PopMark Media’s Confessions of a Small Working Studio: Bringing the Past Back to Life through Audio Restoration

May 7, 2012 8:20 PM, By Lisa Horan

photo of Stewart Adam

Stewart Adam of Creative Audio Works

So much of our professional focus involves looking straight into the future, with little time devoted to what lies behind us. It’s good to plan, of course, but sometimes, a trip back in time is exactly what we need.

Keeping that in mind, this month’s “Confessions of a Small Working Studio” features studios that have built their businesses on mixing the old with the new. Specifically, they are using futuristic technology to breathe life into past recordings. Find out how audio restoration facilities are not only helping to restore vintage albums and other music-related media, but also historic audio for museums and libraries, and even forensic audio to help aid in criminal investigations.

Resurrecting the Past
Taking a glimpse at snapshots of people’s lives and restoring them: That’s the way Stewart Adam, the owner of Boston’s Creative Audio Works, characterizes what he does. In fact, his work resurrects memories for his clients that otherwise would have been lost forever. For him, that’s the best part of what he does.

“I’ve had many clients come to me with reels of family members who had passed away, and they just wanted to be able to hear that person’s voice again,” Adam says. “One guy came to my studio with eight reels of his father, who had died when he was 16. The recordings captured snippets of time—from the age of 2 talking into a mic, until he was 15 when he was playing trumpet and piano—and being able to restore these moments was really rewarding. I have to admit, it actually brought a tear to my eye.”

Many of the projects that Adam is hired to do involve taking recordings of family histories, cleaning up the quality, and creating a digital version of the recordings. In addition to families, universities and organizations call on Adam's expertise when they discover recordings that need to be restored or digitized.

For instance, Harvard Medical School had in its possession an oral history of the famous psychiatrist, Carl Jung, as told over a three-year period through Jung's work associates and family members. After spending two months digitizing and cleaning up the recordings, when all was said and done, Adam not only provided the client with an audibly superior recording, but he also had uncovered a few secrets about the psychiatrist’s past.

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