As instructed, I walked in and was greeted by a man named Phil, whose office was near the entrance. The purple paper sign to the right of his office door, indicated that he was the accountant. I shook his hand and said “Hi. My name is Mark Certo and I have an appointment with Bob Monroe.”
Phil eyed me with the suspicion an accountant meeting a long haired musician, or so I thought. I was used to that sort of response in the business world, but rarely let it bother me. “Give me a moment. Have a seat.” he said as he whisked off down the corridor.
He returned a moment later with a woman named Shirley who introduced herself as the H+ coordinator, and said that Bob would be along in a few moments. Although polite and professional, Shirley also seemed to be somewhat suspicious of my being there. As I waited, several others passed by, smiled and also seemed perplexed by my sitting there.
Perhaps I should get a hair cut, I joked to myself without any real consideration toward that idea. It was an unusual feeling for me, but I was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable and self conscious. Everyone was perfectly nice of course. They just seemed confused as to why I was there.
Time seemed to slow down as I waited. Then the entrance to the building opened, and in walked the slightly rotund old man wearing a pair of rainbow suspenders and a captains hat. His cigarette dropped an extended ash on his shirt which he casually brushed away. It was a gesture I was to witness 100,000 times over. He extended his hand to greet me. “You must be Mark. I’m Bob Monroe.”
The mood seemed to lighten in the room as he introduced me to the folks who just a few moments before his arrival, seemed confused about me. I could tell immediately that this man was well respected by those in his employ. His casual appearance was augmented by a light hearted mannerism and familiarity with those he introduced me too. He made no mention to them about the reason for our meeting. Only that he was going to show me around.
We spent a few moments doing a meet and greet. Not really saying much to one another.
Bob announced that we were going up the hill and that he would drive. We got into his Jeep wagon and slowly proceeded. “This is quite a place you have here.” I said, having no idea what this place was. The statement came out sounding a bit like a whistle in a grave yard. The hill was pretty steep and I was wondering if Bob was getting close to the edge of the road. Fortunately, we climbed it slowly. At age 70 something, Bob was obviously a cautious driver.
We reached the top of the hill safely, and I was immediately drawn to a line of beautiful Bradford Pears in full bloom. There were three additional buildings of similar architecture to the building we had just left.
This was some of the most picturesque beauty the Blue Ridge mountains had to offer.
“This is beautiful land.” I said with some awe. Bob cleared his throat and responded. “We have just about 800 acres”. Although I had gotten somewhat used to hearing about people having land in such quantities in this part of the country, being from New York City, it still came as a surprise to me. “Wow. That’s a lot of land.” My curiosity was now becoming more peaked. I wondered, what kind of recording studio was this?
Bob navigated his Jeep with the slow carefulness of a man piloting a big boat, around a driveway in front of two of the three buildings. I noticed that behind the buildings, there was a group of people just wandering around slowly. They seemed to be in some sort of contemplative daze. Images from the movie ” Night of the Living Dead” came and went quickly from my mind. Better not to ask, I thought to myself.
So instead I asked, “What sort of recording work do you do here Bob?” ” Well. That’s a good question.” The space that followed insinuated I was not going to get an immediate answer. Bob stopped the Jeep and lit up another cigarette. “Mind if I join you?” I was thinking that now was a good time for a cigarette and pulled out my pack. “Gracious no. Please do.” he said with a smile. Camaraderie among nicotine addicts. A sure fire way to break the ice or uncomfortable silence.
He took a puff, and appeared to be considering how he was going to explain what went on at The Monroe Institute of Applied Science to a kid. Incidentally, “Kid” was a moniker he used for me throughout the years we spent together. It was a term of endearment as the years went on.
“So you were saying”, I pressed on. “Well”, he continued. “We have a process which we have developed, which has an effect on brainwave frequencies. It’s an entrainment process using sound to affect the left and right hemispheres of the brain,to act in unison. It’s called Hemi-Sync.”
I resisted the impulse to make a joke about the “process” having an obvious affect on the people wandering around the place. “Hmm. Sounds interesting. So you are recording these sounds in your studio?” I asked, not really being sure I understood what he had just said. “Yes”. He replied. “The studio is in the lab.”, he said pointing to the building to the far right. “ Let me show you”.
With this he opened his door and I quickly followed. I was finally going to see what kind of studio this man had. It obviously wasn’t going to be a competition for my niche, but now I was curious for even more reasons.
Instead of moving toward the lab building, he shuffled his way toward the building to our left. The lab was obviously going to have to wait.
“This is the David Francis Hall”, he announced obviously anticipating my question. Another office was just inside the rather dark corridor near the entrance. Walt’s office.
The purple cardboard sign said he was facility director. I was quickly introduced to Walt, who also eyed me with suspicion. This was starting to get old.
At least Bob Monroe didn’t give me the hairy eyeball. He seemed to smile easily even if he kept his cards close to his chest. That was fine by me. Being from NYC, it was a personality trait that I was familiar with. I assumed that everything would be revealed in due time. After a few moments chit chat about a new piece of gear that Walt had just purchased for the lab studio, (a compressor that seemed to please Bob very much), Bob suggested to Walt that “we show the lab to the kid here”.
We strolled over to the lab building which had a much brighter feeling at the entry way.
There was a bathroom to the right which was next to a small waiting room. Adjacent to it was another small office which had a door at the far end. That door was closed.
There was a sign pasted on a heavy black wooden door which said “Session in progress”. “They’re doing a session” Walt announced. “We’ll have to wait”.
This was something I had obviously encountered many times in my own work. While a recording was in process and it was critical not to enter the room. I was envisioning a room full of musicians that I couldn’t hear at all.
We stood in an almost deafening silence, as Walt, Bob and I filled the narrow hallway with smoke. I though to myself, this was turning out to be some kind of place.