The Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, in collaboration with local artist/producer Yung’n Muhdy, intends to establish a community music studio in spare studio space that the Center has available in the basement. This project, a fruitful collaboration between a ring of artists and activists, aims to enable the production of more enriching art and have it better distributed.
While the UCIMC’s vision for the studio is clear, its execution is far more challenging. Over the past two years, the studio has been remodeled and carpeted, but its functionality is still under question. Challenges pertaining to the location of the studio have presented themselves throughout construction. The room was located close to an air duct, and the resulting noise could compromise the sound quality of any recordings.
To this end, some of the resources allocated to the studio project would have to be spent soundproofing the basement room, and correcting its acoustics, to allow for better recording quality. Purchasing certain equipment would be inescapable, while other problems could be corrected in a DIY manner — a concept which is not unfamiliar the widespread local DIY music scene. Plans to build a vocal recording chamber, a separate room akin to a conventional recording studio, were discussed. As was the purchase of studio recording equipment and a new computer.
While Yung’n Muhdy already had a computer set up in the room, other equipment had to be arranged for. Another challenge the studio presented was the presence of other offices within the UCIMC including a Books for Prisoners center. “A live band would produce at the very least, 96 decibels of sound, which is, pretty loud,” Richard J. Levite, a sound technician for RJ’s Portable Sound Lab, said. Accommodations would have to be made, perhaps by adjusting the Center’s operating hours.
To ensure an efficient allocation of resources, writer, activist and program director of the UCIMC Brian Dolinar hosted a gathering of activists and experts in the field this past weekend to put together a team to oversee the success of the project. The meeting was intended to streamline the process of construction of an effective recording studio, as well as its efficient running.
The studio intends to employ a model of pooling community equipment, which harks to a fundamental economic problem — the tragedy of “the commons” — a dilemma Dolinar knew would have to be subverted.
As he put it, pointing to a prominent mural in the UCIMC, “(Situations) can lead to bad vibes, and as we know, this is the Good Vibes Only zone.” The mural is meant to watch over those in the area, and promote exclusively good vibes. In this spirit, the setting up of a set in stone organizing committee, delegating various tasks and responsibilities was decided upon. SWAMP, a local association promoting musicians, declared an interest in helping the smooth running of the studio.
Despite these considerations, as the meeting on Saturday proceeded, optimism set into the room, for a project that could possibly be completed, and completed well. While some portions under discussion were still in their primitive stages, a belief began to set in that, in time, and in successive fortnightly meetings, the construction of the community music studio would see progress unto completion.