Podcast Transcript, Mosen at Large episode 188, ACB says no toBraille with a capital b, and an extended interview with Slau Halatyn
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen and this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. This week, ACB says no to spelling Braille with a capital B. I talked with audio engineer, musician, composer, and lyricist, Slau Halatyn, about his new Pro Tools tutorial, and so much more.
Singers: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: Welcome to Episode 188. If this is the first time that you’ve checked out the podcast, a special welcome to you. If you’ve been traveling for the United States Blindness Conventions, I hope all of that went well, and I hope that you managed to get through unscathed in other words without getting Coronavirus. It seems like there’s quite a bit of it about, not really surprising given that this current variant is still highly virulent. If you did come down with Coronavirus, I hope it wasn’t too serious and that you’re making a full recovery.
You may have some feedback on what you thought of the conventions. If you want to get in touch, by all means, do that, firstname.lastname@example.org is my email address. You can attach an audio clip to the email, or you can just write it down in the good old fashioned way. If you prefer to phone your contribution in, that number in the United States is 864-60-MOSEN, 864-606-6736. The one thing I did want to comment on is not surprisingly, Braille with an uppercase B, and the resolution that went to the American Council of the Blinds Convention. Paul Edwards and I talked about this on the show a few weeks back, and that resolution did not pass.
I’ve already heard from a couple of people who are a bit grumpy about this and I’d like to offer an alternative perspective. I think it is important to respect the democratic process and those who don’t agree with the decision can come back and fight another day. I actually think that eventually, a resolution of this kind will pass because the momentum is on the blind pride side and that will only build up over time, I think. You’ve got to focus on the bigger picture, but one of the criticisms that I heard from some people was the Braille resolution was not debated before the full convention. It didn’t get a hearing until a Zoom meeting, where they did a mop-up because they couldn’t get through all the business, including several resolutions that needed to be conducted at the convention.
The argument that was advanced was, it was so close at that meeting, that it may have gone the other way had it been debated at the full convention. Two things, my understanding is that the reason why it wasn’t debated at the full convention was that it was the only resolution where the resolutions committee didn’t make a recommendation and that required a slightly different process, not a radically different process, I have to say, but a slightly different one. Therefore, the president who has discretion to do these things decided to take it out of the sequential order and put it at the end of business.
It is true that the resolution was fairly narrowly defeated in that debate. However, I think that even if it had gone the other way, and it may have gone the other way, if it was debated at the full convention with people in attendance, it still would have ended up going where it went. After a voice vote, if 25 people or more stand and call for a roll call vote where the states and the affiliates get votes proportionate to their size, then that can happen. That did happen and it went to another Zoom meeting for that vote where it also lost.
Focus on the future, and maybe doing the resolution again, or a different way, rather than being churlish about the outcome because the outcome was the democratic process at work. Being a sore loser isn’t cool, you might get called Trumpian. You wouldn’t want to be called Trumpian now, would you? While I’m not calling the process into question at all, I would like to pick up on one point that was made during the debate that I heard. I discussed this because it has not come up on this podcast before and it didn’t come up when Paul Edwards and I were having our debate a few weeks ago.
It was said by a couple of people who were speaking against the resolution, that one of the reasons why they were against it is that blind kids have been taught for years to spell Braille with a lowercase b unless it is specifically referring to Louis Braille the man, and therefore they would have to relearn how to spell Braille and that will be terrible. I say two things to that. We can’t be locked in a time warp. Things move on all the time. Sometimes words are capitalized for all kinds of reasons. There may be cultural changes, any number of things.
If we say that we can’t make this change because kids learned it another way in school, we would never make progress as a society. I think that’s a rather fallacious argument, but the second reason why I’m concerned about it is that it rewards appalling behavior. There was no widespread consultation with the blind community when it was determined to issue a recommendation to stop spelling Braille with an uppercase B when referring to the code.
Even though it was not a democratic process that many people feel pretty miffed that they weren’t consulted about something so consequential, the argument that these people advanced is, “Well, we’ve done it all this time now, so we’d better not change.” That change should never have happened without appropriate consultation in the first place. It really is enabling and rewarding bad behavior. Anyway, I’m sure that the proponents in ACB of capitalizing Braille when referring to the code will be back.
As someone who has an interest in this topic, I was interested in when the resolution was going to be debated. I was interested in when the roll call vote was taking place. One of the things that really struck me this year was how off its game ACB was in terms of social media. There was very little official tweeting by ACB about when General Sessions were starting, where you could go to listen to them, a little bit about resolutions passing, nothing, nothing at all. The convention was hardly taking place.
There were one or two tweets, but nothing that actually directed people to tune in at given times or anything like that. It was really bizarre. After the convention officially finished, there was zero. There was no warning to tune in at I think it was 11:00 AM Central Time, on the Monday for that extra session. Nobody tweeted how each resolution went. It was really odd. I’m not sure what’s up with ACB and social media, but I think they really did drop the ball this year.
Singers: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: Rob Kahn says, “Hi, Jonathan. Since installing iOS 15.5, text selection on the rotor doesn’t work anymore for me. Is it me or iOS 15.5?” Rod, I’m running the beta on my primary device of iOS 15.6 at the moment, and I did a quick check of text selection on the rotor and all is okay. Yes, knocking on the wood. I don’t have a 15.5 device to test with, but if anybody else can report whether text selection is working okay for you in 15.5, do let us know.
Jean is back and says I lost my vision to glaucoma when I was in my mid-50s. With all the technology available, I decided to forego learning Braille. Notice that the B is capitalized. Yet I found that bit of history about the origins of Braille very interesting. I have also had problems with people thinking that because I am blind that I must be crippled or incapable. A couple of weeks ago, I was being brought home by a Lyft or Uber driver, the local paratransit service outsources the actual transportation to either of these ride-sharing services.
Instead of dropping me off in front of my apartment door as he was supposed to, he dropped me off in the street in front of the apartment community, then, to make matters worse, didn’t bother to tell me where he was dropping me off. Needless to say, I became disoriented with no idea where I actually was. I was beginning to feel panicky about getting home. I called Aira, toot-toot-toot-toot to help me get orientated, so I could find my apartment.
I was beginning to walk home and I was approached by three or four Good Samaritans offering to help me get home. I tried to tell them that I was already being helped and to thank them for their offers, but they wouldn’t hear of it and insisted that I needed their help, and proceeded to guide, more like, push me home. I found the whole experience to be very upsetting. Yes, it is. It’s upsetting. It’s demeaning. It’s degrading, it’s humiliating and sometimes you do get in this sort of situation.
Isn’t it ironic, though, that you can try and work things out and then you decide, look, it’s just easier if I call Aira, and then the moment you call Aira, and people see that you’re talking to your phone and holding out your phone’s camera or whatever, for some reason that seems to trigger people. I can’t tell you the number of times that when I’ve used Aira, people have suddenly decided that they need to intervene. It’s extraordinary. Jean says I didn’t mean to be quite so harsh in my comments about the WeWalk cane. I’m sure there are people who simply love it, but in my own defense, I was unhappy because when I tried to return it, they refused saying that the 14-day return window had expired. I hadn’t known that their return window was so short. I thought I had 30 days to return it, which is the standard. I can only guess that somebody had taken them to task on the short return window since you mentioned that it is now the standard 30 days.
I don’t think I did mention that, I don’t think I’ve mentioned any right of return with WeWalk. I wish I had returned it when I have the chance because I’m just not using it and I don’t think I ever will. Thanks for the tip about Waltr, saysJean, but it sounds like it only pushes content to the phone. Considering that I apparently cannot access my photos on my iCloud Drive with my Windows PC without sighted assistance, I would also need a way to transfer my photos off the phone. The only way I’ve been able to do it so far was to email them to myself. It works, but it’s not very convenient.
Jean, you may be able to get initial sighted assistance to configure iCloud Drive. It is not the most screen reader-friendly experience. This is Apple’s little hidden secret that when you look at some of their Windows applications, be they iTunes or iCloud Drive, they are not the best, but once you get iCloud Drive configured, it just sits there and it runs in the background, and you will then be able to browse your photos in File Explorer, and it will appear as another folder. It is worth doing. Since you mentioned Aira, this is something you can use with them.
You can get TeamViewer, have Aira TeamViewer into your computer with you, and just do that initial iCloud configuration. Once it’s done, it’ll just keep working. Jean says, “It turned out to be so many episodes, this is of Mosen At Large, I wanted to listen to from just the titles. I decided not to bother with looking at the transcripts and also decided to stop going back in time when I got to the beginning of the holiday season in 2021. I only went back about six to eight months, but I enjoyed all of the episodes that I did listen to, and I’m looking forward to what you come up with from here on.”
Well, no pressure. I hope all as well down there in Mosenland and that you and your family are keeping warm while I hibernate in the air conditioning while Florida roasts in the heat of summer. Our turn will come, Jean, our turn will come. Dean Charlton writes, “I’d like to share with you and all the listeners something that happened to me regarding my Amazon Echoes. As I would be interested to hear how many others this has happened to. This is my first time. I bought a second pair of third-generation Echoes to go with my other 2/3rd generation Echoes, they were at reduced price no less.
“Everything went fine with setting the new pair up, and having that stereo pair in my bedroom and the first set in my living area with my second generation taking up its new home on top of my washing machine in between the stereo pairs. Things were fine for two days. Then, I would start an album to play everywhere, playing on the Echoes in the bedroom. When I came out to the living area, they weren’t playing at all. I told one Echo to stop and I said that three more times, the same result. Then the second Echo, she stopped the music. I then got her to restart the same pair and it still wouldn’t play.
“I then took a look at the one that wouldn’t play and there was a yellow light spinning round. I thought it was a notification so I asked for the notification and still no answer from her. Then, I asked the one that was working and she said, ‘You have no notifications.’ I would then press the reset button on the Echo with the yellow light, she said, ‘Updating device.’ I hadn’t heard that before. I then plugged it back in after five minutes or so and still the same outcome. I then jumped on YouTube and was told that there was nothing to worry about. This can take up to two hours before it will come right.
“Worst case scenario 8 to 12 hours. That YouTuber said he ended up resetting his device. I then did the reset thing. Everything was normal on the app while doing this. She burst back to life, but it was short-lived. The yellow light was back. The next morning, hello, still the unwelcome yellow light. I would go as far as resetting all five of my Echoes. That didn’t work. I even unplugged the Wi-Fi and that didn’t work. One whole week later, I would enlist my computer technician on the case. He also hadn’t come across this before. He firstly changed the Wi-Fi to his phone, that still didn’t work.
“Then he jumped on my computer and found other people on Reddit with this problem also. The eventual conclusion would be doing a factory reset. I would give myself an uppercut for not thinking of this because that’s what brought it back to life just like she would be when you get her out of the box. I was somewhat very relieved with this eventual outcome. Now, I have glorious stereo music and the podcast everywhere in my little unit.”
Thanks, Dean, you would be amazed that how many people I have made happy by telling them to turn things off and back on again and factory reset things if necessary. These things are computers, of course, there are mini computers. Sometimes, things just go wrong inexplicably. When things like that happen, it’s always good to try a full factory reset so it behaves as if you had just got it from the store and see if that does the job. That could be something that saves someone else a lot of time, so thanks for passing it on. I hope that it all goes smoothly from here on in.
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Jonathan: “Hi to everybody,” says Andy. “I’m wondering if there may be others among us that use the Oticon S1 hearing aids and also play an acoustic guitar. The problem I’m having is that I have my everyday default hearing program set up just the way I like it, which includes when listening to live music remotely, i.e., live music or music through speakers. However, when I am playing my acoustic guitar, it is so close to me, because I’m hugging it. My hearing aid by default start to make adjustments and give me back what it thinks I’m losing because of the close proximity of the lower strong frequencies, which override the high frequencies, which is where my hearing loss exists.
“The result of this is that the guitar loses its gorgeous, warm, resonant tones and finishes up sounding quiet and muddy to my ears. It’s okay to begin with. When I strum a couple of chords, it sounds lovely, but then the hearing aid automatic adjustments start to try and work out what it thinks it should be doing and the quality is lost. As you can imagine, I’ve had many conversations with my audiologist about how we may be able to get over this with this particular brand of hearing aid and I do have to say the service I get from him is excellent.
“Unfortunately, it seems while there are many benefits to how Oticon delivers audio, there isn’t a way to simply just lift up the frequencies that are being reset by the hearing aids when they detect a volume of music close up. My audiologist tells me that the issue is not one of frequency equalization like in the good old days of graphical equalizers. It is more an issue of the feedback manager in the hearing aids trying to pull back on frequency clipping. That’s about as much as I know and understand of the problem. What I’m hoping for is some ideas and a solution.
“I can have as many as five different soundscape programs with these hearing aids, but because my default program sounds so good and natural in all environments, I rarely need or use alternative environmental settings. All I really want in a nutshell is to be able to play my guitar without hearing aids making frequency adjustments, presumably because it assumes I’m in conversation, and there is too much noise nearby, and it needs to be toned down. Thanks, Jonathan for this platform where we can air and share our challenges and to all who support it. Thank you very much.”
That is Andy Collins writing in from Devon in the United Kingdom. I don’t play guitar, Andy, but I do play keyboards, and I sit at my Yamaha full-length piano thingy, which does all sorts of other magic things. It’s amazing these days that you can get these keyboards that have the weight and feel of playing a full acoustic piano, but they’re not acoustic, and they do all sorts of other things. I play it for pleasure these days and things. I cannot use my default hearing aid program for that. Precisely for the reason you mentioned, you’re so close to the instrument and you’re playing it that it’s not going to work out and I don’t think there’s a way that it ever will.
I have to say when I’m sitting listening to music on our Sonos system in the living room, it’s not good on the default program either, but that’s really why hearing aids have multiple programs. When I’m playing or when I’m listening to music, I switch to the music program. This makes sense, really, because what the hearing aid can’t really tell is the context. When you are in an environment, when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone, it’s probably a very valid thing to do, to try and filter the music out a little bit so that the person you’re speaking with comes through louder and clearer, but if music is the focal point of what you’re doing, you don’t want that. That’s precisely why you have another program. I’m not sure that there’s a way around your dilemma other than to have your audiologist set up the music program that’s specifically intended for this purpose.
When you’ve got your acts there, man, you just switch to that music program and play it and you should get a great experience. I find the Oticon aids sound great in a music environment if you use the music program. Similarly, if I go to a live concert, be it the orchestra or something else, I’ll switch to the music program there as well. Otherwise, everything sounds really mushy and compressed and compact.
Christian Bertling writes, “Hey, Jonathan, I have two questions relating to Microsoft 365. One, how do you open a link in a Microsoft Word document? I know that old enter does it in Google Docs.” Christian, you can just make sure that focus is on the link. In other words, you can use your arrow keys to navigate to the link and press enter. As long as you press enter, when the cursor or the carrot is on the link text somewhere, it will open up the link. You can also invoke your screen reader’s list of links feature and invoke it from there. I just press enter on the link and it goes ahead and opens it.
Question two. I noticed on Outlook that when I went to the people section, it was not displaying my contacts I have backed up to Google Contacts. My Gmail account is the only account I have set up in Outlook. Do you know why it wouldn’t be showing my Google Contacts? I don’t, Christian, I’m decidedly not a Gmail fan. I have never tried to do this myself. If anybody has any tips, because Gmail is in very common usage on how you sync your Gmail Contacts and your Outlook contacts, then please go ahead and chime in 864-60-MOSEN If you want to give me a call. You can also email with an audio attachment or write something down. email@example.com.
Christian, if you’re in a hurry, you may like to avail yourself of the services of Microsoft’s free disability answer desk. They are very good, or Dr. Google could be your friend here. You can consult Google, because this is really not an accessibility related thing. There’s bounds to be heaps of information out there about getting Google and Outlook to play nice with each other.
Singes: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: This week on the podcast, we are talking to a legend. Slau Halatyn is a composer, a lyricist, and advocate, one of the best damn audio engineers out there. He has produced a series of tutorials on Pro Toolsm so you can at least try and do what he does. This is the industry standard for audio production and using these from a blind person’s perspective. I thought it would be great to get him on the podcast to talk about that, but also just to have a bit of a chat about stuff really. Slau, it’s really great to have you here. Thanks so much.
Slau Halatyn: Thank you so much, Jonathan. It’s an honor to be here and I’m very excited to speak with you. It’s been a long time.
Jonathan: It has, because you used to do some stuff for Main Menu way back when we started that.
Slau: Yes. I think back now actually I think I did something– One of the things I did was when Pro Tools first became accessible in OS 10, this was something that we waited for several years. I did a little demonstration. That’s got to be going on something like 14 years ago.
Jonathan: Did you get started with this whole audio gig like many of us with tape recorders and just messing about with that? What peaked your interest in audio?
Slau: Being a musician, I was always involved with music technology. I mean stuff like amplifiers, PA systems, microphones, that kind of thing ever since I was a teenager. I think back to when I was even before teenage years, I had a little reel to reel recorder. The reel was probably about three or four inches in diameter. It was one of these tiny reel to reel recorders. I was just mesmerized by it. Then my oldest brother at the time, he had been in the Navy and I think he got some electronics training.
He hooked up an external speaker through the auxiliary output of this tape machine. I was just so amazed that this was possible and people can do this and solder cables and stuff like that. I was always intrigued by all of this stuff. Then when I was in my late teens, I was hired to do some session work as a guitarist and that involved going to recording studios and working on television jingles, film soundtracks, and that sort of thing. I was just playing guitar for these things.
Being in that environment, I was so enthralled by just the whole process and how things worked. Eventually when I was in college, the first time I went, I was in for industrial design, something very visually oriented. I was cited until I was in my late teens. Even at that point, I have retinitis pigmentosa. I wasn’t even aware that I had any visual impairment until I would start missing things and walking into parking meters and stuff like that. I would back off and look directly at it and go, “How could I miss that?”
Anyway, so when I was in college for the first time, it was for something very visually oriented. Then I lost a lot of vision over the course of just a few years to the point where I still had partial sight, but for purposes of drawing and sketching and stuff like that, I just couldn’t do the work that was required for industrial design. I went back to school for a music degree. At the time, I looked for schools that had a strong audio program.
I eventually found Five Towns College out on Long Island here in New York. To me, it was the best of both worlds. I was able to study music formally, which prior to that I had lessons, individual lessons, piano lessons and that sort of thing. This was a proper music degree with a concentration in audio recording technology. The whole thing was based around analog tape, large format consoles. I just loved it.
Jonathan: I’m a major Beatles collector. I often use parallels with Beatle things that went on. You have John and Paul down there playing their instruments and working their incredible magic. Up there, you’ve got George Martin in the control booth like God. Eventually, the Beatles pick up a few things and they start thinking, “Well, I can produce some of this stuff,” and they did, they got into a bit of production things and playing with the knobs and things like that.
Then you’ve got the reverse. You’ve got Alan Parsons who was also a part of that crowd later in the Beatles’ career. He was an engineer and of course later he formed the Alan Parsons Project. Some people start from either direction, but it sounds like you were always on parallel with both at the same time.
Slau: I was. I loved both equally. To this day, if I’m recording something, one of the things that clients of mine in my studio, I think one of the things that they appreciate is that I am a musician, first and foremost. While I am engineering stuff for them and recording stuff, I’m also giving them feedback if they need in terms of music. So often engineers will often tell stories of a band is playing and then the engineer stops him and say, “Wait a second. Guitar, what are you playing? What chord?” He’ll say, “A minor,” and then “Keyboard, what are you playing?” and they say, “A major.” [laughs]
Just things like that you find so often because these bands they don’t necessarily listen to each other very often. I’m talking about obviously lesser experienced acts and stuff like that. When you’re sitting there in front of a console or whatever, and you’re listening, you can hear everything very clearly through the monitors. Often you hear things that the musicians just don’t notice, and being a fresh pair of ears, of course is great if you are a musician, because you can offer constructive criticism, if it’s called for. Sometimes I don’t want to call it an art, but you have to know when to chime in and when not to so there’s a little bit of a technique to that, too.
Jonathan: When I worked in radio commercially, the person I always had trouble with when I was moving to a new radio station was the ops guy. In those days, it was always a guy. The ops guy would say, “You may have worked at such and such a radio station, but there’s no way that a blind person can work our gear,” and you’d have to win them over all over again.
It was like your career was starting from scratch for them. Then eventually what would happen though, is if they were making minor tweaks to the processing, for example, they would want me on the air working the board because I was listening and not looking at the meters and I was giving them feedback. Where I’m going with this is have you been able to market your blindness actually as an advantage in that sense?
Slau: I never consciously bring it up on purpose or refer to it or rely on it in any way. If anything, I just, to me, it’s a non-issue. However, I find that, no matter what, even if I don’t– It’s not that I pretend that I’m not blind. It’s not that, but even if nothing is said about being blind, when my clients, especially new clients see me working, and they, of course inevitably hear the screen reader working at some point if they’re in the control room and we’re listening back, they’re just inevitably, so like mesmerized by the process. Of course, everybody knows how people say, “I don’t know how you understand that,” because the screen reader is reading very quickly.
Jonathan: “Is that thing speaking in English?”
Slau: Yes, that kind of thing, exactly. Also, I have a music production desk that’s like seven feet wide and it’s got a whole bunch of rack gear on the top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right. It looks like a big old analog console, plus I have a big control surface in front of me and stuff. There are hundreds and hundreds of buttons and switches, not to mention the software which contains probably many times more than that. People just don’t understand how I do it. I say to them really it probably seems like an impossible thing for me to navigate or do, but I explain to them a mixer strip in a console and how it’s essentially replicated from left to right channels on an interface.
I have several microphone preamps. They’re all the same. It’s just one set of controls and then multiplied by 8 or by 16, et cetera, et cetera. I think people are just fascinated and I have gotten involved in some software development related to Pro Tools and stuff like that. Some of my clients because of this they will talk to other clients and say, “Yes, he designed this studio,” which I did essentially because of my industrial design background. I specified things even in the building and acoustic treatment and stuff like that.
They will say things like, “Well, he designed the studio and it talks to him.” [laughs] So it’s just people don’t have that much experience with a blind recording engineer. Again, I don’t make anything of it. It really never comes up unless we’re sitting there doing something. Just every once in a while, someone will say, “God, I can’t believe how fast you did that.” I’ll sometimes explain, sometimes I’ll just say, “Well, I try my best.” I just don’t even want to get into it.
Jonathan: I want to do a deep dive into Pro Tools, of course, but before we go there, you also were at the forefront of the podcast movement. I can remember doing my first podcast in, I think, it was October of 2004. I put this email out saying, “We’re going to try this new thing called podcasting.” I remember somebody wrote back and said, “What is a pot cast?” I said, “Hey, I’m not inhaling here. It was a podcast, man.” They were magical times, weren’t they? A whole bunch of pioneers and you really had to go under the hood. There weren’t these services and publishing tools that we have. Sometimes you’d have to manually play with the RSS feed, but it was a very cool time to be a part of that small group doing that stuff.
Slau: It certainly was. It really was like the Wild West a bit. Yes, the community was very small. I remember going to a couple of these portable media expos, or sometimes they would be called podcast expo, but they were officially known as portable media expos out in California. I’m trying to think of the– Oh, Ontario, California was the city, close to Anaheim, I suppose. It was just really so amazing to be in this–
There was an exhibition hall, so a lot of exhibitors surrounding the world of podcasting. Lipson was there, Blueberry, equipment manufacturers, maybe Roland you know, the Adderall recorder. All these- Taskam, a bunch of manufacturers were showing their wares there. Then afterwards you’d have essentially parties throughout the hotel where the expo was taking place, performances and stuff.
You’d get to meet these people that for all intents and purposes, they were radio DJs. That’s how people looked at it in a way, but it was like underground. It was exciting because you could interact with these podcasters. I got into it for a while. Unfortunately, my show, Sessions with Slau, faded after, I don’t know, 30 episodes or something like that. I always threatened to revive it and maybe I will, but it was wonderful. It was very exciting. It’s just incredible. You were saying 2004. Some of my friends have been consistently podcasting since 2004. That’s just crazy to think of.
Jonathan: Yes. I don’t think– Maybe no, I don’t think there’s a period since then that I haven’t been doing a podcast or another, so there’ve been various podcasts, but I think I’ve been continuously podcasting since then. Of course, it’s an ideal medium for blind people to be a part of, both at the creation and the consumption end.
Slau: It is, yes, absolutely. I don’t know statistically or what the numbers are, but I know that especially early on, the blind community really did embrace it quite a bit because it was audio in nature and stuff. A lot of it was music based, but it wasn’t necessarily. It was just anything. It was just, really, it was storytelling and who doesn’t like a good story.
Jonathan: Yes. The big thing that it was a term that I believe Adam Curry pioneered as he did a number of terms in podcasting was the sound seeing tour. There was a lot of blind people walking around with binaural microphones and Edirol R-1s and just recording what happened. Of course, yes, the grandfather of all of that was Larry Skutchan.
Slau: Larry Skutchan, yes.
Jonathan: Two or three episodes of Blind Cool Tech a day at one point.
Slau: Yes. [laughs] It was just wonderful. You’re basically listening to his podcast, you basically felt like you were walking alongside him or in his head, whichever way you want to perceive it, but sitting on his shoulders, I don’t know, accompanying him on this walk and listening. It was wonderful. I think in the podcasting world, anybody who has done a regular podcast knows that when you do a regularly scheduled podcast and you skip a week, depending on how many listeners you have, you’ll get dozens of emails saying, “Is everything okay? Is everything all right?”
The people, really, they get hooked. Some podcasters are referred to their listeners as junkies, because if they didn’t have one episode one week– I remember Scott Siegler, he would call his readers, his listeners junkies. In the best possible way, they were addicted to this stuff.
Jonathan: When you consider the amount of choice that’s out there, it is quite humbling. When you have many thousands of listeners who bother to choose the little thing that you’re offering, it really is a very special thing, but your big contribution, I think, that still is talked about is the work that you did with a conglomerate of podcasters called Pod Safe For Peace. You wrote that song. If every day were Christmas, as well as produce– It was like We Are The World thing. When I listened to that, I think, “Man, that must have been tricky,” because you’ve got a lot of people with a bunch of mics and I don’t know how many you had to auto tune or whatever, but that must have been one hell of a project.
Slau: It was. I have to say that I was considered a co-writer of that song. The first version of it was written by a friend of mine. His name is Orlando Pegon. He’s a dancer, danced with the Dance Theater of Harlem. He’s been with the [unintelligible 00:37:58] Ukrainian dance group for decades. He’s Puerto Rican. He’s ethnically Puerto Rican, but he just is so in the Ukrainian community here in New York, that’s how I got to know him was through, through the Ukrainian community oddly.
Orlando came to me with this song and he said, “I’d like to record some kind of a demo, but the bridge– I don’t know about, like maybe we could– Could you give me some ideas or think about it,” and stuff. I recorded him just playing it on guitar and he left it with me. I came up with the bridge and then I recorded a basic demo of it. I sang it and just did a respectable demo recording of it.
One evening, this is around Halloween 2005, I guess. I don’t even remember spec– It was either 2005 or 2006. I was listening to Daily Source Code. The big thing back then was being able to play commercial music without needing performing rights organization license to not be essentially breaking the law. What they’d call pod-safe artists would contribute, would upload their songs and essentially give the right to podcasters, anyone who belonged to this network, the right to play these songs without worrying that Ask app was going to complain or BMI was going to complain.
He said, “Yes, we don’t have any Christmas songs,” and you know, Christmas season is upon us, and right away, I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I have a song that–” There’s Orlando’s tune that we co-wrote. I asked Orlando if I could post it. He said, “Sure,” you know, “why not?” I posted it that night and literally the very next day, Adam Curry played it on the Daily Source Code.
At the end of the song, he was like, “Wow.” He says, “I love this song. It sounds to me like an anthem. What if we– et cetera, et cetera.” That’s where he was saying this idea about getting a bunch of podcasters or musicians that were in the pod safe music network to get them together and produce some kind of song– To perform this song.
Of course, he said it could be a benefit and stuff like that. I said, “Yes, let’s do it.” Logistically there was a big challenge. We took submissions from people that were mostly singing. It wasn’t too challenging in that sense. The music was largely done here at my studio in New York. There was a sax player who contributed, so he recorded himself playing sax. I’m trying to think if there were any other instrumentalist. I think everything else was vocal based. Some of the vocalists were here in New York.
I’d recorded Brother Love, The Lascivious Biddies, a bunch of other singers here. People were submitting stuff from the Netherlands, from Australia, from England, from France, Germany. Just all over the place, a lot of Canadian artists. They sent all their stuff in and I had a lot of stuff to edit. I had to decide which singers would sing which line because I decided, “Well, let’s just divide everything up.” The thing is, you don’t know how somebody’s going to really do on a given line. I ask everybody to just sing the entire song and then I would pick and choose later.
Well, it’s dozens and dozens and dozens of lines, and what was it, 50 singers? It was an extraordinary amount of work, a tremendous amount of work, but I was very happy in the end with the result. I made a ton of friends and ton of acquaintances. I made my mark in that podcasting world and I’d go to these portable media expo things or AES conventions or NAMM shows and people would say, “Oh, yes, you’re with the Podsafe.” Maybe they might not remember the name, but they would remember the song and they would know about me and stuff. It was quite rewarding in that sense.
What if every day were Christmas?
What a wonderful world this would be.
We would never feel blue
We’d make all our dreams come true
If Christmas were every day.
Jonathan: You rerecorded it yourself some years later. I have to say that that is one of my most favorite Christmas songs. Every year on Mushroom FM we have a top 100 countdown and we give people a webpage and they vote for their top 10 songs. Usually, this song does chart somewhere on the countdown. It is one of my-
Slau: Oh, how wonderful
Jonathan: -favorite songs.
Slau: Well, thank you so much. I’m so delighted to hear that. I have to say that eventually, Orlando did a couple of years after the Podsafe For Peace version, he did approach me and say, “Hey, listen, would you be willing to record it just as an artist, just by yourself. I’d love to be able to have it up on iTunes and stuff like that.” I said, “Sure,” I said, “Would it be okay if I revisited the lyrics? There were certain things about it that I felt could be improved.” These were not major changes. They were small changes. He said, “Absolutely, do whatever you want.”
He trusted my sensibilities. I did rewrite some of the things so that couplets actually were real rhymes, true rhymes rather than pseudo rhymes and stuff like that. He was very happy in the end and I was happy to do it. I did rerecord it. It’s closer to the original intent of the song. I think that with the whole Podsafe For Peace version, it had to be grand. We did it in that almost gospelish style. That’s not how Orlando envisioned the song originally. I understood that and I understood why he wanted to have the version that he originally envisioned. I was very happy to do that.
First winter snow outside my window,
Feels like that time again to me,
For mistletoe, a Christmas show
And the lighting of that famous Christmas tree.
People are thinking of their loved ones,
As signs of holidays appear
But it all goes by in the blink of an eye
And then we have to wait another year
But what if every day were Christmas?
What a wonderful world it would be.
We would never feel blue
We’d make all our dreams come true
If Christmas were every day.
Jonathan: It’s a great track. Let’s talk Pro Tools. I can remember that there was a period where Pro Tools really wasn’t listening and you were at the forefront of trying to make them listen right?
Slau: Well, yes. The thing is in the mid-90s Pro Tools and the screen reader at the time, which was called Outspoken was made by Berkeley systems worked under OS 9, Apple’s Macintosh OS 9 operating system. Pro Tools was pretty accessible in that environment. There was a problem with the speech engine and Pro Tools. Pro Tools would crash because of the screen reader and stuff for a while. A gentleman by the name of Rick Boggs at one of the NAMM shows came up to Digit Design and asked them if they would be able to work with Alva Access Group at that point.
Berkeley systems became Alva Access group. If they would work together and solve this problem. They didn’t seem to express too much interest. He said, “Oh, well, it’s okay.” The logic people expressed an interest and they said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait what’s going on?” There was this little bit of competition there. Pro Tools was pretty accessible under OS 9. That’s when I was really introduced to it. When I was in school at Five Towns we were taught certain things on Pro Tools. Pro Tools was pretty new at the time. Studios weren’t really using it too much, but in school, they were teaching it, because they realized that, of course, this is the future.
There were a number of blind Mac users using Pro Tools. Then OS 10 was developed. Unfortunately, the screen reader was not going to be available. They didn’t want to allow a third party to be that close to the system’s kernel basically. Apple said, “We’re developing our own screen reader.” We thought, “Okay, all right, well, it’d be better to have access to the system rather than not.” Everybody was waiting with great anticipation. I did get on the Apple beta before voiceover was called that, it was called Spoken Interface. I do remember being very excited to be able to finally use OS 10 accessibly.
The problem was when I launched Pro Tools, it saw nothing. The screen reader saw absolutely nothing. This was to me, a big emergency, and OS 9 users are using Outspoken. We contacted Digit Design and inquired with them about doing this. I think it was much like the time at NAMM when Rick spoke with them. They didn’t seem to be terribly interested in it. At a certain point, we decided, you know what, we’re going to create a petition. I wrote this petition and I think it got something like 1,200 or 1,500 signatures.
I printed a number of these out, bound them and was going to FedEx them to the corporate headquarters. Clearly, somebody at– It was Digit Design at the time. Avid is a company that dealt with a lot of video production and they essentially bought Digit Design, the makers of Pro Tools. I say Avid and Digit Design interchangeably right now. Sorry if there’s confusion here. Digit Design did get wind of this petition. I got a call from them asking, “Hey, are you going to be out at the NAMM show? Can we set up a meeting here at Digit Design so that we can take a look at how you use Pro Tools under OS 9 and what the difference is under OS 10?”
It was the best possible scenario because I brought my laptop with OS 9, running on an iBook, and they had a little interface there and stuff, and I set it up, and right next to it is their OS 10 system. I showed them how I use Pro Tools and how the screen reader reads information and how I can navigate and using keyboard shortcuts, I don’t even have to touch the mouse, et cetera. Then I sit down in front of the OS 10 machine, and nothing. I could get into the menu bar. That was it. If I brought up some a dialogue like a setup dialogue, it would say ‘dialogue’, and that’s it, nothing else inside of it. It was a great illustration of the need, and the VP of marketing at the time, David Gibbons, said, “Wow, we’ve clearly broken something in this transition. We need to–”
Because other things in OS 10 were accessible. If the developer followed Apple’s guidelines for accessibility, things were accessible. It’s just Pro Tools wasn’t. They promised that they would essentially after a particular transition of some screen drawing widgets or whatever they were working on at the time, they promised they would address this.
Now, our meeting was in 2006 October and I believe the release of the first accessible version was two years later in 2008. It was a long time to wait, but I knew that– Well, at least I got the sense that they were going to be true to their word. At least David was, and indeed for our second in-person meeting in 2008, he assembled a team of people and went over the importance of this and showed us the results of the work of a particular intern who worked at Avid that summer.
It was extraordinary. It was it really quite literally was like somebody turned the lights on because I could sit down in front of Pro Tools and navigate everything and see– Well, I at that point it was 90% of the interface and things were accessible. It was extraordinary. There started the journey that continues to today because there are always new features, new things to address. Some years later, when they were making a transition to 64-bit architecture, et cetera, something started to break. This led to me reaching out to the CEO at the time and asking whether Avid would consider voiceover like another language because the vice president in charge of Pro Tools at the time, Rich Holmes, suggested that the only way we could really justify putting in the work at this point because it’s like constant work is to consider voiceover like international language support.
If there’s a problem with the French version or the Italian version of Pro Tools with the language support, we fix it. I wrote to the CEO and he absolutely supported it and said, “Yes, absolutely, whatever it takes. You’re working with the right people. Continue this work and let’s make it official.” To this day, it still continues. Right now, we have the great Mr. Ed Gray who is blind himself who has been an Avid employee for about 30 years. He became the defacto person in charge of accessibility, but he’s also a director of third party partnering for Avid, so plug-in developers and that sort of thing, and other software developers.
To have him as an ally at Avid is truly wonderful because he knows everybody and everybody knows him and everybody loves him. We’re in a good position. The challenge of course is that accessibility is never going to be as important as other stuff. That’s just the reality here, but the fact that we have a direct line to Avid in this case and we have a number of blind users on the beta team, I think that is taken into consideration and waited in a certain sense when we submit a bug because for a sighted user, if something is not working correctly, usually there are other ways to do things. Sometimes from an accessibility standpoint if something isn’t working, there is no other workaround. So I think they do take that into consideration.
Jonathan: So often breaking through that first line and getting that direct line is the key to not just digital advocacy but advocacy of all kinds. It only really takes one champion, doesn’t it? Somebody with the influence to make an appreciable difference. When you were waiting for that OSN stuff to happen, does that mean that you had an OS 9 system in your studio and were just hoping it didn’t break?
Slau: Yes. My studio was an analog based studio, so I had a a large format console, a tape machine, all that kind of stuff. I was analog based and I was using a Mac but not using Pro Tools full time or anything. It wasn’t my primary workstation. At a certain point though, I’d say it was around 2001-2002, it was the end of 2001, I suppose, I decided to transition completely to Pro Tools as the workstation for the studio.
Spoken Interface did not come out until 2004. There were just a couple of years where OS9 and OS10 were shipping at the same time. On the same machine, you would have both OS 9 and OS 10. It didn’t seem like such an emergency or anything like that. Although two years for me was like, I was quite anxious as were other Pro Tools users. By the time Pro Tools was truly accessible, now that’s another four years after Spoken Interface.
I had a machine that I got in 2001 that was still working in 2009, 2010. I didn’t make the transition to an OS 10 full-time machine in the studio until I’d say probably 2011. It was a good 10 years of using the older operating system. I think back on it now and think, “Oh, wow, that was a little bit risky.” It didn’t feel like it at the time, although I did feel toward the end of it, like, “Wow, there’s so much that I could be doing in OS 10. I hope everything’s ready for prime time,” because making Pro Tools accessible that was one thing, but trying it in the heat of battle, that’s a different thing.
You have to know the software in all of its quirks and the quirks of the screen reader with the software. You have to know it so well that you don’t even think about what you’re doing because time is money. It did take me a couple of years to really feel truly comfortable with that change. Once I made it, I was just so happy that I did. The nice thing is that now I don’t hesitate about anything. If I need to buy a new computer or something like that or upgrade to the latest Pro Tools, there’s no concern. It’s a known entity and I feel very comfortable with it.
Jonathan: I think this is a very important story and I’m glad we’ve spent so much time on it because sometimes people think that accessibility happens by magic. A lot of the time, what people are doing if they come into something late when this work has been done, is that they are benefiting from very hard efforts on the part of some blind people who have gone in there and not taken no for an answer and advocated constructively to get an outcome.
I would encourage people to learn from that story and advocate constructively for the accessibility of the tools they need to use. Is it accessible in Windows as well or if you want to use Pro Tools do you need to use a Mac?
Slau: Currently it’s only accessible on the Mac. The Windows accessibility is something that Avid would like to do. It’s a completely different animal. Historically Avid has been– Going back to the Digit Design days, I’m not going to say Mac-centric, but they really do focus on their Mac development first and Windows second. Avid’s biggest client base is undoubtedly the broadcast industry and the studio industry. The market share is like 90% Mac and like 10% Windows.
Now, when you think about the Project Studio or the Home Studio market, that these days is almost 50-50. I think that they’re devoting more resources toward Windows development. We’ve certainly with Avid have been in touch with some people from Microsoft who are on the accessibility team and who have expressed an interest in helping out. There is also some partnership with Avid and Microsoft. I think it’s on the server end of their cloud collaboration program and stuff like that. I think Microsoft is in the position to offer real assistance as far as programming and helping make the Windows version accessible.
Mind you, this is something that’s been talked about for a couple of years. Of course, with the pandemic I think that just threw the world off. I’m sure it’s something that has to be picked up again at some point, but for now, the accessibility of Pro Tools is really limited to the Mac platform.
Jonathan: If I were just doing audio production in my life, I would be using a Mac exclusively in a heartbeat because the audio subsystems in the Mac are just so much more robust or latency is better, all kinds of things like that. Unfortunately, I don’t, and I find that when I need to work with documents and collaborate with people, and a whole bunch of stuff like that, Windows still has the edge.
What’s your assessment, as a very long-term Mac user of the state of Mac accessibility, because some people have argued that with the advent of iOS, Mac has taken a bit of a backseat for Apple in terms of accessibility innovations.
Slau: Well, I was a Windows user for about a year or two, around the time that OS-9 was really not being developed anymore, and things were really moving to the internet in a very fast way. I mean, the Internet’s been around for many years, of course, but day-to-day things, and requirements, in the early 2000s, that was really becoming more and more important. With OS-9 not being developed anymore, internet access was a sore point. I started using Windows for a little while, but really, the extent of my experience with Windows was really only Windows XP.
I was very impressed with the accessibility of Windows, as a Mac user. When OS-10 became accessible, I was still using Windows for a little while, then I realized, if I didn’t dive in full-time, I was not going to learn it. I remember when you did your challenge, maybe it was with Marlaina, where you decided to switch note takers or whatever?
Jonathan: Oh, yes.
Slau: Weren’t you using human ware, and she was the– it was like you flipped and said, “We’re just going to use the competition’s product,” if you will, for lack of a better phrase. I just realized that if I didn’t stop using Windows, I just wouldn’t learn everything that I could about the Mac. That ended my Windows experience, really. Now, I know a lot of people who are both Mac and Windows users, and they can’t see it any other way. They just say, “Look, you have to just use both, because there are some things that a Mac is way better at, and there are some things that Windows are just way better at.”
I personally have not really gotten to the point where I feel that I need to revisit Windows. Of course, I could run Windows on a Mac if I needed to, and there’s some people that get into the whole parallels thing and virtual machines.
Jonathan: It’s a bit hard to do it on an M1 Mac now, though, because it’s ARM-based.
Slau: Right. That’s true. For me, I have not had the need– I don’t work in a corporate environment. Everything that I have is quite contained within music production, and at least, for me, all of the other stuff, like any document reading and processing, and that stuff, I find that the Mac, for me, works absolutely fine, and I don’t see any need personally, to use Windows. Look, how much does a PC cost these days? You could get one for a couple $100. If a person can, I think it’s not a bad idea to have both platforms available.
Regarding the iOS thing, I do think that apple has really devoted a lot of resources to iOS. There is talk of this whole thing about making iOS and Mac OS, really, not one thing, but iOS apps are going to be able to run on Macs and vice versa. It could be a great thing. It might cause all kinds of problems, I’m sure it’ll be both, in a way. I know that there are certain things about voiceover, let’s say, on the Mac OS, that have been neglected. There are certain bugs that have been around now for a whole operating system, and aren’t fixed. It is frustrating, but some people get very incensed about these things.
To me, if there’s nothing I can do about it, I don’t– I’ll submit a bug report or whatever, and stuff like that, but beyond that, I try not to get too upset about it. I think you have to think of these things a little bit more in a greater arc, a longer storyline, and stuff like that. I think that there are good things in store ultimately, but sometimes, it does take a much longer time, so, I’m in it for the long run.
Jonathan: When we hear about audio production efforts. Usually, if people are being interviewed, who are expert commercial audio engineers, they will make reference if they start talking about how the sausage is made, to Pro Tools, it’s the industry standard. In terms of what a blind person should choose, REAPER, for example, has really gained traction in the blind community. One of the nice things about it is that blind people are helping each other out, they’ve got Osara. They seem to have the ear of the REAPER developer, all that kind of stuff. That seems to work okay for home studio type environments.
In fact, I’m producing this podcast in REAPER. When should somebody stick with that, and when should they go with a tool like Pro Tools, which is that industry standard, and really the big daddy in the game?
Slau: Well, I certainly purchased REAPER at a certain point, so that I could learn what it’s about, and stuff like that. I don’t use it for anything, but once in a while, I do poke around in it, just to see what might have changed, et cetera. To me, I think it’s great that it is an option that is very accessible, an option that is not expensive. Yes, as is probably typical in various areas in the blind community, these smaller communities emerge and develop. Right now, there are a lot of WhatsApp groups devoted to let’s say, complete control– native instruments, complete control environment, REAPER, Logic, Pro Tools, even specific pieces of software, Melodyne, or Sibelius, another avid product for music notation.
The thing with Pro Tools, yes, it is this “industry standard”, it has been for a long time. I think that you can pretty much, as a professional, not from a blindness perspective, but just as an audio professional cited, you could use just about any piece of software and get the results, if you know how to use it. A wave file is a wave file, if it’s at the right bit depth, right sample rate, it’s all the same in the end. Where Pro Tools has become this “industry standard”, is in the broadcast and studio industry.
As we know, the studio industry, it’s been decimated, there are so many more smaller project studios and home studios these days, that it doesn’t matter whether you are using Pro Tools or anything else. Where Pro Tools, I think comes into play a lot for people, is when they’re in school. That’s where this whole project really came from, or is as a result of Berklee College of Music in Boston, they have every year, a crop of students. Very often, there is a blind student among them.
The problem is, as “accessible” as Pro Tools is, you don’t access it in the same way that a sighted person would. Theoretically, you do. If somebody tells you to click on a mute button, well, a sighted person sees that mute button, points the mouse at it, clicks. That’s it. They’re done. Well, a blind user has to know, “Okay, well, which track? Okay, I have to navigate to that track. Now, I have to interact with it. Now, I have to navigate down to that mute button, and press it. Okay. How do I– Well, it’s the default action just [unintelligible 01:08:33] space.”
There is this learning curve that, it’s not particularly steep, but so much of what goes on in the Pro Tools interface, especially in editing, is so highly visual in nature, that the knowledge of just what button to click, isn’t enough. You have to understand what a selection entails. There are track selections, there are edit selections, there’s selected, as in a state of being on and off, the language crosses over sometimes, so, no matter what, even though Pro Tools is again, “accessible”, that the tools are visible, the use of it needs some training.
Now, for the last 20 years or so, we’ve had a Google group, PT access, a Google group, where people ask questions and others share tips and tricks and best practices. A few years ago, we started this WhatsApp group, et cetera, et cetera but there was always this need for a proper, from soup to nuts, or nose to tail, like, how do you use Pro Tools as a blind user, and a lot of people looked toward me as like the logical choice. I believe the most experienced/knowledgeable blind Pro Tools user. There are others who know quite a lot as well, who also help out and stuff. In terms of really from beginning to end, I was the person that seemed like the logical choice. The thing is, everybody knew that this was such a tremendously large project, that it would’ve been impossible for me to justify the time investment. It was not something that I wanted to sell. I didn’t want to start getting into producing something that would be for sale, then you got to deal with– It’s a whole other can of worms. I never wanted to do that. I wanted to make something for free, but how do you make it for free? You either do or you don’t, and I just could not justify the time.
Along came Berklee College of music. Now, one of their employees in the– I forget what the lab is called. The Accessible Music Technology Lab, AMT lab, along comes Chi Kim, who’s been at Berklee for a long time. Chi is a blind musician and a knowledgeable programmer as well. A couple of years ago, when the pandemic hit, Chi approached me about doing a tutorial for Sibelius. Berklee got a grant to help make Sibelius accessible, both on the Mac and Windows. They hired a full-time programmer, and worked on accessibility, and at the end of it, I took the getting started guide, which was a five chapter thing. The first three chapters were really enough to cover all of the major aspects of this program.
I did a tutorial based on the avid guide, and I did recorded examples, et cetera, et cetera. We put this up for free, because Berklee wanted it to be available to everybody, not just their students. They had some funding left over, and asked me to do the same thing for Pro Tools, essentially. Now, for the Sibelius stuff, it was at the perfect time, because the pandemic hit, the studio closed. I had no work. I couldn’t have asked for better timing. When the Pro Tools thing came up, I made some time, but I was still having sessions. All told, I worked on it for about a year, from beginning to end. It was published just a couple of weeks ago, just like Sibelius, it’s available for free.
Now, Berklee can point its students towards this tutorial, which, it’s about 20 hours of audio, and it’s 20-some odd chapters of material specifically written. I wrote it from the ground up for blind users. It’s based on a Pro Tools 101 and 110 course, which is like a certification course. There is no certification after the fact, but it’s still based on those courses. If you follow it, you really come away knowing Pro Tools pretty well. Especially if you go through each and every chapter, each section, listen to the tutorials, try the things out. There are session files available with this whole online guide.
I think this is where people most often get to a point where they have to learn Pro Tools because they’re in school, and they want to use Pro Tools because so many audio professionals use it. It’s just so easy to zip up a Pro Tool session folder, and just send it, and the person can open it on the other end, and everything is in place, all the plug-ins are correct. Basically, you play the session, and it sounds just like it did in the other studio. Whether it’s a professional, commercial studio, or whether it’s a project studio.
It’s the kind of thing that when you need it, and when you want to collaborate with others, having this tutorial, I think anybody in the blind community who has used Pro Tools without this guide, would agree that it’s a game changer to have this now, because this will also be a game changer for me, because I can’t tell you how many times on a daily basis, I have to answer questions on a WhatsApp group, or email list, and I’m repeating myself. Now, that this resource is available, my answer can now be, “Oh, [crosstalk].”
Slau: Yes. That’s essentially what it is in a nutshell, yes.
Jonathan: I’m going to listen to this myself, just because I’m curious about how things work, and Bonnie will be telling me, “Don’t listen to this thing,” because she knows what might come next and all that stuff. [chuckles] There are some really interesting plugins and techniques and things. One of the most amazing pieces of audio production I’ve ever heard in my life, I realize that’s a huge grandiose statement, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, is the Beatles love album from 2006, where they mashed up.
Slau: Oh, sure.
Jonathan: That is a remarkable piece of engineering, when you know the original tempo, the original pitch, that so many of these pieces were as, and the way they’ve been so beautifully melded together, that is one of the most extraordinary examples of what Pro Tools is capable of in the hands of good engineers.
Slau: It truly is. Just audio technology in general, from a software standpoint, the stuff that iZotope is doing and stuff, is just jaw-dropping. What can be done? The sources that can be separated and treated differently and stuff. We also saw some of that in the Get Back stuff, documentary.
Jonathan: I’ve got those original tapes, the digital versions obviously, of the original tapes. When I hear what Peter Jackson did in terms of just restoring those, it’s remarkable. I would’ve had no idea that that was possible, what he managed to do there.
Slau: Right. Some years ago, I was at Abbey Road, it was a day long thing that we did there. It was hosted by the guys who wrote I’m Drawing A Blank. It’s this gigantic book that is essentially 12 by 12, like a coffee table book. The book itself, looks an EMI tape box. It’s two inches thick, and it’s basically, really an encyclopedia of everything about be Beatles’ recording sessions, the mics they use, the tape machines, all of the processors, the outboard gear, et cetera, et cetera. Anyway, it was the two authors that hosted this event.
While we were there, they played some stuff. This was in Studio 2. I don’t even remember how many people were in attendance there, but they played some stuff that wasn’t available to the public at the time, and I wonder if maybe, it eventually made its way into the Get Back stuff. They would play a bit of audio, and you would hear George fumbling on– or whatever, twiddling around the guitar, or whatever. There was a conversation, or whatever, then they would play it, and the guitar was absolutely removed. I mean, completely. You could sense that it was still being played in the background, but now, you could hear this conversation clearly. Whereas, before, there was no way you could make out what they were saying.
This kind of technology, it really is jaw dropping. It’s amazing, what can be done, again, iZotope as a company, a developer, just makes these tools that just I’ve used some of their restoration stuff and things declicking, denoising, [unintelligible 01:17:51], all these things. The first time I used a declick processor for something that was distorted, I was given this master, it was from a CD. The distortion is baked in. I said to the client, I said, I really don’t think there’s anything I can do. This is in the original recording, it’s distorted, whatever. I thought, “Oh, let me look into it.”
I gave it a try, and really, my jaw dropped when I heard the results. The distortion was gone. This was something that I was trained to– There was nothing you could do. I accepted it as just, this is the way it is. There’s nothing that can be done, and here it is, like magic. I couldn’t believe it. As time goes on, these things, you see it more and more every day. Just these crazy things that can be done. I think back to the idea of separating time from pitch. With tape, they went hand-in-hand. You sped up something, the pitch went up, you slowed it down, the pitch went down.
The first time I remember witnessing or experiencing the idea that you could slow something down and not change the pitch, that was revolutionary to me. Now, it’s like, oh, everybody can do that. That’s no big deal these days.
Jonathan: Originally, when that technology came along, there were horrible artifacts. Now, they really are not, in the right hands.
Slau: Yes. Right.
Jonathan: I’ve got the iZotope RX Suite, the professional suite which does interface with REAPER. It is amazing. Being able to take a lot of noise, even just basic things that I need, like taking fan noise when you’re interviewing somebody on location, and there’s air conditioning running hot, or something that. You can clean it up. You can take out reverb, all kinds of stuff like that. It’s interesting that you talk about taking tracks apart. Bonnie and I, and my youngest daughter are going to London in September to do the ABBA Voyage show. Then we’re going to Stockholm to see the ABBA museum.
I’m on a bit of an ABBA kick at the moment. I took just the original FLAC file of The Winner Takes It All. Basically, disassembled it so that we have Agnetha’s vocal. That vocal, it’s amazing anyway, but when she’s just singing on her own, essentially, acapella, all the instruments gone, God, it is one of the most heart-wrenching things. It’s so raw and real.
Slau: Yes. It’s absolutely fascinating to do stuff like that. I remember back in the day, it was great to be able to find a multitrack session.
Jonathan: Yes. You get stems.
Slau: There were couples of famous ones that went around. Yes, exactly. I remember. I even did one of the podcast episodes on Superstition, because the Stevie Wonder multitrack went around, and I took it apart and stuff like that. There were quite a number of such multitrack sessions. Well, nowadays, you can pretty much take it apart yourself with software, and it’s just incredible. It’s so much fun, and you could really [laughs] get lost, get into the weeds with this kind of stuff, but I find it endlessly fascinating.
Jonathan: The entire Sgt Pepper album has been available for some time in stems. When they were announcing that it was going to be redone in 2017, I thought, oh, well, I’ll just put it into REAPER, and have a go at this. Of course, it came up with nothing close to what they were able to do, but it’s a lot of fun as you say, to just play with. It helps you understand how sound molds together, how things are made. It’s just a fun thing to do.
Does it bother you, just as a bit of a non-sequitur, that you probably hopefully, take some time out, you’re listening to good quality movies, and that kind of thing. A lot of audio-described content forces blind people into stereo, even though a movie is being produced in 5.1 or Atmos. You switch the audio description on, and quite often, you only get stereo. In fact, Get Back was exactly like this. The choice I had was to listen to Get Back first, and listen to it in stereo with audio description, so I understood what was going on. Then I turned the audio description off, and went back to the main track and got the Atmos.
Slau: Yes. I’m not big on Atmos. My control room is set up for 5.1, but there are so few projects these days that require it, that I really have not used anything 5.1 for a while. Now, one could argue, well now is the perfect time to get into Atmos. Maybe so, but I have yet to have one request from any of my clients for anything Atmos. I don’t consume anything in Atmos environment, but I could completely understand the issue here. As it is, we’re already at the mercy of being subjected to so often–
Well, I’m not even going to talk about the quality of the description, because that’s something that just makes my eyes roll so far back into my head, I’m looking at my own butt. There is the issue of the description being so much louder than the content, or vice versa.
Slau: That already drives me crazy, but it’s just something that I just learned to say, it is what it is, what can I do? I can’t foresee how description is going to be incorporated into Atmos programming, unless it is encoded a different way.
Jonathan: Apple is doing it. Apple does it. If you watch all the stuff on Apple TV+, you are getting Atmos, and the audio description’s coming out of the center channel. It’s coming out of the central speaker where a lot of vocals come up with.
Slau: Oh, okay.
Jonathan: Yes. It’s possible.
Slau: Okay. Oh, yes. I’m sure it is. If anybody’s going to do it, I could see apple doing it, for sure. On a Netflix and other platform level, I don’t know– putting the description in the center channel makes probably perfect sense. Although, given that that is where a lot of dialogue is centered, quite literally, I’m sure that some people would argue, “Why not have the option of choosing which channel you want the description coming out?” Maybe you want it out of the left rear speaker, because that’s where the blind person is seated on the couch, and his wife is on the other side, and she doesn’t really need to hear the–
Jonathan: Well, this is the thing, because when you have teenagers, suddenly, having a blind parent might not be cool for a little bit. Hopefully, they come out the other side okay, and they might resent the audio description. It’s always interested me that with all of the work that Apple has done on syncing, and Sonos for that matter, wouldn’t it be great if you could elect, it’s just one option, to have the audio description come to your iPhone?
Slau: Absolutely. Route the audio to an AirPod or something. These things, I’m sure are much easier said than done, but it’s technology. All it takes is for somebody to say, “Well, let’s do it this way and let’s make this the protocol.” I’m sure it’s not just as easy as that, but it’s got to start somewhere, and some standards have to be in place. There’s already the standard that they came up with that was basically the secondary audio programming and stuff, and that already exists. It didn’t always exist.
Description used to come to us on a videotape. You had to get it from descriptive video services in Boston, and that was it. It was just a video cassette, it had the description, and you couldn’t turn it off, it is what it is. Or, it was what it was. Then when it became part of broadcast television, well, that was incredible, and it was great, because you could turn it on or off and stuff. Now that things are so digital in nature, they’re no longer broadcast over in the ether, if you will, I think anything is possible. Look, Atmos is a standard that didn’t exist some years ago, and now, it’s here.
I think it’s a matter of perhaps, a little time, but maybe description can be applied to the given environment. It’ll probably take some time. I know that Amazon and Netflix and Apple, they have their description that is produced and stuff, but I don’t know who’s doing it. Obviously, there are companies, usually it’s a captioning company that’s paired up with an audio description service. I don’t know, to what extent they are really listening to the blind community, or getting input from blind users.
I know of one particular descriptive video service that does use blind describers and blind audio professionals, but that’s just one company. I really don’t think that the others are doing that, and so it makes you wonder, well, are they really hearing some of the requests? I don’t know.
Jonathan: When I would travel to the US conventions when the kids were little, I would stock up on those VHS cassettes that you talk about, and bring them home with the audio description. It’s funny, because some movies like, The Incredibles and others from that period, now when the kids see them as adults, they feel like something’s lacking because the audio description was just how they always consumed those movies.
Slau: Isn’t that interesting? No.
Jonathan: They feel like it’s missing. Yes, it’s interesting.
Slau: Yes. That is–
Jonathan: You mentioned iZotope before, and it made me think, to pick your brain a bit, particularly in terms of VST plug-ins because that’s a kind of open standard. No matter what tool people are using, chances are they can make a VST plug-in work. Are there any particular plug-ins that you recommend people look at in terms of compressors and channel strips, anything like that that you really like?
Slau: Well, being a Pro Tools user, the platform that Pro Tools uses is AAX. Pro Tools doesn’t use VST. Just Logic uses audio units, the AU format, also, Logic doesn’t support VST, but pretty much any plugin that you get these days, mostly, 99% of the time, it’s going to be AU VST AAX. It’s going to be all three platforms. As far as plugins these days, I have to say there are so many out there, that it’s almost impossible to single out anything, but I would say, that there are a few plugin packages that I particularly like. The first one that really comes to mind is Plugin Alliance.
Plugin Alliance, they sell individual plugins, and they have a tremendous number. I think there are 150 different plugins or something like that, but they do offer a subscription. I don’t understand the business model exactly, but to get all of their plugins, is $250 per year, and you get a voucher for $250 that you can apply toward the purchase of any of their plugins. To me, it’s a no-brainer as a business owner. To me, I want to use their products. They have amazing plugins, a lot of the plugins that are used that are part of the Plugin Alliance subscription bundle.
Then they have smaller bundles too. They have things that are aimed at guitar, amps and stuff, but I just choose whatever their– All Plugin bundle, complete plugin bundle, or whatever they call it. A lot of their plugins are designed by the same company that does all the stuff for universal audio or most of the stuff [unintelligible 01:29:59], which is BX. All of their plugins are just so wonderful. They’re all accessible. Sometimes, you might have to use some presets as a starting point, but all presets floating around there. A lot of blind communities like the WhatsApp groups, they have drop boxes that are shared, so people share presets and that sort of thing.
The other one that I would probably mention, well, two things. One is, Eventide. They make really wonderful, wonderful plugins, just amazing sounding plugins. The last one would be sound toys that also have a suite of plug-ins. They’re not subscription-based, but I think their plug-in package which features, I don’t know, 60 or so plug-ins, is in the neighborhood of, I don’t know, $200 or $300. You could just get so many wonderful, wonderful plug-ins, especially if you’re into the idea of mangling audio. Again, from a music standpoint, just apply these plugins that’ll give you crazy results. The same is true of Eventide. They’re just so much fun.
Jonathan: You did a new album recently, right? Can you tell me about them?
Slau: I did. It was something that, I didn’t mean to wait 20 years from the release of the first one back in 2002. I mean, it was something that I worked on a little bit here and there, as a songwriter, then would put down. It was putting out an album, or making recordings as an artist. It doesn’t pay my bills or anything like that. It never is a priority for me. At a certain point, some years ago, I said, well, I’ve got to finally just get this stuff out. I did a big push, got the drums recorded with a dear friend of mine who played on my first album, I’ve recorded many of his albums, all of his albums. Then again, something happened, and the ball dropped.
Then, well, finally. It wasn’t because of the pandemic, but it just so happened that after I did that Sibelius project, I had gotten to the point where I had all of the music, everything that I had that was necessary for the album, I had it all done. I just still hadn’t done my vocals. I just took the time. I didn’t have any other sessions, I just did the vocals, I did the mixing, and finally decided to put it out. It’s called Years Have Gone By.
Anniversary, approaching fast
Years have gone by, years have gone by
Years have gone by, and not a day has passed.
Slau: It’s available on all of the various platforms, and stuff like that. It’s funny. I grew up buying albums. I would buy LPs, I would buy CDs and stuff like that. These days, that’s just no longer the case. I mean, few people actually purchase, because they pay a monthly subscription for streaming. I totally get that. I mean, believe me, there are certain artists that no matter what, I will buy their albums, their records, well, “records.”
I will buy their albums no matter what, just because I’m such a big fan. There are plenty of artists that if I want to hear their latest album, I’ll have Siri play it for me. I’ll play it in Apple Music or whatever. Sometimes, I do end up buying the album afterwards, but sometimes, it’s just a matter of like, oh, okay, I get it. That’s enough. I don’t need to spend $10 or whatever it is, on this. I’m happy that I put it out, and I’ve gotten wonderful feedback, and stuff like that.
It’s wonderful when months later, someone will, out of the blue, just drop a line or call and say, “Oh, my gosh, I was driving from somewhere, et cetera, et cetera, and I put on your album and, oh, my gosh, it’s so great.” They just really appreciate it. It’s wonderful to get that kind of feedback.
Jonathan: It is an epic album. It’s an outstanding album.
Slau: Oh, thank you.
Jonathan: Gee, I remember as a spotty youth, making all those really difficult decisions about what album will I buy with the pocket money I have? Now, for the price of that one album that I had to agonize over, you can subscribe and get 25, 30, whatever it is, million songs.
Slau: Sure. It’s such a different world, and I’m an old fart. I mean, the way kids consume music today, it’s just so different than what we’re used to. That’s fine. It is what it is. I mean, it’s interesting. My wife and I took this young woman out to dinner a couple of weeks ago. We met her at a benefit concert. She’s from Ukraine. Her husband is fighting, and she decided to leave. She’s in New York right now, she’s been here since February and stuff like that. We took her out after this particular– not the same day after this event, but that’s where we met her. Then a couple of weeks later, she got in touch and we took her out for dinner and stuff like that.
We were talking about music and stuff. I’m such a terrible judge of age, but I know that she’s certainly older than 20, but she could be 30. I don’t know, she’s a young woman. She [laughs] shared a bunch of links in an email afterwards, because we were talking about various bands that my wife and I had never heard of, and stuff like that. It’s just so funny, because these are people that just– I would’ve never, I just would never hear of these acts. Then, you look into it a little bit, then you’ll see an interview with this person in the New York Times from a year ago or two years ago, or whatever.
There’s just only so much bandwidth that one has as they get older. If you want to seek out stuff, you can find it. I think a younger generation is paying more attention to what their peers are listening to. I couldn’t give a crap about what my peers are listening to. [chuckles]
Jonathan: Don’t you think it’s interesting though, that it’s clear that there is some music that is just utterly timeless from the era where you and I were growing up?
Jonathan: I really thought that when my kids were growing up, I would be immunized from what happened to my parents, which is, that they basically just got turned off from the music that I was listening to. They just didn’t really mind or care. I thought, “Well, I’m going to keep current and be a cool dad, and listen to what my kids are listening to, so I can bond with them over the musical trends. What actually happened was, my oldest daughters is into Billy Joel and ABBA. My oldest son is into Bowie and Queen. They’re all into the Beatles. We got rock band when they were younger, and we were all jamming along on rock band. Yellow Submarine‘s part of their DNA. They watch that animated movie all the time.
Now, my youngest daughter is into Taylor Swift, who I actually think is a very gifted lyricist and composer. She writes-
Jonathan: -bubble gum stuff, but that’s what sells. She is really, very talented. Other than that, I haven’t had much exposure. My oldest son is now starting to get into a bit of music. He’s an audio engineer, actually. He trained as an audio engineer and did broadcasting school and stuff. He’s been exposed to a bit of new music. He set up a Spotify playlist for me called Music for Dad.
It’s got new music in it. Maybe there’s hope for me.
Slau: That’s great.
Jonathan: It’s interesting that this music, some of that classic stuff from the ’60s and ’70s, not so much the ’80s. The ’80s are a bit more disposable. Some of the ’60s and ’70s stuff is still very much alive in the culture of younger people.
Slau: Yes. Absolutely. Music from before that, will always certainly be around, and there will always be an audience that appreciates traditional jazz and Bebop, and even swing, and going back. Those are decidedly smaller audiences. There was something about what happened in the ’60s and ’70s that was a big bang that changed the trajectory of music. Things like Motown and ’70s funk. Not Prague Rocks so much, not Prague Rock bands, but the bands like Glam Rock, things like you say, Bowie and Queen.
That’s such a tremendous effect. I mean, the Beatles, my goodness, it really is a phenomenon that I just can’t imagine happening again. I’m sure it will at some point, but there’s just something about it that it’s really interesting, and it’s inexplicable, but there is something to it.
Jonathan: Yes. It’s a bizarre freak of nature that those four people happened to get together, with that kind of chemistry. I mean, when you just hear what happened between, Love Me Do, and the Abbey Road album, it was only seven short years.
Slau: Yes. It’s miraculous. I mean, it’s just to me, it’s just inexplicable, but yet it happened. I mean, we’re just so fortunate to have been around after that. [laughs] During and after. I mean, I was just a kid when the Beatles were together, but the echoes of their achievements, they’re still strong today. They are just such giants, whether they’re acknowledged or not as such. They have had an influence and other people influence them, certainly, undoubtedly, but it’s just this perfect storm of things that came together and happened that just extraordinary. I don’t know what it is.
Jonathan: The Abbey Road Dolby Atmos mix is worth a listen by the way. It really is. Now, vinyl sounds better than digital, is what you often hear these days.
Slau: It absolutely does not. [chuckles]
Jonathan: Is that a bunch of Malaki.
Slau: Look, from a technical standpoint, vinyl absolutely does not sound better than a digital recording. Better what? With surface noise and pops and cracks and dust and all?
Jonathan: Exactly, come on. [laughs]
Slau: No, no, absolutely. There’s this fallacy, and I understand why people fall for this completely misguided thinking. They think that digital recording has steps, so that it’s like, it’s not smooth. It’s not an analog. They don’t understand how electronics work. They don’t understand what a plot is, and how it works. So, you have these people that think that digital is not like analog, therefore it can’t be as good. It’s just wrong. It’s just plain wrong.
Jonathan: I like to understand why people think the way they do, because it’s a bunch of bull soup, right? It is. One of the explanations I got, which is the most credible explanation I’ve heard, is that what happens when you’ve played vinyl enough, is that you get a corruption or a wearing of the grooves to an extent that that can raise the high frequencies a little bit, and what people are actually responding to. If they really do think that vinyl sounds better, is slightly more treble. So, they think vinyl is clearer or richer or something like that.
I was talking to my son about this. I’ve got shelf upon shelf of vinyl records, and we were going through them a few years ago. When Richard found my original pressing of Meat Loaf’s Bad Out of Hell, it was like– [chuckles] he let out this Yahoo! and a whoop that I’ve never heard him make before or since. Because he had this original vinyl pressing of Bad Out of Hell, it’s got a bit of crackle by now, because bad out of hell is a well played album. By the way, it needs, not just remastering, but remixing it. It’s a really poor recording.
I said to him, what is it about the vinyl? Now, he’s an audio engineer now, he’s all grown up, and he does admit to me, it’s really about the experience. It’s about the experience of putting on a record and sitting down and letting it play. I totally get that, but it doesn’t sound better.
Slau: Of course, no, no, it absolutely doesn’t. Vinyl has so many physical limitations. There are so many aspects of it that are just compromised. It does not, and it cannot sound as good as digital. That’s just a fact, but I’m not saying that a person couldn’t possibly enjoy a vinyl record as much. They can enjoy it more, because as your son mentioned, and as we know, it’s about the ritual of listening. You were an active participant. From the time that you thumbed through the LPs and you pulled out gingerly, the LP took it out of its sleeve and carefully placed it. It really was a ritual.
Me, I remember as a kid, reading the liner notes, every word of it, and recognizing names from one album and saying, oh, that’s the same guy who did this, or played this, or was the engineer on this, or produced this, whatever. It was a rich experience, and it was like 18 minutes or 20 minutes, maybe. Then you had to decide, oh, I’m going to listen to the other side, you are not sure or whatever. It was a whole world. It was a whole experience. That is just gone. Just nobody listens to music that way anymore.
Jonathan: Well, apparently they do though, because vinyl’s coming back.
Slau: Yes, it is true. I think that’s part of the romance of it. There are certainly record clubs, small independent labels that issue vinyl releases of the artists that they sign, and people love it. The people who love vinyl love vinyl.
Jonathan: There’s no reasoning with them I tell you.
Slau: Well, again, they love the experience. It’s not the sound. As much as they might think it is or they claim it is, no, it is absolutely not about the sound. It isn’t, it’s about the experience and it’s about the, no, I was going to say genre, then I was going to say [unintelligible 01:45:13], it’s really just about the whole world that listening to vinyl entails. It is the experience. It’s not the sound. Look, cassettes have made a resurgence as well, cassettes.
Jonathan: Yes, Richard’s into those as well.
Slau: Right. Who would argue that they sound good? They don’t, they sound like crap, and there are even plugins that emulate cassettes. It’s to the point where it’s absurd, but it is this, again, I think LPs like vinyl, it’s nostalgia. Why not listen to ’78s? [crosstalk]
Jonathan: You’re right about the experience, and the album artwork as well. I remember hearing the story of how the Beatles came to produce that iconic Sergeant Pepper cover. They said when they were going home from the NEMS music store where Brian Epstein was the manager, and they just bought their album that they could afford to buy, all they could do on the bus until they got it home to put it on the turntable, was look at it. They wanted artwork that would keep people occupied, and boy, that album kept people occupied.
One of the things that my son, Richard did, and sadly, he discontinued it, was he did a podcast called Cover Act. It would just be a 15 to 20 minute episode in which he would go into great detail describing and commenting on the artwork of iconic albums. I said to him, you may not realize what you’ve done here, but actually, you’ve created a great podcast for the blind community, because many of us missed out on that. He said, yes, I really hadn’t thought about that, but that’s right. It was amazing listening to some of his very detailed descriptions and commentary on some iconic album covers.
Slau: Wow. That’s fascinating, and the album covers, it really was a big part of the album. It was the visual representation. Now, everybody has an avatar or an icon, some graphic element that’s associated with their brand or whatever. There is cover art, of course, for an iTunes song or whatever, but it’s just not the same. It’s not 12 by 12. You’re not looking at it in a large format. There’s often probably little attention paid to some of the cover art, but there were– Back in the day, I remember a book that was published. It was just a photo book of all of the blue note record covers. It wasn’t about the music at all.
Of course, you have all these famous artists whose album covers are in these books, but it wasn’t about the music. It was about the art that was involved. The photography of these album covers and the album design. It was a big part of music, the music industry back in the day. These days, not so much, but of course there are other things that have replaced it. Now, you have videos, you have YouTube videos, you have all kinds of other things that are visually rich in nature. There’s something about a still photograph that almost says more, it being a still, rather than a video clip. There’s something, I don’t know, enigmatic about it.
Jonathan: Just before we wrap, because I’m amazed how long we’ve been talking. This has been so much fun. I did want to comment on the fact that you very kindly closed in a spectacular way. The, we’re with you benefit concert for Ukraine, with the contribution that you submitted. You’ve mentioned during this interview, your Ukrainian dissent. This must be a very difficult time for Ukrainian communities everywhere. How are you responding to that?
Slau: Well, yes, it’s been very difficult. Gosh, you take it a day at a time. When the war started, of course, it was extremely difficult of course, but I wouldn’t be out of line to say that look, a lot of people had no idea what was going to happen. Of course, there are probably those, Putin himself, and those around him, that certainly thought that Ukraine was going to just fold in a matter of 48 hours, a couple of days, whatever. Fortunately, they resisted, which now, in retrospect, I can’t say that I expected anything. I didn’t expect a war. If you asked me back then, I would’ve had no idea what would happen. The fact that Ukraine has resisted and fought back, is extraordinary. It’s horrible in terms of the loss of life and stuff like that, and lives uprooted. I’m afraid that as the war goes on, and who knows what’s going to happen, who knows how long it’s going to last, there certainly will be public fatigue over it. Just people will stop paying attention to it.
Jonathan: You already see it dropping down the news cycle, don’t you?
Slau: Oh, sure, but there are so many other things happening. That’s natural, I think. I don’t blame the media or anything like that.
Jonathan: It’s just the nature of news, I think, isn’t it?
Slau: It’s just the nature of it and stuff. In Europe, it’s certainly much more of a story, because it’s right there in their backyard. I have family in Ukraine, although they’re further in the Western part, I do have a large number of colleagues in Kyiv, and further east, but mostly in Kyiv, that I’ve worked with for a couple of decades. Throughout all of this, I think to myself, my goodness. At any moment, there could be a hydrogen bomb or a nuclear bomb on Kyiv. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen, but I would not put it past Putin. I don’t know what to think, and I try not to think about these things, and I follow the news at other outlets.
Obviously, the media at large isn’t covering it so much, but I stay in touch with people in Ukraine. I watch Ukrainian news sources, newspaper print, and stuff that, stuff that’s available online. I’m just standing by to see what happens. I have been taking part in fundraising concerts. In fact, my ex-wife and I, we put out several Ukrainian language albums, back in the ’80s and ’90s. We performed in Ukraine a few times on television and in the first official Ukrainian popular music festival back in 1989, and we won the favorite international band award. I can’t remember what the– it’s hard to translate what that actual “award” was, but we were laureates of this festival.
We performed in Eastern part two years later at the same festival, but became a tradition, every other year, they would have this same festival, now like a Lala Peluza, if you will, or whatever, but it would travel through different cities in Ukraine. We put out our last recording in the late ’90s, and we split up around that time and stuff. We’ve decided to get together and do a reunite for a benefit that’ll take place in the tri-state area in September. This whole fatigue thing concerns me a little bit, but the thing is, the Ukrainian community here will not get fatigued.
Whatever it takes to raise funds, humanitarian efforts, sending food, supply, medicine, it’s just something that the community will continue to do. We decided that we’ll contribute doing what we do as a team, doing what we do best or what we did best, and just do it again. Hey, maybe we’ll do it in Ukraine as well when this is over, hopefully. I’ll tell you what, Jonathan, nobody knows what the future holds, but what I know, and what others have said as well, Putin is not forever. He’ll be gone, and Ukraine will outlive him. I think it’s a matter of enduring this fighting, doing what we can to resist and fight back. I think that ultimately, Ukraine will emerge victorious. It’s a tragedy, but I think ultimately, it will have a positive result, all things told.
Jonathan: It’s wonderful that the two of you are going to be doing that. I have enjoyed this time so much, and I really appreciate you giving me so much of it. The critical thing, if people would like to grab these Pro Tools tutorials, and learn more about it, where do people go to do that?
Slau: They would go to PT access. ptaccess.github.io.
Jonathan: That’s easy enough. We will put a link to that in the show note. ptaccess.github.io. I’ll grab it myself and take a listen. Thank you so much for all you do. You’re a legend.
Slau: Thank you, Jonathan.
Jonathan: It’s really great to be talking with you. I appreciate it.
Slau: Very kind words, thank you so much, Jonathan. I appreciate you giving me the time to share this information with your listeners. Thank you so much.
Jonathan: I’d Love to hear from you. If you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d rather call in, use the listener nine number in the United States, 864-606-6736.
[01:55:54] [END OF AUDIO]