35. She's the Same Kind of Crazy As Me / by Allie Farris

My legs are sore, my plants outside are parched, and there's a stack of bills screaming to be paid, but I can't help it. I'm itching to write. What's one more hour going to do? The world can hold its breath until then.

Things are chugging along since my last entry, and not much has officially changed. I finally gave up on living out of my suitcase for the next month and re-hung up the clothes I'm not sending ahead in my smaller bedroom closet. Still a few things left to sell, and still more I should be learning on ProTools. That's another thing on my list for this weekend: lots of banging my head against my keyboard.

As C once so astutely pointed out, I'm a "zehro-to-seexty" kind of gal. When something clicks, I usually take off with it. It's happened any time I've become obsessed with a tv show, my songwriting, piano tuning, gardening; and now the starting pistol has sounded for my fitness routine. I'm doing my best to eat a balanced diet without falling into an easily forgettable plate of steamed vegetables. If I try that for a week, I'm positive that all of this momentum goes bye-bye. I just love good, seasoned, interesting food way too much. So this week, for my breakfast I've had a double chocolate protein shake with a banana, worked out, then followed that with a huge helping of chocolate peanut butter overnight oats (this became way too much by the end of the week). For lunch, a decent portion of chicken provençal. Dinner, a return of the chicken thigh with chicken marbella. Finally, at the end of the day and after running my 5k as well as spending an hour weightlifting in the gym that morning, I would still have enough calories left for a "protein pizza", as i dubbed it: a chocolate protein and oat pancake with a bit of no-sugar peanut butter, a spoonful of fresh apple butter, and a mashed banana. In two weeks, I feel like I'm starting to figure out how to balance extreme workouts with equally intense eating. And I think soon I may be toning it down on both sides. I'm not training for the olympics, just for being on television one day and someone saying, man, that girl is fit! That's all I'm really after.

I drove out to a new studio in west Nashville this week to tune one of their pianos. Turning into a very long driveway that looked very much like an empty lot, I slowly ascended the hill on a thick white gravel road, making sure to neither stop nor floor it, as my tiny Smart Car wheels were threatening to get stuck with each revolution. I passed an old house that from what I could tell was populated entirely with the most hipster of hipster females, and continued further down the winding path, finally arriving at a modern architectural beauty underneath a dense green canopy, poised like a Japanese pagoda on the side of a steep hill.  
     Without giving any more specifics about who I was meeting there, I was genuinely impressed at the sight of this gorgeous house I'd love to someday build an exact replica of and live inside. No one answered the open door, and men installing various electrical things seemed to be milling in and out of the still under-construction studio, so I let myself in. I walked through the tracking room, past quick flashes of various rooms employing experimental means of sound diffusion, most notably the room that the piano was in that had thick pieces of rope knotted on one end that were hung from the ceiling using thin metal wiring. I walked through the entirety of the place, ending up in the garage, and coming face to face with a Rambo-esque woman in a Paul Simon t-shirt and a red bandana just about to take off on a four wheeler. I yelled out my host's name. She answered: "Hold on a sec, I'll meet you in there."

"Do you want to see the trampoline room?" She said, entering to meet me inside a moment later.

"Uh, yeah! Of course." I continued into the next room with no idea of what I was about to see.

The normal-sized doorway opened up into a 20-foot ceilinged room, with a curved staircase hugging the walls, dotted along the way up with platforms showcasing an organ, a wurlitzer, and a few other great piano-based instruments. I was in love with this room, even before she looked at me and said, "This floor right here, in the middle, will be cut out and underneath will be a trampoline, with a tight spiral staircase leading up to this floor."
      I looked at her with wide eyes. She responded by saying, "Wanna see the tracking room?"

She led me down another staircase into a serene, rounded room overlooking a steep drop off into the bordering woods. You could see wildlife scampering in the tall grass, and everything was cast in a soft, blue-light glow. Changing the room entirely, she began to heave huge, heavy blackout curtains along a track above us, coming to rest in front of the windows and also effectively deadening the sound of an otherwise live tracking room. It was ingenious as a recording tool, and made the room incredibly versatile. Changing the scenery a final time, she peeled back the blackouts to leave a single, thick white sheet in place; still blocking the harsh sunlight, but somehow using it to make the white sheet glow brighter. 

"This surface is reflective," she said, smiling. "We can project anything we want onto the surface and it becomes a high-definition screen."
     Breaking my stunned silence, I emphatically said: "This is absolutely amazing. There are so many fantastic ways to use this space."

She looked pleased, and then said something I was not expecting: "We want to explore the possibilities of 3D sound. How to harness the technology of virtual reality and put it to use in our recordings."
     I don't know what made her to say this to me, who at this point was still a stranger, but my jaw dropped and I put my hands on my head. I couldn't believe what I'd just heard.

Several months ago, before Tartufo closed, I was talking to some businessmen at the bar about my ideas for the future of sound, and how I planned to approach engineering when I was to eventually become the producer and engineer of my own music. I'll go more into this concept in another entry, but needless to say since that meeting, and any subsequent conversations I have had since that evening and my attempts to explain my theories, I've been met with puzzled looks and white noise on the phone line. But this, this was the first time I heard, without prompting, my own ideas spoken right to my face. FINALLY, I had found someone else the island I thought I'd been stranded on alone, and it turns out we're from the same country and speak the same language.

I began to wildly unload on her some of my craziest theories concerning 3D sound and how to achieve different sensory experiences through recorded music. She listened excitedly. "We need to go grab a drink sometime!" She said. As I talked, she noticed a tick I do with my hands (rubbing the tips of my thumb and forefinger together like I'm holding a pencil) when I speak about music, ever since I learned to tune pianos. I now see sound waves in a way most people may not, sort of like a physical representation in my mind's eye. It's a way for my brain to be able to organize the waves and their corresponding overtones as I tune by ear, so that I won't go crazy with everything bouncing around willy nilly. 

"You have synesthesia." She looked at me like a family member. "So do I."

It was true, we had the exact same visual way of thinking about music, and audio engineering (again, a conversation for another blog). Now, not only had I found someone who speaks my language, but that secret super power I keep locked away? She has it too.

After dozens of insane realizations and musings about how she might be a long lost sister, I tuned her piano. I made sure to give it the best tuning the instrument had ever experienced, so that even an untrained ear could feel something special happening in that tracking booth, just like inside the recordings I hoped to create now that I had an island buddy. 

I finished the piano, and sat down to talk to her about my situation. I told her I'd be leaving in four months, but would be commuting back and forth to work with Cheyenne (who she knows well!). I told her how I planned to transition fully out of piano tuning and into being a full time audio engineer, producer, writer, and Youtube person. I finished by looking her straight in the eye and saying that as soon as she wanted me there, I would come and help them at the studio for free, just to be in this environment. It's owned and operated solely by women, and looks like they need a lot of hands to get everything up and running. I'm handy, I said, and seriously if you need a coffee runner or anything harder or easier than that, for free, I'm your girl. 

She told me she needed a few weeks to get her ducks in a row but then yes, she'd love that.


So here I am, on this Saturday afternoon, getting ready to make coffee and water my plants. Sharon texted me to come over to our mutual friend's house to cook quinoa and vegetables, but I worked out this morning for one reason and one reason only: An avocado bacon cheeseburger from the restaurant next door. No substitutions. I can already smell it. 
     I'm trying my best to keep my friends around, and see them as much as possible, but I do know that I have a huge ocean to cross on the audio front. I have so much to learn, and so little time to learn it. But maybe now I might have another rower in my boat. Only time will tell.