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 Michael Graves

Michael Graves of Osiris Studio

Another project that sticks out in Adam’s mind: a client whose father was a DJ during the 1950s through the early 1970s. He came to Adam with 20 tapes that contained recordings of his father interviewing such musical greats as Buddy Holly, Stan Kenton, Danny and the Juniors, and the Everly Brothers. “While in the Army Radio Corps, his assignments included interviews and commentary that were being recorded with the sounds of atomic bombs exploding in the background,” says Adam. “That’s one of the interesting aspects of my job. Sometimes, there are little treasures of unknown information that are contained within the recordings, and it’s pretty exciting to uncover them.”

Michael Graves, the owner of Atlanta’s Osiris Studio, has uncovered his fair share of hidden treasures—perhaps most notably a project that he worked on a few years ago when he began working with Art Rosenbaum, a retired professor of art at the University of Georgia. For the past 50 years Professor Rosenbaum has had a passion for field recording, capturing non-professional folk, gospel, blues, and bluegrass musicians with his portable reel-to-reel deck. The quality and condition of the recordings varied wildly and it was Graves’ job to make them sound like they belonged together in one cohesive group.

“The project was amazing to work on," Graves says. "Not only did we get to hear great music and stories about how these recordings were made, along with little anecdotes about the artists, but the work we did actually earned us a 13-page article in The New Yorker magazine, along with other national newspapers.”

Ultimately, the Dust-to-Digital label released a boxed set of four CDs offering a collection of more than 100 songs taken from those tapes. Graves, Rosenbaum, and Dust-to-Digital’s Lance Ledbetter won a Grammy Award for Best Historical Album. “For a self-taught audio restoration engineer, to be standing next to Metallica at the Grammys, and then holding my own Grammy in my hand for my work, was a dream.”

Assisting in Criminal Investigations
Audio restoration is also used to aid in forensic investigations. Both Adam and Graves actually spend a chunk of their time working with police agencies and law firms to assist them in restoring audio that is associated with crimes being investigated.

“Typically, the recordings I work on for forensic purposes are extremely poor, and when you finally do clean them up enough to know what’s going on, the content tends to be pretty disheartening,” Adam says. “I once worked with a client who had received a voicemail from a caller whose cell phone went off in his pocket by accident just before he was attacked. The sound was garbled, but you could make out screaming and slapping.” Adam says that because of the very detailed nature of this work, he can work anywhere from five to 10 hours per minute of recording.

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