What can be said that hasn�t already been said? What can be thought that hasn�t already been thought? The events of September 11 reverberate throughout the news and our lives and make us wonder about our existence. We think more now about what we are doing. Is it the right thing to be doing? A new seriousness shows up in students, overnight. Practicing audio at a high level of quality in general, and doing surround sound in particular, seem perhaps to be gilding the lily in a day-to-day world where our very existence is in question.
We�re told the best thing to do is to go back to what we were doing before the world changed. Spend money, because the scare causes people to stay home and not do so, and that damages the economy. Travel, because those industries really need us now. Well, maybe the providers of these thoughts don�t understand thoroughly enough that we don�t quite feel up to it yet. However, I for one have already gone to one surround conference, the 4th annual Multichannel Forum in Paris, and will attend the rescheduled AES.
The two-day conference in Paris served a standing-room crowd, held at a large and well-equipped postproduction facility. I presented my �History and Future of Surround Sound� talk on the opening morning, that I also gave at Surround 2001 Dec. 6-7 in Beverly Hills. Having finished my work first, I could then enjoy the rest of the conference. The afternoon of the first day was devoted to hearing surround mixes from a variety of sources. Florian Camerer of Austrian Television ORF had an especially effective demonstration of several television documentaries and musical programs. The evening was devoted to a screening of a film produced in Europe, and postproduced in the facility, called Harrison�s Flowers. Intense jet lag made me miss the screening, but I didn�t know how much I missed until the next morning, which was devoted to talks by the production sound mixer, supervising sound editor, and re-recording mixer. They showed three fairly short clips, and to say I was devastated by them is to underestimate my reaction: I haven�t had such a strong reaction to a film in many years, and I only saw three short scenes! The story is of a journalist going to Yugoslavia and seeing ethnic cleansing in action; if you had any questions about why we had to be there, this would answer them.
As I mentioned, you�ll see me at AES, too, wandering the halls between papers and exhibits, trying to be in three places at once, soaking up new information. Say hello. I was always serious about studying audio from many angles, and these events have caused an even greater seriousness. We choose to do what we do, and we want to do it thoroughly, as never before. This extends to surround sound. Music comforts us in a time of mourning; we look to it for sustenance. Many years ago, my friend and colleague, Peter Snell, the designer of Snell Acoustics loudspeakers, died suddenly at an early age. His memorial service was held by his friends who set up a pair of his best loudspeakers and played the most appropriate music over them. I can�t think of a more fitting tribute to him or to the thousands lost on 9-11 than gorgeously recorded and reproduced music.