Mix Regional, D.C. Metro: Smithsonian Folkways

Feb 1, 2013 9:00 AM, By Barbara Schultz



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photo of Pete Reiniger

Pete Reiniger

No trip to D.C. is complete without visiting the Smithsonian. From Washington’s uniform to Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers to Pollack’s paintings, essential artifacts of our national culture have been curated there since 1846. So as part of our “visit” to the D.C. audio community, we called on Pete Reiniger, chief engineer at Smithsonian Folkways, the nonprofit record label of the National Museum.

Smithsonian Folkways is “young” compared to the Institution as a whole. It was created after the acquisition of Moses Asch’s Folkways label in 1987. (Folkways was started by Asch in ’48.) Today, Smithsonian Folkways holds the catalogs of several labels, amounting to more than 3,500 titles.

Reiniger works on the majority of new releases that carry the Smithsonian Folkways imprint—sometimes recording and/or mixing, sometimes mastering only. “If I track and mix a project, I’ll bring it to another studio to be mastered because it’s best to have another pair of ears,” he says.

Four Smithsonian Folkways projects are nominated for Grammys this year: new albums by singer/songwriter Elizabeth Mitchell and Latin folk/rock band Quetzal, a banjo–centric album by Stephen Wade, and Woody at 100, a three-disc collection celebrating the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth.

Reiniger flew to L.A. to track Quetzal’s Imaginaries (nominated for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album) in Joel Soyffer’s Coney Island Studios. Led by singer/multi-instrumentalist/composer Quetzal Flores and his wife, musician/composer/singer Martha Gonzalez, Quetzal combines traditional Latin instruments with rock music and Gonzalez’s jazz-leaning vocals.

“Two engineers working at the studio, Alberto Lopez and Camilo Moreno, helped on those sessions,” Reiniger recalls. “Camilo is also all over that album as a percussionist.

“We recorded to Pro Tools, but with everything passing through the electronics of a 24-track analog tape machine. That enhances the sound in an analog fashion. The Massenburg mic pre’s were a big plus. Everything was tracked separately, with many instruments done individually as overdubs, particularly the percussion. We started Martha’s vocals in an isolation booth, but I could hear the room tone, so we moved her out into the big room.”

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