Meeting Topic: A Very Close Look at the Sound Reinforcement and Recording Systems for Woodstock 1969
Moderator Name: Greg Dixon, Dan Mortensen
Speaker Name: Bill Hanley - Hanley Engineering, John Chester - Independent Consultant, Chris Langhart, Harold Cohen
Other business or activities at the meeting: Annual Section Business Meeting and Section Elections
Meeting Location: Zoom
PNW Section held its annual business meeting and final Section meeting of the season June 22, electing the next officers and presenting an epic analysis of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair audio system. Around 94 attended the Zoom session (41 Members, 32 non, 21 no answer).
The AES PNW Section 2022-23 officer/committee roster is thus:
Chair - Dan Mortensen
Vice Chair - Bob Smith
Secretary - Gary Louie
Treasurer - Lawrence Schwedler
James D. (jj) Johnston
And Jayney Wallick filling the 1 year remainder of Dan Mortensen's 2 year term.
Continuing Committee members (elected in 2021) fulfill the last year of their 2 year term:
Dr. Angela Dane
Dr. Michael Matesky
Woodstock Music and Art Fair, commonly referred to simply as Woodstock, was a music festival held August 15-18, 1969, on Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York, 40 miles (65 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock. It attracted an audience of more than 400,000 and made an indelible impression in history.
The event was unprecedented, especially given the timeframe; nobody had attempted an event of this magnitude or scale. The promoters expected a crowd, perhaps 50,000 persons, but (of course) they had wildly underestimated what would happen. The site was wholly undeveloped, aside from what dairy cattle required: grass and dirt, there was no infrastructure of any sort.
Everything needed to be put into place: water, power, sanitation, first aid, staging, lights, sound, etc. This was 1969, and rock-and-roll staging was in its infancy. You couldn't just order what you needed; you had to design and build it.
This meeting revealed the details of just one part of the behind-the-scenes commotion that resulted in what is now called Woodstock. Of all the systems that had to function during the festival, the sound system was the lynchpin. Attendees could clearly hear both the speech AND the music, and when other systems were failing (and they all did, to one degree or another), the sound system was the glue that held everything together.
PNW committee member Dan Mortensen led the panel with Bill Hanley (Hanley Sound), and John Chester, who was the sound chief at Fillmore East, but arrived at Woodstock and worked on many infrastructure projects except sound. Also attending was Chris Langhart, who worked as "technical director" for Woodstock, building the extensive site infrastructure; and Harold Cohen who mixed much of the last day of the festival. David Marks, a musician and archivist with many Woodstock photos, was slated to attend from South Africa but was unable.
Producer and moderator Dan Mortensen had photos for all of the following topics and led the detailed discussion of each as it was done at the festival: microphones, mic stands, mic cables, mic subsnakes/stage boxes, mic snake to FOH, mic split to monitors, mic split to recording, snake to recording, recording location, recording mixer, recorders, recording processing and monitoring, recording staffing, handling and storage of recorded tapes, post processing of recordings, FOH location, FOH mixer and processing, FOH staffing, break music playback, mix feed to amplifiers, signal distribution to amplifiers, amplifiers - brand-quantity-purposes-spares-location, speaker cables and connectors, speakers: boxes and components, speaker location and coverage, scaffold parameters, monitor mix source, monitor type and location, comms & locations, weather protection for all locations, transportation for gear and crew.
The youthful might be curious about the seemingly primitive gear, but they were state of the art at the time.
Following the discussions, attendees were welcomed to unmute and self-introduce themselves, and an end was called after nearly 4.3 hours.
Bill Hanley - Hanley Sound, was born in 1937, in Medford Massachusetts. He is now 85. Bill and his brother Terry (b1946) showed an interest in electronics at an early age, this led to building crystal radios, and then amplifiers, then tube radios, and then bigger amplifiers. Both brothers had amateur radio licenses. This was quite common in the 1940's and later, as most ham radio operators had to build their own gear. While growing up, Bill came to recognize just how poor public address systems really were, and by 1957 he started his sound company. His familiarity with the audio equipment of the era, and his electronics knowledge helped him understand what was happening, and paved the way to figuring out how to solve it. Bill Hanley is credited with being, "The Father of Festival Sound."
John Chester - JKC Labs, has been a live sound engineer (Chief Sound Engineer, Fillmore East, 1969-1971), an analog circuit designer and equipment manufacturer (Chaos Audio, 1971-1990; Modulation Sciences, Vice President R&D, 1980-1992), and an independent consultant for A/V, video conferencing, network and telecommunications, 1992-2002.
In 2002 John began repairing and upgrading tape machines. After refreshing his memory of magnetic recording theory, he then started on all the theory he'd never learned. John then learned how to use modern digital tools to improve the performance of vintage machines.
In 2007 he met Jamie Howarth, learned about Plangent technology, and began the design and construction of the next generation of Plangent hardware. He began doing Plangent transfers in his studio. For formats larger than 1/2", he set up Plangent equipment in a studio that had the appropriate tape machine and then supervised the transfer (e.g. Grateful Dead Europe '72 multitrack, done at Sonicraft). John is an AES Life Fellow.
Chris Langhart is among the early innovators in lighting, rigging, staging and sound integral to the shaping of rock & roll production. Chris made significant production contributions to the Fillmore East, the Rainbow in London, Woodstock, the Wings tour of Europe with Paul McCartney, Jefferson Airplane, and many other shows and events. Langhart created many of the production values that are technical standards in the touring music business today.
Harold Cohen mixed much of the last day of the Woodstock show for Hanley Sound and later worked other sound jobs including for Terry Hanley, the White House press corps, and dbx. He is the Harold referred to on the soundtrack recordings after Sha Na Na's set, when the announcer (Chip Monck) yells, "Harold, turn up the mikes!" - which Sha Na Na apparently still says on their shows.
David Marks was slated to appear, but was unable to attend. David is a musician and archivist, and provided many photos of Woodstock.
More meeting details at the PNW website: https://www.aes-media.org/sections/pnw/pnwrecaps/2022/jun2022/index.htm
Written By: Gary Louie with Rick Chinn