Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Visit to Tiny Telephone

Tiff and I were fortunate enough to attend John Vanderslice's special performance with the Magik*Magik Orchestra at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. The concert included the entire White Wilderness album, a lovely collaboration between JV and Magik*Magik, just released this year. They also performed orchestral versions of many JV songs from his backcatalogue. It truly was a unique concert experience, and though I seem to say that with every Vanderslice show I see, this concert really did stand apart from those other fine shows. But the memories didn't end with the concert, for near the concert's end Vanderslice invited the audience to a free tour of his recording studio, Tiny Telephone, the following morning. Naturally, Tiff and I wanted to go, and since we had the whole next day available to us, we went. (Luckily, it didn't take much to persuade Mom to come with us.)

The tour of Tiny Telephone was a wonderfully memorable experience for a few reasons. First, it further solidified my deep admiration for John Vanderslice as a musician and person. He's a good person with remarkable talent; the genuine article, as they say.

Second, I learned a lot about sound and recording that I hadn't really thought about much before. Sound is cool and recording an album is a really complex process - at least it is when you wanna do it well. Tiny Telephone encourages analog recordings rather than digital, and for good reason: too much of digital recording is crap. New digital technology should be awesome, but most of it isn't. Unfortunately, our new technology has mostly made studio recording lazier, which only encourages lazy listeners - we get used to hearing poor quality recordings and lose our ear for good sound.

Third, I was charmed by Vanderslice's account of the development of Tiny Telephone and the small community of artists neighboring the studio. According to him, the neighborhood used to be a lot more dangerous than it is these days. The change came in part because of the small artist community that filled in the collection of shabby-looking back alley buildings where Tiny Telephone is located, inviting a much safer atmosphere. Additionally, the once-dangerous park next to Tiny Telephone received a skate park from the city, which has helped reduce crime. Maybe other parts of the country have gotten over the stigmas against skaters and the narrow beliefs that artists don't contribute to society, but in my community some of these naive beliefs still prevail. But the neighborhood where Tiny Telephone resides seems to show that artists can do a lot for a community and having skate parks (and other similar community amenities) doesn't increase crime, it reduces it because kids,and adults, have a place where they can gather and engage in constructive activities rather than wander around with nothing to do but get in trouble. This story was a modest example of community action to improve the neighborhood; something we could all benefit from.

There's much more I could say about my visit to Tiny Telephone. But for now I'll just show off some of the pictures I took while there. Vanderslice was kind enough to allow me to snap some photos and I was rather happy with the results.

Note how much the dude in sunglasses looks like T-Bone Burnett.

Thanks to Mom for taking this picture.

For more on our visit to Tiny Telephone, check out Tiff's post at The Art of Place.


Karmen said...

Like, like, like!

tiff said...

Is that film?!

Jon said...

You know it. I'm so old school.