do professionally today that I can’t attribute to a personal connection, or educational experience, or moment of inspiration at an AES event.
For many, AES is synonymous with the AES international conventions—“I’m going to AES.” That is indeed a big part of what AES is. Look for it to grow, as we co-locate our convention this fall with the East Coast show of the National Association of Broadcasters. Audio meets, merges with, and adds value to all forms of broadcast media everyday. Our next convention embraces that: attend and your professional networking instantly grows to include that.
Of course, there is much more to AES than conventions, and we are working to increase and diversify your ways of interacting with the Society. There are more than 200 local professional and student sections, many of which run meetings monthly, covering every facet of audio science and practice. Sharply focused, topic-centered AES conferences occur several times a year, all over the world. The rich archives of the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, from the current issue to the very first, are available to all members through our Electronic Library. We’re investing in getting more multimedia resources online at aes.org in the form of podcasts and the AES Live set of videos recorded at conventions, conferences and other AES meetings. Keep coming to the conventions, of course. But look locally and online for ever-increasing value for your membership.
From wide-eyed student to, well, your AES president, I’ve relied on the AES all along the way. If you are new to AES, I hope you have already experienced memorable and career-defining moments. If you are a bit more vintage, I bet, like me, you have a First AES Convention memory or two. I’d love to hear them.