On becoming a “documentarian”

10 Dec

So how does one become a “documentarian” anyway?  Well, like most things, there’s a bit of nature, a bit of nurture, and in my case, some great parents!

My mom had a pretty cool gig in the fifties, she was the secretary to the head of the Technicolor department at Kodak.  While secretaries didn’t make the biggest paychecks back then, there were some perks.  One was that the company gave her a nice Kodak 35mm camera.  They’d also give her & the other staffers free rolls of new test emulsions (ektachrome & others) to “shoot over the weekend” so they could evaluate their pictures on Monday.  Free film & processing, what a deal!   As a result, we have a lot of cool family photos.  Thanks Kodak.  My mom gave me the Kodak at the Grand Canyon in 1977 and when I got the photos back, I was in awe.  The consummate mother, she had one shot enlarged and framed & hung it in the family room, I was “published.”  Thanks mom.

The earliest memories of loving music I have are some Aaron Copland records that my father enjoyed playing really loud (after a long day at work at the Ventura County Mental Health Department.)  I believe I was about 2 years old at the time & I decided that loud orchestral music was pretty darn cool!  Dad was a bit of a Hi Fi stereo nut (a common 50s & 60s pursuit for many) and had a fairly nice hi-fi ‘rig’.  A Fischer tube tuner, his home assembled Dynakit amplifier, and the loud JBL 12″ speakers with the metal bullet tweeters.  Wondering what a bullet tweeter looks like?  Well here you go:

Dad was always playing one cool record or another throughout my formative years and as a result, I fell in love with music, all types.

The final piece of the documentarian came into place at a friend’s basement, the Schwarz residence.  Their father, John “Little Man” Schwarz was a WWII vet, musician and director of the Maumee Ohio High School choir.

In the summer of 1977 we found the reel-to-reel tape machine he used to record their performances in a corner of the basement.  We learned that it had an awesome capability, sound on sound.  Basically this allows you in real time to layer parts over one another to create a massive soup of sounds, all playing at the same time.  We spent many an afternoon playing with the recorder, making ridiculous explosion collages, like we were the foley artists scoring The Bridge Over River Kwai (1957).  We were recording whatever we could find that might make an interesting sound.  This recording stuff was fun, I was hooked for life.

The groundwork was laid, all before the age of 11.

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