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“Power is Truth”

-Raekwon, 1999

Almost ten years ago I became certified in audio engineering and took the first job I could find. I was hired quickly and easily at a place in Bethesda, Maryland called Potomac Talking Books. The company recorded narrated books and magazines for the Library of Congress. I enjoyed written materials and loved anything to do with tape  and sound so the job was a great placement for me. My duties were to sit outside the recording booth (a metal pod that was just large enough to hold a voice actor and a book), monitor their narration and read along a copy of the material, listening for mistakes. When mistakes were made, I’d rewind the reel-to-reel recorder in front of me to the sentence before the mistake, and punch in (hit record at a precise moment). A light would go on when the recording began and the narrator would expertly begin reading with matched tone again. I became an expert at rewindstopplayrecording. It was automatic. Instinctual. I took great pride in this ability.

But I’m not good at reading and listening

After the recording was complete, the stack of (sometimes a dozen or more) reels were sent into the QC department where they were pored over by a team of glassed-nosed übernerds for pronunciation, background noise, poor punch-ins, and mistakes that were overlooked.

I overlooked a lot of mistakes.

As good as I was at instinctually working the tape machine I was really bad at this job. QC would make a list of the mistakes that had to be corrected in re-recording sessions and the actors would make the corrections at the beginning of their next scheduled session. The actors hated re-recordings because they didn’t get paid the same as the initial recordings ($50 per 88 minute side). The actors started hating me, their broken failsafe. A month later I left the job and started working behind a desk at an insurance company.

I told you that to tell you this

While working there I met an actor named Mark Ashby who was an absolute narration prodigy. He would do an 88 minute side in 90 minutes. In essence, he’d sit down in the studio and make more than anyone else in the place. He was fantastic and efficient. As a result he was asked to read a lot of different materials. Including material that was wholly inappropriate for his voice. Like Ebony magazine featuring an interview with rapper Raekwon.

I heard about this recording and, during my lunch break and without permission, went into the tape library, grabbed the tape, spooled it up and bussed it out to my Minidisc recorder. I stole government property between mouthfuls of Boston Market. I was never caught and I think the statute of limitations has expired so, without further ado, please enjoy one of the gems of my iTunes Library: Mark Ashby reads Raekwon.

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