Larry Potter and the Producer's Stone

Larry's parents had never told him he was a producer, but events had always hinted at it. There was the time a seven-year-old Larry hung a single microphone

Larry's parents had never told him he was a producer, but events had always hinted at it. There was the time a seven-year-old Larry hung a single microphone to tape himself and his brother playing music together-and afterwards played back a lush, wide stereo recording. Thus, it really was not a surprise when Larry received a singing telegram (ever heard of those?) informing him-in surround, of course-that he had been accepted by the EarWigs Academy for Sonic Wizardry.

At EarWigs, Larry started to learn that there was more to producing an album or a soundtrack than sipping froufrou tropical drinks with little umbrellas in them while telling the singer, "Wow, that's really great. Maybe we should try one more for safety," or deciding whether the third tambourine overdub should come down a smidge in the mix.

Fortunately, Larry was learning from the best: Professor HiPass Rumblefloor. Professor Rumblefloor instructed Larry in the myriad aspects that, along with creativity, mark a professional production: planning, logistics, and budgeting. Some lessons were hard to learn, such as the rough fact that sometimes you have to just crank things out, declare them done, and move on. Other things seemed to come easily, like picking the take with the most impact and putting artists at ease when they were uncertain whether it sounded good when, in actuality, it sounded great.

One day, after conjuring a weak Telecaster rhythm track into a swirling, shining guitar hook, Larry said to Professor Rumblefloor, "Now I understand all the things you've been teaching me. Is this what they did to make Sergeant Pepper's or Dark Side of the Moon?"

Rumblefloor chuckled deeply and infinitely wisely, then replied, "Well, yes, but they had a little more than that working for them." "Oh?" queried Larry. "What do you mean? What else did they have?" "I guess you're old enough now for me to tell you about the Producer's Stone." A chill ran up and down Larry's guitar neck as he squeaked, "The Producer's Stone? What is that?"

Rumblefloor sighed long and hard, but infinitely wisely, and explained, "Many people produce a couple of projects and call themselves producers. Some of them are, and all of them can claim to have produced something, regardless of how well or badly it turned out." He finished this last sentence in a melancholy, yet somehow infinitely patronizing, tone.

"There are so many different jobs that a producer may be called upon to do that no one could hope to learn them all. In spite of that, magnificent albums have been produced that far exceed the capabilities of the equipment and, sometimes, of the people that made them! This is the work of the Producer's Stone. It cannot bring you things you don't already have, but it will enable you to turn your inspiration into a gold album, even if your tracks are less than perfect. The Stone also grants you the Equalizer of Life, which allows you to maintain your focus and keep an ongoing perspective on the job at hand when technical or personal demons are crawling out of the woodwork to distract you. Yes, the Producer's Stone is great and powerful-in the right hands."

"And in the wrong hands?" Larry whispered, a shudder passing through his faders. "Remember all those small-label albums that came in a big wave six months after ADATs first hit?" the professor inquired.

Larry's head swam nauseatingly, yet infinitely wisely, at the idea. "So where is the Producer's Stone now?" he asked. Rumblefloor looked at Larry for a long time before saying anything. Finally, he reached one of his long, craggy fingers to his forehead and started slowly scratching. Without taking his eyes from Larry's, the powerful professor began to murmur an incantation: "Did Froom send it back that last time? Or does Dan Lanois have it again? Darn, I hate it when this happens!"