They'll be All Ears in Lowell

08/02/2008
By From the Lowell Sun

By David Perry

As many as 800 astute ears are expected to converge upon Lowell this fall.

Sound-recording academics and professionals from around the world -- about 400 of them -- are expected to converge on Lowell in November, when The Fourth International Art of Record Production (ARP) Conference settles into the city for a three-day stay, hosted by UMass Lowell's Sound Recording Technology and Music Business programs.

The university's reputation and past connections with the conference landed it in Lowell, despite bids from two deeply entrenched music industry hubs, New York and Los Angeles.

Previously gatherings have been in England, Scotland and Australia. The Lowell conference will be the first time the ARP will meet in the U.S.

The Nov. 14-16 conference will include an opening-night keynote address by Phil Ramone, the veteran producer and engineer who has won 14 Grammy awards and worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan and others.

William Moylan, who joined the faculty at UMass Lowell to found its sound recording program 25 years ago, was a speaker at the first conference in 2005. He is the author of Understanding and Crafting the Mix: The Art of Recording (2006).

"I had for many years been doing research in how the recording process alters music, and the reputation of the university's Sound Recording Technology program and my research and publication brought us the opportunity to host this year," said Moylan.

"We were invited to submit a proposal to host, as were several other school in the U.S. That we were selected is really gratifying."
The conference caters to "hard-core recording professionals, record producers and academics who study music and how the recording process works," said Moylan. "The average person probably isn't going to get a lot out of it."

Scheduled sessions include a producer's roundtable and such topics as "The Studio as Musical Instrument" and "Production and The Listener." The university's state-of-the-art equipment will be showcased. Critical listening sessions will be ongoing, and mixing engineers will host small groups examining recording strategies.

The conference is, Moylan said, "a seminal event in the intersection of art, scholarship and technology."

The university's sound-recording program, one of a few in the country, has been hailed by professionals, and its graduates have gone on to work in the industry and garner awards, including Grammys.

Moylan said the program has about 125 undergraduate students and 10 graduate students.

While several other producers are expected to attend, none will be nearly as well-known as Ramone, though unlike other producers, Ramone all but hides his name on album credits. Ramone has been at the forefront of advancements in recorded sound, from producing the first CD to hit the market, Billy Joel's 52nd Street, to the first pop DVD release, Dave Grusin Presents West Side Story. And in terms of bringing well-known artists together to record, it's hard to imagine anyone else who comes close. Ramone produced Frank Sinatra's Duets discs, Ray Charles Genius Loves Company, Tony Bennett's Duets, An American Classic, and a new duets album by Anne Murray.

Last October, Ramone's musical memoir, Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music, was released.

"When I started to think about who I'd like to get for the keynote address I thought someone of his breadth is really the perfect person to bring in," said Moylan. "He's been involved in all facets of music, pop, jazz, classical. And he's also been at the forefront of technology. He's a pioneer in doing multitrack recording over the Internet, where people all over the world can contribute almost simultaneously."

Those at the conference will shuttle between the conference's two meeting sites, the downtown DoubleTree Hotel and UMass Lowell's Durgin Hall.

Though it is geared toward professionals and students of sound recording, the conference is open to the public. For information on cost and registration, visit www.artofrecordproduction.com/content/view/59/95/v.