THE EVENT HORIZON – “SYNCLAVIER, MUSIC AND MICHAEL JACKSON” – PART 1

Sources: Headphone Guru – By Chris Currell | Thrillergirl | Edited By – All Things Michael

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Many people are interested in my work with Michael Jackson and have requested that I share some of my experiences. I thought about this and decided to talk a bit about my music interaction with Michael Jackson. {…}

In 1983, sampling and a new keyboard were added to my system. For the next two years, I was doing various sessions with the Synclavier. I had branched off on my own as a producer and Synclavier programmer. It was in the summer of 1985 that I got a call from Michael Jackson. He had heard about me from the New England Digital company. Michael had a huge Synclavier system and he asked me if I would teach him how to use it. Apparently he had had many programmers operating his Synclavier but not being musicians, Michael couldn’t relate to them so he decided to learn it himself. I put together a nice learning program and schedule for Michael to learn the Synclavier. We finally scheduled a time where we could meet and begin my teaching. I went to his personal studio at his house on a Sunday morning. He introduced himself and was very hospitable and polite. I liked him right away. We sat down in front of the Synclavier and began his first lesson.

He told me “I don’t know anything about computers.” I said “no problem, first, you insert this floppy disk.” He said “time out” and said he did not know what a floppy disk was. I realized Michael barely knew how to operate a cassette recorder! His hands on with technology was very limited! So I got more simple and we continued. After three hours, I had taught Michael how to power up and boot up the Synclavier, call up his sound library and showed him how to call a sound down to the keyboard for him to play.

He said “That’s all I can take for today, can you come back tomorrow for a session?” I said “sure!” Little did I know that this would be the beginning of the most interesting four years of my life!

I came back the next day and we worked on one of Michael’s songs. He wanted me to come back everyday. He said to me “I want you to make unusual sounds.” I said “sure, no problem!” I like doing that all the time anyway! This was not work, this was fun! I began to think…if I want to continue to be here, I have to expand my job. I had realized that by having so many programmers and musicians using the Synclavier in the past, his sound library was in chaos. I thought that no matter if it is me or someone else that uses Michael’s Synclavier, the sound library had to be in some logical order that can be accessed easily. There were thousands and thousands of sounds on hard disks and computer storage tapes everywhere and none of them were organized in any way! I presented to Michael the problem and that I could organize his library for him. He said “sure!” So I began working longer hours. I was at his studio from about 10:00 am to about 1:00 am every day. This job ended up taking me six months, seventeen hours a day seven days a week! The year was 1986.

In the meantime, I was continuing to make “unusual sounds.” Unusual sounds are fun but they have no real meaning unless they are in some kind of context, so I would create grooves and various musical pieces that would demonstrate the possible uses for the sounds I was creating. When I was finished, I would run them off on a cassette tape and slide it under his bedroom door every night before I would go home. Many times, he would call my house at 2:00 am and would be all excited about some sounds or groove. I could hear the tape I had made blasting in the background! Michael likes to listen to music LOUD!

After a few weeks of working closely together, we both realized that our ability to communicate together was a bit unique. We just both understood each other about musical ideas and grooves. We noticed that words were used less often and we just “knew” what we were feeling or thinking. It quickly got to the point where Michael would say to me “make me a sound that makes me do this”…and he would do a dance move. I got it right away…and I could make him the sound that he was feeling. I have never worked with anyone else where we had this kind of musical rapport.

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After about six months working with Michael everyday on various songs, sound design and library work, I got the word that Michael was soon to start his next album with Quincy Jones. We had lots of songs demoed. I was wondering if I was going to be working with Michael and Quincy or if my fun job would finally close.

One day, I was working in Michael’s studio when his secretary came in and announced to me and the engineer that Michael was having guests that evening and we could all go home at 5:00 pm. I thought ok cool. I worked for a few hours and as it was near 5:00, Michael’s secretary came in and said that Michael said I can stay. I really did not think much of it. Everyone left and I was alone making music on the Synclavier. It was dark outside when I heard voices of people entering the studio in the next room. Suddenly the door opened and in walked Michael with Diana Ross and an entourage of people. I was very surprised! Michael was giving Diana a tour of his studio. He then introduced me to Diana and told her what I did and showed her the Synclavier. Clearly he was showing off! Then he continued the tour and they walked out. This kind of experience would become normal over the next four years.

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I was working one afternoon when Michael told me that he was going to start the new album very soon and that Bruce Sweden, his engineer for the Thriller album, was coming for a visit. Bruce was going to be the engineer for the new album so he was visiting Michael on a kind of combined social PR visit. Bruce came in the studio and was very friendly. Michael introduced me and told him what I did. Bruce acknowledged but was very focused on what he wanted to convey to Michael. He had just finished the sound track for a movie called “Running Scared” starring Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal. Bruce said that this was the first time he had done a whole project digitally and it sounded great! He was telling Michael all the details. Bruce then said that it was also the first time he had worked with the Synclavier and how amazing it was to be able to create sounds so fast and move tracks easily, etc. He said that the Synclavier operator was really good and a very nice person and that they had become friends. I knew who most of the Synclavier operators were, but not all personally. I knew the operator Bruce was talking about by name only.

I thought, wow, Bruce is promoting his Synclavier guy. It looks like I will be out of a job soon. I was a bit depressed but I had a good time the past six months and it had been a great experience. I was pretty sure I would not be working on the new album.

Everyone in Michael’s camp knew in a week, all the work at Michael’s studio would shift to WestLake Studios where the new album would be recorded. No one said anything to me. I did not know what would become of me. I just kept working as usual. Then the day before the work was to begin at Westlake, Michael’s secretary came in the studio and said to me that Michael wanted me to work on the album and to move the Synclavier to Westlake. Wow! Michael wanted me to work on the album! I was in! To say the least, I was thrilled!

Next month, I will continue my Synclavier and Michael Jackson story:
The making of the “Bad” album and the “Bad” world tour.

See you next month here at the Event Horizon!

You can check out my various activities at these links:
http://transformation.ishwish.net
http://currelleffect.ishwish.net
http://www.ishwish.net
http://www.audiocybernetics.com
http://ishwish.blog131.fc2.com
http://magnatune.com/artists/ishwish
http://www.plenumvoid.com

Or…just type my name Christopher Currell into your browser.

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8 thoughts on “THE EVENT HORIZON – “SYNCLAVIER, MUSIC AND MICHAEL JACKSON” – PART 1

  1. Cutie Pie: I am not sure that the link to the entire article is working on this one?

    On that note, I wanted to bring your attention to something that DBAnderson, a journalist who has written some very supportive things about Michael, said recently to an MJ advocate:
    I can tell you from personal experience that fan sites are the number one reason why stories you appreciate aren’t widely distributed.
    “The fan sites copy and paste entire articles onto their own sites, depriving the stories of traffic. And it’s the traffic that determines their visibility in search results. Another problem – besides the obvious stealing of content that is not their own – is that this creates multiple copies of the same article – which signals the search engines that the content is spam, and sinks it.
    Conversely, they never make copies of the tabloid stories, thus ensuring those do not suffer the same problems. It’s very counter productive.”
    Have you considered this issue and whether it might be best to use only a very short extract along with a link? I am guessing that most readers of this blog will not click on the link most of the time because content is placed right here for them. This deprives these writers of traffic and perhaps us of more positive articles about MJ.
    Just a thought, and with all due respect, because I do love your blog site. Thank you.

    • Good Day,

      I forgot to add the link to the story, but it is there now. You have brought up a very loaded topic. I know about Ms. Anderson. We follow each other on Twitter. I think that she is a very gifted writer and I think she deserves a lot of credit for opening the doors of discussion regarding the political relevancy of MJ’s music. I also know the amount of frustration that she went through with the fan sites posting her article and she has every right to defend her work and livelihood. I got so excited and posted both her articles because at the time, I thought that they were too brilliant to cut (I’ll get to that point later). She politely asked me to shorten them and I did as she asked and we moved on with no problem.

      Just so you know, I sometimes ask permission of authors to post certain articles. I used to write at the top of the article that I posting by permission, but I stopped doing that when I saw that other sites did not do the same. There are many articles that I have not posted because I didn’t get a response for permission to post. When I found Toni Bowers Dancing with Michael article last week, I didn’t post it because I didn’t ask for her permission. It was too good to be chopped up. Instead, I shared it with Ms. Anderson and she flipped out and shared with the rest of the fan community. I believe that helped it get more attention because she is well-liked by most fans. I did post the Bower article as a side widget of my blog which takes you to directly to the original article. I believe in giving credit to the source of each article I post. Not all writers are paid like Ms. Anderson, but they have every right to protect how their work is being used.

      In the four plus years that I have been an administrator, I have only been asked three times to take something down totally. I have gotten notes of appreciation from authors for sharing their articles or they will ask me to add more information. The two articles that I posted on yesterday appear to be re-posted from the main source.. I did indicate that there was more to read by clicking on the link.

      With all that being said, I would like to get to the other side of this. There is another problem that may come to a head in the fan community in the future. MJ fan sites seem to be slowly dying out. I can’t speak for other sites, but I can see in my stats that people do click on the links to the original articles so they can share them directly on Twitter. People don’t rely on fan sites as much as they used to. MJ fans are savvy enough to find the news and post it on social media where it will spread in a nano second. But what will happen to all of these great articles in the future if the original website closes or the original article is taken down all together? I found that to be the case for a lot articles that I have read before. When I go back to look for them in my saved favorites or directly online, they are no longer there. The only place I can find them is on a fan site because they copied it. With that thought in mind, it is sometimes hard for me to decide exactly where to shorten an article so it will still make sense to the reader in the event the link to the article is ever taken down.

      I often edit some articles because they may contain some shade or references to Michael that I don’t want to post. I don’t know if you have ever went through the links that I have posted on the side of my blog, but they are direct links to other sites and videos. I have to occasionally go through them to see if they still work. I was very surprised to see that many MJ fan site are gone. Michael has a very large fan community, but it has been weakened as far as unity is concerned, because of much fighting and differences of opinion. Being a fan in the post 2009 era is now a political one, at least I think so. It’s very hard to get everyone on the same page because so many groups are going against each other. I stay away from the fights because I know that Michael loved and respected his fans and I don’t think he would like to see fighting. That’s why I don’t argue with fans, even when they are ugly to me, out of respect for him.

      I think many MJ administrators have left because they have gotten tired of the stress or they could no longer afford to pay for the domains and other fees associated with maintaining a website. I pay out of pocket for several domains and other fees myself, but I only use one domain for my site. I don’t ask for donations and I don’t condemn anyone who needs them. I started this blog because I wanted to honor Michael and show all the positive and great things about him. It became a part of my grieving process to pay him back for all that he has meant to me. I didn’t have anyone to help me. I am self-taught. I have made mistakes and none were intentional, especially to hurt Michael’s legacy. I love him with my whole heart and would do anything for him. I have spent many hours trying to show the world how wonderful he is in print. I love doing it, but I have been hurt many times. I even thought about giving it up, but I feel that he would want me to keep going. I am still learning and trying to be more careful about how I post. Whatever happens with me in the future, it is my hope that when I am gone, all the work I have done here will be beneficial for future generations of MJ fans. But we need to figure out how to we can post articles without being slammed for copyright, but to still be able to keep them in entirety for the community for research and defense of MJ in case they are ever deleted. I don’t know what the answer is to this.

      I do thank you and appreciate you for asking me about this directly instead of talking about me harshly behind my back as I have seen others do. I seem to be the only site being singled out and it has tremendously hurt my feelings. Much Love.

      • Well done. You know how I feel. I applaud your courage and your dedication to Michael. Your motives are loving – not selfish or political or to take from others. You handle your blog with integrity. Those who have issues can go to any number of other sites – and hopefully the door will hit them in the a**. xo

  2. Love these personal accounts of people who worked closely with Michael and are awed by him.

    “It quickly got to the point where Michael would say to me “make me a sound that makes me do this”…and he would do a dance move. I got it right away…and I could make him the sound that he was feeling. I have never worked with anyone else where we had this kind of musical rapport.”

    Michael had such an amazing capacity to make these magical connections with people.

    • He is magical! I had a lovely dream about him early this morning. It felt so real, like it was actually happening. He was dressed in the suit from the SC short film. He was so sweet, kind and funny. I didn’t want it end, but the alarm clock woke me up. In case you are wondering, the dream was strictly rated G.

      • What a lovely dream. Don’t you love those dreams that feel sooo real when when Michael is in them?
        I’m going to request one where he’s in that red leather BOTDF outfit. May be hard to do that one G rated though. LOL!! 🙂

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