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The Time Machine

George Petersen • Editor's NoteNovember 2020 • November 5, 2020

We live in a strange world. And historically, we always have. In Billy Joel’s “Summer, Highland Falls,” the song’s opening line is “They say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known.” That stanza is just as appropriate then, today or in 1350 at the peak of the bubonic plague, yet yearning for the “good old days” remains a recurrent theme over the years.

Time travel has long been a science fiction topic, whether in a tricked-out DeLorean in Back to the Future, Dr. Who’s TARDIS or H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. In fact, that prop DeLorean underwent an extensive one-year restoration and is now displayed at the Petersen (sorry, no relation) Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Murillo’s time machine, on display at a holiday event

A few years ago, my friend Richard Murillo built a full-scale recreation of the version from George Pal’s classic 1960 The Time Machine movie (this one updated as a sporty, two-seater model) and he takes his creation to events where delighted visitors climb aboard and pose for photos, while imagining traveling to some other era.

But if we could make an actual time-travel journey, when do we wind up? Audio-wise, after years of near-unlimited instantiations of every plug-in imaginable, how many of us want to return to the “good old” days? Are we willing to give up modern perks such as tablet-based system tweaks/mixing or USB drive loading of console files, for the thrill of 52-channel copper snakes or mixing to Altec A-7’s?

In “Showtime” (page 11, https://fohonline.com/articles/showtime/superstar-the-carpenters-reimagined), FOH contributor Steve Savanyu mixed a socially distanced show on a (very analog) 2005-vintage Soundcraft MH2-40 house console in a 2,500-seat theater. He says the experience was fun, yet manual patching and not having access to dynamics on every channel was “weird.”

Good old days? Maybe, but just watch what you wish for.

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