Friday, April 26, 2019

Behind The Scenes: PROJECT LAZARUS (repost)

In March 2007 I bumped into Daniel Tang (left, disguised as a brain surgeon), an old friend who used to work in Rediffusion as an audio engineer and who is now a senior partner at AddAudio in Petaling Jaya. I mentioned my desire to rescue hours of music from analog oblivion and Daniel impulsively offered his expert help with digitizing my archives.

Despite a very busy schedule, Daniel put in laborious hours lovingly removing mold from 20-year old acetate recordings - some on ¼-inch open-reel, the rest on compact cassette. He was assisted by film editor Kate James, whose patience proved a great asset when it came to manually unwinding and respooling yards of fragile acetate.

The project was delayed by weeks when Daniel discovered that their old Studer A-807 MKII open-reel deck needed repair and realignment before it could be used. Fortunately, Daniel had the foresight to document the painstaking process by snapping these images which he later uploaded on Picasa.

There's no way I can adequately thank Daniel Tang (and Kate James) for helping me raise my music from the dead, thereby making it available to posterity. Daniel's photos below show how the musical resurrection was accomplished...

Tools of the trade: ¼-in. splicing tape, Ampex 10in. metal spool, 3M 6in. plastic spool, Isopropyl alcohol in red bottle & paint brush.
¼-inch open-reel master with most of the tape unwound 
(the tape had not been wound on a metal spool and the yellow leader was where 
the tape had split into two separate sections). It was a tedious 2-3 hour job 
to rewind the tape by hand so as not to damage the edges of the fragile magnetic tape.

Re-inserting the core of the spool: sections of the tape were carefully removed
and old splices were inspected to make sure they still held, a process that took hours
(with many coffee breaks in between).

Winding the magnetic tape by hand using sheets of paper to keep the edges from being damaged.

Film editor Kate James kindly volunteered her help as angelic tape rewinder -
or Daniel would have been stuck all night in the studio!

Studer A-807 MKII 2-track deck on slow wind to keep the tape spooled as smoothly as possible. This was done multiple times to compact the spooled tape before actual playback
and digitizing could proceed.

Tape oxide residue on the Studer after playback of a 20-year-old reel.
The heads had to be repeatedly cleaned with Isopropyl alcohol.

The 1988 "Padang" recording (a 30-min contemporary ballet commissioned by Ramli Ibrahim) arrived in its original Rediffusion box. Incredible to hear an audio master from 20 years ago,
still pristine & sounding great!

A hand-written note from Antares accompanied his moldy open-reel masters...

Oh no... here we go again! Thank goodness this one was still attached to its core...

Good exercise for the wrist - like a 2-hour meditation on time and eternity.

Some of the outtakes still sounded magical, so Daniel decided to digitize all of it.

A Digital Audio Research OMR 8 audio workstation was used
to digitize the audio from the Studer 
¼-inch 2-track recorder.

The first digital re-issue of the Antares Musical Archive will be my 1986 2nd Coming album. For more info, please click here.

[First posted 10 August 2010]