Book Beat

Make Mine Music

No, not the 1946 Disney movie — the recently released book by engineer extraordinaire Bruce Swedien. The man from Minneapolis has written his autobiography (so far); detailing his exploits recording the likes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughan, Quincy Jones, J-Lo, Herbie Hancock and, of course, Michael Jackson. (And let’s not forget David Hasslehoff. . . .) There’s special emphasis on his long-standing working relationship with Quincy Jones, his mentoring years with the legendary Bill Putnam, and cool stuff on how Thriller came together.

But Make Mine Music is more than just Bruce reminiscing for 288 pages about days gone by — the man is still on the cutting edge of the art and craft. The book features sections on microphones and microphone technique, stereo recording, how Michael Jackson’s vocals are tracked (using Swedien’s custom drum riser), mixing, surround sound, his trademark “Acusonic Recording Process” . . . there’s even interviews by Bruce with Robert Moog and Roger Linn.

Top 10 Quotes from Make Mine Music:

1. “Don’t ever underestimate the Norwegians!”

2. “Save your ears — we only get two!”

3. “I will always sacrifice a technical value for a production value.” (emphasis original)

4. “In the music that I am normally involved in, I have always felt that compression and limiting diminish the drama of sound-source transients in recorded music.”

5. “I think it’s when the technical covers the primitive that we lose the passion of music.”

6. “[Microphones] are the voodoo, the magic wand, the secret weapon of the music-recording engineer’s or producer’s trade and craft.”

7. “I like to think of my stereo sound-field as a ‘sonic sculpture.’”

8. “It takes Quincy [Jones] 45 minutes to make a chicken sandwich.”

9. “I always record with three distinct sets of monitor speakers to evaluate the music.”

10. “I don’t think anyone can intelligently discuss the technical substance of music recording without considering the musical side of the topic, as well.”