The Duderstadt Center has something no other library on campus can offer. Tucked behind tables full of engineering students and a small army of computers, some of the most technologically advanced recording studios in the world are available for students to capture the music they want to create. Though the studios’ many buttons and gadgets are intimidating to the untrained eye, students can easily obtain certification through a few courses the library offers. When they’re finished with their training, they can freely enter these spaces.

Each studio is furbished with hardwood floors, and oddly shaped boxes are strewn on the walls and ceiling for the proper acoustics, though they might as well be surreal art pieces. Complicated yet slick, the consoles look like pieces from “Star Trek.” At times, the studio almost seems luxuriously sci-fi.

If students want their sound to be compared to the work of others, and maybe even be rewarded for their creativity, they can enter a competition held by the University’s record label, Block M Records, whether they attend the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, or another school or college at the ‘U.’

As with most institutions invested in technology, Block M Records and the Duderstadt recording studios are changing with the times and fine-tuning their methods to stay at the top of their game.

As Senior Public Services Manager Glenda Radine said of the studios, “Technology is constantly changing. We try to stay as up-to-date, if not ahead of the curve, on technology.”

For musicians on campus, the technology in the Duderstadt is not something to be taken for granted. There are very few places that freely offer world-class studios like the ones found in this colossal library. Now, that may be just good-ol’ fashioned Michigan boasting, but to step inside the actual studios and witness them for yourself — whoa.

Keeping up with the world of recording

Since their construction, the studios have undergone constant renovation. As a current staff member, Audio Resources Media Consultant Rishi Daftuar works in these studios every day and knows every nook and cranny. And as a recent ‘U’ alum, he has had the pleasure of watching his old workspace transform and expand.

According to Radine, the studios were rebuilt this summer, in large part by students.

“It was a really great experience for me because I started that project as a student then I transitioned to staff,” Daftuar said. “It was a really good perspective on how the different roles played together and what it takes to build studios from scratch.”

The Duderstadt houses two different electronic music studios. The first, known as EMS A, is generally used for smaller projects such as composition and mixing to a video. To accommodate these projects, there’s a single 46-inch television centrally placed above two computer monitors so students can see what they’re doing. While it is the smallest studio the Duderstadt offers, it’s capable of handling big projects. Like the other studios in Duderstadt, its equipment merely has a different focus.

“You can do everything else (in EMS A),” Daftuar said. “You can certainly do all that other stuff in here — audio, record bands, classical, mixing. But each room has a slightly stronger focus with the way the room is laid out.”

The other studio, EMS B, has more space, a larger and more complex console, and two monitors instead of one. It’s also the first studio in the world to house an 8.0 sound system. Basically, EMS B is an expansion of EMS A, but it has, according to Daftuar, “a stronger focus on composition as well as sound editing and mixing.” It’s also connected to EMS A, so users can easily use both rooms’ strengths as needed.

“You can use multiple rooms at the same time,” Daftuar said. “You’re able to really branch out. If your project involves doing things audio and video in different rooms, you can connect the rooms together.”

The rooms were designed with a lot of flexibility, allowing users to ferry projects between rooms and eliminating concerns about space limitation and bleed-in. With the inclusion of the newly renovated Audio Studio, which is composed of five separate rooms — the control room, main tracking room, two isolation booths and an amp room — space hardly seems to be a problem.

“We offer basically everything you need to do high-quality work,” Daftuar said. “We provide you with a whole array of microphones, cables, adaptors, turnarounds, headphones, pup filters, extension cords — everything you need to do a recording.”

Learning the art of audio

Recording in one of those studios — surrounded by controls, knobs and cords — can be daunting for someone who knows nothing about its technicalities or music in general. Luckily, the Duderstadt offers a few courses to students.

Before a student sets foot in a studio, they must go through a training process. They begin with DMC 101, a course which grants access to the multimedia workrooms and the V-room. Students can continue to DMC 201, which permits students to use EMS A, then DMC 202, which certifies them for EMS B, and finally, DMC 301, which is for the Audio Studio.

According to Peter Raymond, a fifth-year senior in the School of MT&D and the College of Engineering who teaches DMC 101 and 201, the best part about the classes is that they’re simple and quick — the longest one will only occupy three evenings.

“They’re just meant to give you the background that you need to use the room comfortably. A couple of them have a ‘test’ at the end, but it’s not designed to be a tricky test,” Raymond said.

This means that no prior experience is needed. By offering a hands-on approach, the courses are meant to make students feel at ease in the studio and give them the knowledge necessary to at least do the basics. And when you’re finished with the classes, all you have to do is book a time slot and the space is yours.

“I have been to other colleges, other trade schools that have similar recording programs, and they don’t have the same flexibility for their people,” Raymond said. “Here, the studios are available 24/7, as long as the Duderstadt is open. They have a lot of trust in the users here. They understand that it’s something that the students really enjoy doing and really want to work on.”

Fortunately for all those not majoring in music, there is no such thing as a prerequisite for this course. In fact, the majority of his students are non-music students.

And let’s say you do record a song. What then?

Drop the beat

As an Associate Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation, Michael Gould has 14 years of experience and can attest to the possibilities the University can offer.

“We offer you great faculty, we offer you great resources,” Gould explained. “Hopefully, you’ll have some kind of creative spark to put those things together. So really, it’s up to the students to find these opportunities, but they’re here. People are waiting for you to create things.”

“For the students who are coming here today, if you can dream it up, you can do it here at Michigan,” Gould added. “We have so many resources available to students to create great art. And that’s the bottom line.”

For students who wish to pursue their interest in music, the University’s record label, Block M Records, offers an outlet through which they can gain exposure. While the label has only used students as interns and primarily serves and records faculty members, it also holds an annual musical competition called New Music on the Block. Every year, students are invited to send in three original compositions to Block M Records. Currently the label’s legal support is provided by Ron Torrella, who himself is a well-qualified pianist.

“We want to emphasize that U of M has a lot of talented musicians out there. Not all of them are in the School of Music,” Torrella said. “We have quite a few coming from the business college and some coming from LSA. So it’s an opportunity for students at the University to show their musical stuff.”

After student compositions are submitted to New Music on the Block, they’re put onto a CD and sent out to producers across the country who rate their work. When all the compositions’ scores have been tallied, the top four scores are declared the winners and their composers are awarded $50. Perhaps the better prize is that the winners’ compositions are compressed onto an album distributed through iTunes.

But the label is young and has encountered a few problems along the way. As such, it’s being reorganized into a more stable program.

“The problem we were running into was that students couldn’t devote the amount of time necessary, and they couldn’t get things done in a timely fashion a lot of times,” Torrella said. “So, production got held because students had finals or a paper due or whatever. Classwork always takes precedence over label work.”

“The idea is to sort of step back and reorganize and look at how things operated in the past and try to improve how we did things. It’s all moving forward. I don’t think Block M is going away anytime soon,” he added.

Yet, despite these hard economic times and the natural cynicism that can affect any student potentially pursuing a career in the arts, Gould believes no amount of tuition debt should intimidate anyone from recording.

“I say go for it,” Gould said. “I want everyone to be successful. Is everybody going to be successful? No way. That’s reality. But we’re trying to set them up as best we can to be a successful person and artist.”

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