Tuesday, July 21, 2009

William Shatner Is Like Poetry

Performers deal with many different kinds of venues, places to perform. These days, thanks to what’s called viral marketing sometimes it is hard to tell what is a performance and what is a person just getting through the day.

But typically a performance happens on a stage with a microphone.

A cool venue, a cool place to perform, will employ a professional person called a sound man who is in charge of making sure that the microphone is set up and adjusted correctly.

A good sound man doesn’t set up a microphone and then ask the performer to adjust his or her performance to the way the microphone is set up. A good sound man will set up a microphone based on the way each individual performs. If more than one performer will be using the same microphone, a good sound man will create a profile for each performer and change the pre-amps and amps and equalizers and other levels to best capture each performer. The profile, the different settings, in the old days used to get scribbled in marker on strips of masking tape stuck on the equipment next to the faders and knobs. Nowadays profiles are stored in computers and a sound man just clicks on a list to reset all the variables in a sound system for each performer.

The sound man sets up a profile for a performer at what’s called a sound check. Sometime before an actual performance there will be what’s called a tech rehearsal where people like the sound man will try to get conditions to duplicate what they’ll be like for an audience and then set up all their equipment for each performer to match those conditions.

Some performers like sound checks, some performers don’t. Some performers are good at sound checks and working with technical people, some performers make life difficult for technical people. Sometimes a tech rehearsal is a boring, even difficult session, sometimes it’s more entertaining than the real performance.

The last time a sound man needed to get a level for my voice, I positioned myself a comfortable distance from the microphone, took what entertainment people sometimes call a William Shatner pause, and said, “The fog comes on little cat feet.”

Then I stopped and waited. Essentially I took another William Shatner pause.

The sound man said, “A little more please.”

I started again, said slowly, “The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits, looking, over harbor and city, on silent haunches, and then moves on.”

I stopped. The sound man said, “Got it. Thank you.”

As I was walking off stage one of the technical people smiled at me and said, “Hey, Carl Sandburg is good for something.”

Poetry, like William Shatner, always makes people smile. If used appropriately.

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