This semester I was able to do something that, if you asked me a year ago, I would have never given a thought to. My whole studying abroad experience came on a huge whim. A friend of mine had applied and told me I should do the same. I thought about it for a bit and then came to the conclusion that I should just apply, mainly because the application process was so easy. I applied and a few months later I got in. At that point I realized that I was gearing up to spend a semester in Athens. That was also the point in which my friend informed me that he would not be going to Greece and instead would drop out from Berklee all together. But that is an entirely different story.
In a way it made the situation better for me. Something everyone needs- time and space to be with their own thoughts. There is no better way to get away from it all than fly thousands of miles away. For the record, it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. As an upper semester music production and engineering student I was having doubts that I would be able to graduate on time. One of the ways I was able to make it possible was by fulfilling at least one MP&E credit in Greece. The only class that fits the description would be a credited internship. So I started asking around if it could be possible. It really worked out rather smoothly.
Upon arriving in Greece I talked with the head of the Nakas school who is one of the kindest gentleman I have ever met. He helped me locate a studio and went so far as to take me there the first time so I could get my bearings.
Now that you have the back story I can get into the more interesting part….My experiences there have really got my mind spinning on numerous topics, from the entire music industry to fine art.
I had no clue what to expect from a Greek studio. The only thing I have heard about is the Greek mentality in general. It seems to consists of a lethargic approach to life (or as I have also heard many times, “the Greeks like to enjoy life to the fullest”). I came to realize this meant the word “early” doesn’t come up much and “on time” in general means when ever people get around to it. This doesn’t really apply to the engineers because in order to stay afloat in Greece’s rather depressing music industry, you need to be ready to take any and every job that comes your way. However, I still feel a more laid back vibe when I compare it to the way a studio is run in the United States.
The studio I intern at is small- one live room that fits a drum kit and a room for a vocalist as well as a separate small space for a guitar amplifier. I must say that the people here are very kind. There are no making runs for these studios, or cleaning the one (very tiny) bathroom. My days consist of hanging in the control room, protools operation, and occasionally changing out a mic or two. The first session I did was with a Greek rock group. We tracked drums and bass while using scratch vocals and electric guitar. Just your run of the mill mediocre rock band.
The second session however, was an eye opener because when I say that studios here need to take any job they can get, I mean it! the session was for a music school in the area that had hired the studio to overdub vocals on given tracks with different lyrics to promote the school. OK, so far so good… but the plot thickens: The first track was Lady GaGa’s Bad Romance. The engineer took an instrumental version of the track from the first thing he searched on YouTube (YOUTUBE!) and imported it into protools. This would act as the backing track for the singer to sing greek lyrics about going to the music school. It’s not that it doesn’t happen in the States, but I have never heard of taking a track from YouTube for this purpose.
The rest of the day was spent recording the same vocalist do takes over techno inspired Christmas tracks (in Greek of course). “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”, “Jingle Bells” , “Silent Night” (or should I say Ρούντολφ το Red Nosed Τάρανδος, Καμπάνες Jingle, Silent Night) as well as three other Greek traditional Christmas songs. This in combination with a flat singer made for a very interesting session to say the least. I can now say that I took part in the making of a (insert adjective here) Greek Christmas Album. There are some benefits to observing this studio. It forced me to do some serious reflecting on the industry in the States.
Most everyone we recorded was done in the same fashion, with the same mics, in the same positions. When I inquired about this I was told that when people in Greece come to the studio they are expecting the same sound they heard before, so they almost never change the mic set up in order to please the client. Luckily, there is an oasis in the form of an engineer who cares a great deal. So while we are physically recording, we have numerous discussions about different micing techniques and share our ideas. He tells me that his dream would be to engineer in America. I smile and feel pride for our booming industry. For as much as people gripe about the pitfalls and foibles of our convoluted and inflated music scene, there is something to be said for the incredible amount of opportunity it creates. If you can manage to sift through some of the static that clouds the surface you will find your niche in a place that is unparalleled in the world. Being in the studio in Greece has made me see this very clearly.
Adam Moskowitz is currently a MP&E major interning at the Philippos Nakas Conservatory in Athens, Greece. Adam hopes to combine his experience in classical music with his passion for fine photography, especially landscape, to achieve the level of intensity generated in music within the spacial art form of photography. You can learn more about Adam and his work at www.amoskowitz.com.
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