This Dagogo 2008 RMAF Show Commentary by Gary Lea
When Is The Audio Community More Than An Audio Community?
If you have children, have thought about having children, have friends that have children or simply know some children (now that should cover everyone out there) please read this and bear with me as I try to set the stage for one of the most important stories to come out of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest that I could share with every reader of Dagogo and of all the other publications.
“What do children have to do with Audio?”
Nothing really and then again everything! It means so much more when you meet Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith. As a father of three and a grandfather of a newborn baby girl, I am keenly aware of how blessed my family is. After learning more about Peter’s project I can only say that if you care one iota about children then you will be moved as I was – moved beyond belief after meeting with Peter.
If I were to ask any audiophile to tell me what a yellow, rubber bracelet, worn around the wrist stood for, I would venture a guess that 99% of those queried would tell me that it was for Lance Armstrong’s Cancer Foundation. There are millions of those little bracelets out there on wrists everywhere you look. Wow, I just looked down as I was typing this and lo and behold what do you think is on my right wrist? Lance has an astonishing seven consecutive Tour de France wins in a sporting event that only one other America had ever won in the 100-plus years of the event’s existence. He did it after surviving, what many considered was, a cancer death sentence! Throughout it all he always focused the attention to his foundation and never missed an opportunity to raise awareness of cancer and the need for more and more efforts to try and beat this killer!
It is not at all unusual for people who are in the celebrity spotlight to garner attention by putting their name behind a worthy charity. On the other hand, what about the regular people? People like you and me who are not famous and wealthy? How can we raise awareness of causes near and dear to us?
So, back I come to Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith. Peter is known to most for manufacturing new B&O cartridges, an array of moving iron cartridges, repairing and re-tipping other cartridges, and for a designing and manufacturing perspective, a selection of components that he produces under his Soundsmith brand name. They are a pretty, snazzy array of electronics that are “chewing gum for the eyes”, as my buddy is prone to say. He also makes a very interesting phono cartridge system called the Strain Gauge that I am dying to get a hold of for a review. (Shameless plug there for a review sample Peter, sorry.)
I finally ran into Peter, after talking to him a time or two over the phone, in the flesh at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. It was there that a strange number of serendipitous events occurred. I will save you four pages of details, and suffice it to say that one thing led to another and the next thing you know I am in Peter’s suite. Along with Peter was musician Jon Pousette-Dart who was about to give a live acoustic performance and who also was promoting an album he had cut with Peter, the proceeds of which were going to charity. Other musicians, in addition to Jon, who have given of their time and talent to produce records to raise money for this cause, include Bill Frisell, Doug Wamble, Mark Cosgrove, John Hart and others. A special thank you to Jon Pousette-Dart for a great performance and also for the hits from my college days. (By the way whatever happened to the mime?)
Peter was most gracious and when I inquired a bit more in depth, he was more than willing to fill me in on what was actually going on. He educated me about Stolen Childhoods, and a group who has pulled their resources to bring awareness to the plight of approximately 250 million children worldwide who are losing out on their childhoods due to exploitation, abandonment, drafting in to militias, being sold into childhood prostitution, pornography, slavery and more. The group who is primarily behind the raising of awareness of this problem is headed by Len and Georgia Morris. They are the owners of a production company called Galen Films and are accomplished documentary filmmakers. They have produced two films about this tragedy: Stolen Childhoods and Rescuing Emmanuel. Len and Georgia, along with friend and co-filmmaker Robin Romano, spent over six years traveling around the world to make these documentaries. What is truly admirable is that they literally went into debt, sold personal property and exhausted their life savings to fund this project. That is commitment! Len, Georgia and Robin are truly the living embodiment of commitment.
In researching this issue further, through their website Stolenchildhoods.org and Galenfilms.com, I was stunned to find out that there is a growing epidemic even reaching into countries such as the UK and even into our own backyards! Child laborers in landfills, rock quarries, agricultural fields, et cetera, the situations are endless but all of them share the same commonality – exploitation!
So what is the real connection to audio and this terrible tragedy? Easy, it is Peter Lederman who was so moved by what he heard and saw that he felt compelled to help in some way. Four months before having a major coronary heart blockage, Peter had an epiphany of sorts and decided that it was time to do a bit more than to just “suck air” (his words, not mine). Peter decided to start DirectGrace Records. You should visit the website DirectGrace.org for more detailed information about the efforts to change this terrible travesty. To describe Peter’s mission for DirectGrace Records, I will use Peters own words from the website to explain:
“DirectGrace Records is a unique music recording company that weds a passion for high-end vinyl recording to charitable giving. Dedicated to the world’s most at-risk children, part of the proceeds from the sale of each unique, high-definition record goes to organizations helping children in extreme poverty.
The DirectGrace Records Project has been created as a self-funding perpetual operation to attack poverty and abuse of children. DirectGrace produces premium, high-fidelity recordings for the audiophile community and commits its profits to charities that help endangered children.
With the re-emergence of vinyl records within the audiophile community, the demand for very high quality records is robust – especially for rare and unique issues. One of the highest forms of these prized releases involves the creation of a master recording directly from the live performance – a single, elegant, direct path from the microphone to the cutting head. No recording to tape, no editing of the music stream; nothing but the purity and exuberance of the performance gets on the master recording. Direct Grace couples this pinnacle of the recording process with the finest of heavy weight vinyl and exemplary musical and audio artists to produce highly desirable, limited edition, reference recordings for audiophiles around the world.
We are currently enlisting the talents of numerous musicians, technicians and music producers to produce these high-end records so sought after by the audiophile community. Sold for $100-$150 each in signed, limited edition sleeves, they will yield many multiples of the initial investment and help save the lives of children well into the future.”
What Peter has left off of the website info is that he went deeply in to debt himself, much like Len, Georgia and Robin, to finance the program himself by investing in two Neumann lathes and other recording equipment to make these direct-to-disc recordings possible. When was the last time you heard of an audio manufacturer going into further debt – I say that because most are already there and doing something of this nature just adds to an existing problem for most of them – to do something on this level for charity. This makes Peter a very unique individual in my eyes and I have developed massive respect for him above and beyond what he does in the way of audio but more importantly as a fellow human being. Another paragon of commitment!
I also want to point out that Jon Pousette-Dart donated his time and talents to this project in the form of the album that you can pick up for a paltry $40.00. If you are a bit older like me, you will remember Jon’s band, The Pousette-Dart band from the seventies…
If you have gotten this far and have not turned a blind eye yet, then I want to say thank you on behalf of the passionate parents and citizens of the world who have been sustaining and propagating this humanitarian project. I want to encourage you to go to all three sites and see what is going on out there with these children, and what many good people are doing to help. Visit www.Stolenchildhoods.org, www.galenfilms.com along with Peter’s site, www.DirectGrace.org!
If you are interested in helping us make a difference in the lives of the children, then you can simply buy one of the fabulous recordings that Peter, and volunteers such as John have done. You get a great recording and every time you listen to it, you will know that the money you spent went to a greater good and noble cause, something above and beyond yourself. That has to feel good any time you do it.
If you are at all like me, you will not be able to stop yourself from imagining your own children suffering the fate of many of the ones depicted in the stories from Stolen Childhoods. You will weep, just as I wept. Then you will not be satisfied with just putting some money on the table. You will want to do so much more! I hope that anyone who reads this will join this cause and do whatever you can to raise awareness of this crime against humanity and its children. Tell anyone you know, tell everyone you know! Pass along the website information, and lobby your politicians. To remain silent would be the worst sin of all. Just ask Peter. Giving a voice to Stolen Childhoods is just the beginning, but begin is something we all must do! We must do it NOW!
Editor’s note: I checked out the the DirectGrace Records website, it is clean and easy to navigate, its current vinyl numbering five in total, all featuring 45rpm pressings of live guitar duo and solo music, with one exception of a comic brother and sister duo with piano accompaniment (Paul and Pamela Sklar). The website offers MP3 music samples of each vinyl online, and the checkout process is smooth and clear. See below for LP info (with permission from DirectGrace.org) :
Dart, Jon Pousette
Jon stopped by for an afternoon to allow us to casually record 8 of his classic songs on two records. This record set is a great listen, especially for us who have been fans of his folk-rock music for decades.
MP3 music sampler (link)
Mark Cosgrove satisfies the need to hear true bluegrass flatpicking at its best. An award winning player, Mark has toured with Jerry Douglas and has recorded for many artists in Nashville.
MP3 music sampler (link)
Paul & Pamela Sklar
The brother and sister team of Pam and Paul Sklar stopped by for an impromptu, “quick visit” to our studios resulted in an original tango piano piece by Paul, and a haunting flute solo “Hovannes” by Pam, a world renown flutist. “The Recital” is a skit that they have been “rehearsing” for 25 years for family and friends….
MP3 music sampler (link)
Samuel Searle Moris
Samuel Searle Morris is a unique and gifted signer songwriter who has recently played to crowds of several thousand in Europe. His open, honest and sensitive approach to music results in songs that become close to the heart with one listen and become part of your soul very quickly.
MP3 music sampler (link)
Bill Frisell & Doug Wamble
Bill Frisell and Doug Wamble are jazz guitar giants; what an amazing afternoon we had when they came by to jam and improvise beautiful standards. We recorded to four sides in one take each in under two hours in between good humor and admiring Ken parkers beautiful acoustic guitars they played on.
MP3 music sampler (link)
This Dagogo 2008 RMAF Show Commentary,
by Gary Lea
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