About a week or so went by before we made arrangements to take the influx of Charlottesville actors at my home studio. Bob was very excited to begin the process of creating an audio drama of his Out of Body adventures. During that time I had familiarized myself with the video camera. It was a fairly compact VHS unit that held the tape inside the housing. Not really hard to figure out. Bob Monroe gave me permission to take it with me to Staten Island, to record my grandparents 50 wedding anniversary party. For all of my aunts and uncles of the senior generation of Certo’s, the novelty of being video’d was a real hit at the party. They had never been video’d before. I went around the room getting each of them to say a few words to my grandparents. One member of the family, my old uncle Nick, had his last hours documented on that camera. He went home and passed away peacefully on the couch just after the party ended. The thought crossed my mind that maybe the camera was cursed, but immediately dismissed that notion as superstition.
A few days after my return, Bob met me at my house to begin the auditions for his new production. He saw my studio for the first time and was impressed. It was just a demo studio, but was equipped with some of the latest technological toys for creating music. I had recently purchased a midi sequencer, a sampler and a multi tone generator by Yamaha. All of these worked in tandem to record musical performances as a series of ones and zeros, which could be played back in real time, and manipulated to create sonic perfection. I gave Bob a demonstration and he was enamored. He immediately recognized that this was vast improvement to the Lowery Organ.
As we waited, for the auditions to begin, Bob chatted with me about the possibility of my making some Meta Music for him. I told him that I would think about it. New age music really wasn’t my thing.
The actors came and went, with Bob in the directors chair and me behind the camera. It was pretty interesting for me to watch Bob in this capacity. He seemed to know what he wanted from the actors, but not so sure about how to coax it out of them. He seemed to be looking for more drama. They all tried to oblige him, although not to his satisfaction. There were about a dozen in all. Each of which were given the proverbial “We’ll let you know”, after their performance was through.
After a few hours of this, Bob went back to the sanctity of his cabin. I was left with the task of cataloging and editing the audio from the auditions into a form he could review in case he missed something. I could tell he had enough. He looked tired and mildly disappointed. I worried about him, with the forty minute drive ahead of him. He didn’t travel very far from the New Land at that age. He assured me he would be fine and we arranged to meet in a few days time to review the material.
Before he left, he turned to me and said, “Oh, one more thing. I want you to try and use these fancy devices of yours, to make me a sound fx track for this production”. He went on to explain that what he was looking for ,was a large amount of strange noises. The purpose was to emulate the cacophony of his experiences of passing through something he called the M Band. I had heard the term M Band used in his books, but had no idea what it sounded like. He said ” Just make it weird. Really weird. Make it loud, and do a lot of overdubs”. “Sure Bob. Why not?” I responded. It was a phrase that I would repeat many, many times over the next six and a half years.
The following Monday I arrived at the Gatehouse, and stopped by Scooters office to retrieve my check for the weekend marathon session I had spent editing the audition voice tracks, and making the M band sounds. I had lot’s of fun with the later. The experience was an exploration into the full potential of my newly acquired midi gear, and stretched the limits of my imagination to try to emulate the sounds I had never heard before.
Scooter was meeting with Dave and a woman named Leslie, whose purple sign I cannot remember. I believe that she was the the outreach director. What I could never forget about Leslie is her warm personality, and her infectious laughter.
The three of them were eager to discuss the potential of remastering some of the program tapes with me. These were the programs being offered at the Center next to the lab. At the time, there were only two programs available: The Gateway program, which was the introductory program, and Guidelines which required having finished Gateway. Dave was lobbying for the remixing of the Guidelines program. Apparently the quality of the recordings raised concerns by those who participated. Scooter and Leslie seemed somewhat insistent that before that could take place, I would need to do the program myself in order to get the feeling of the programs. I felt somewhat overwhelmed as I listened to them describe their wish list, knowing that I was probably not going to hang around for too much longer. This gig was fine, but as I have said before, I had other plans. After the weekend I had just spent being on the radio, and doing the stuff I had promised Bob, I was feeling a bit of burn out.
I listened as the three of them tried to suss out how they were going to get Bob to re-voice and re-script any of these programs. Bob was apparently not one to reinvent the wheel.
Dave accompanied me to the lab and we had one of our meetings about the subtleties of working with Bob Monroe. I found out that Bob was in every sense of the word, what is known as a “creative type”. As such, he was only interested in coming up with new ideas. He would then execute these ideas to the best of his abilities, and be satisfied. As an innovator, it wasn’t his policy to “re-invent the wheel”. In addition, like many artist’s, he didn’t take criticism of his work to heart. He wasn’t prone to self doubt when it came to his creative works. He rarely if ever, did a re-write on his scripts, his music or his voice tracks. There was no question that The Monroe Institute of Applied Sciences was Bob Monroe’s sandbox. Dave’s idea for having the Guidelines program re produced, was to convince Bob that these needed re-recording, and that I was capable of the task. Dave was also going to offer that should Bob not want to re voice, that Dave himself would do the job.
When Bob arrived at the lab later that day, he had a half inch reel of tape under his arm. Apparently, he too had been busy over the weekend.
He asked me thread the tape through a machine so that we could listen. On several tracks, Bob had managed to execute each and everyone of the parts that he had auditioned the Charlottesville actors for! Needless to say, I was impressed. He modified his voice for each character sufficiently, even though one could still tell it was Bob doing all the voices. I had to give it up to him. The man knew how to tell a story in old style radio format, which isn’t much different from the audio books of today. He handed me a script to read for the production. “Here kid. You have some voice over experience. You can handle this right?” I was to play the part of the intro announcer. I don’t remember the script, but it was short and to the point. “Sure Bob”. I replied “Why not?”
Next on the agenda was to screen the sound fx I had labored over. I cued up the tape as Bob sat in his favorite chair and smoked. Putting all the faders of the console up, I hit play and watched his reaction. To me, the sound was annoying to the “nth degree”, but this is what Bob asked of me. The sound that emerged from the Advents overhead, was a roar of electronic sounds all mashed up together, panning left to right, and back again, to create a feeling of movement. Bob giggled and nodded from time to time saying, “Umhum. Umhum. That’s a nice one there.” Smiling all throughout the three minutes of noise.
Skip looked at us through the large studio window. He was about to begin an Explorer session in the booth, and the strange sounds emanating from the studio was threatening it. I nodded to him and using sign language, assured him it would be over in a few seconds. When the sequence ended, Bob sat there for a moment smiling. Feeling sure that I had ace’d this little project, imagine my surprise when he said, “That’s not bad. Not bad at all. But it needs work. Can you add some more?” “Some more? Some more what?!?” I almost burst out laughing. “That isn’t noisy enough?” He chortled and dropped an ash on his shirt. “Not for the MBand. Gracious no.” Ok. Back to the drawing board for me.