This is one of the strangest gigs I ever had.
By this time in my relationship with Bob Monroe, I was beginning to appreciate the amount of trust he was placing in me. I hadn’t really understood just how much trust was being placed in me, until Dave explained the history of The Monroe Institute and Hemi-Sync tm. Before I relay the insights David shared, I want to paint a picture of Dave. He was one of the younger members of the TMI staff, perhaps six or seven years my senior. This fact to my mind, made him a contemporary. We could relate. He was a kind, mild mannered person, who would put anyone at ease with his presence. He was aware of my being on the local rock radio station, and had listened to my show on the weekends. He also had been in broadcasting during his collage years and had a good voice. His position at The Monroe Institute was Director of Programs, and I am sure he had a purple cardboard sign on his office door to prove it. He was also a facilitator for the programs held at the residential center. I liked him immediately. His unassuming manner enabled me to ask some of the questions that I had been longing to ask, but hadn’t dared.
Through David I had learned about the history of those who came before me. There were a few actually. The first was a guy named Brother Charles who if memory serves was either Robbie, Chip or Ernie from the TV show My Three Sons. Apparently after leaving the nest of his TV family, (I guess Uncle Charlie finally got on his nerves ), he got involved in meditation which led him to Bob Monroe. This was sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s. During this time Bob had worked with several people to create something called the Hemi-Sync Synthesizer.
I eyeballed the one which sat on the shelf in the lab as Dave told the story. The device was designed to be used by professionals in the mental health field who were interested in using the technology in their practice. Psychologists doing hypnotherapy had a use for it, as did educators looking to help their students focus in class. It was a good idea. But after all the work trying to create a device that would accurately make Hemi-Sync signals, it bombed. It simply didn’t accurately emulate what Bob created through the Amiga and it’s predecessor, which was a simple sine wave generator. I listened to it and it did sound like ( choose an expletive ).
Brother Charles as it turned out did not agree. He decided to upgrade his status to Master Charles, bought a Hemi-Sync synthesizer, and moved down the street from TMI. There he created a wooded paradise full of trailers and dirt roads dug by those of his sycophants willing to do selfless labor. The self proclaimed Master decided to make recordings like Hemi-Sync, using the the very same synthesizer. Uncle Charlie would be proud. I was told by Dave that Bob was quite hurt by what had happened, but felt powerless to do anything about it.
Another name which came up was Allen. Allegedly a engineer, Allen was also involved in the creation of the Hemi-Sync synthesizer. I was told he went on to replicate it under another name, again hurting Bob. The last in this line was Dave himself, who was a trusted member of the staff until he went to work for Disney a few years later. These three had been given the “Keys to the Kingdom” so to speak, and were considered to be heirs to the throne of Hemi-Sync creators, by those in the fold.
These candid conversations with David went on for a few weeks, and I soon became aware in our conversations that Dave was just as curious about me as I was about TMI. I suddenly became aware of why it was that I was given such strange looks by some of the staff. They wanted to know that I was trustworthy. This was the reason for the all of the secrecy regarding making Hemi-Sync. A rational approach given the history.
This was fine with me as my time with TMI was probably coming to an end soon enough. I had other career plans and really didn’t need to know the details of Hemi-Sync. As cool as I thought the technology was, H+ really didn’t suit my tastes for meditation aids. Although I found the body vibrations interesting, I preferred exterior silence while listening to my own inner world during meditation. The staff and Bob could rest assured that even if I managed to inadvertently glean some information about how the sounds were produced, I would promptly forget about it when my work was done. Besides, Bob actually held a patent on the technology at the time, and I had (still have) a healthy respect for intellectual property rights. The truth was that this was just a gig for me, and I really didn’t want the keys to the kingdom.
By mid October of 1988, my list of mixed masters in the Hemi-Sync catalog was rapidly increasing. I was about half finished with the initial fifty H+ recordings and thinking thank goodness! I was getting tired of the repetition and now knew the whole thing by heart. The first chord (an F major) would swell, followed by an arpeggiated pattern created by the trusty Lowrey. Cue Bob’s cassette saying “This is your H+ function exercise to (whatever the function was). From there Bob would go on through the relaxation sequence complete with cricket, the jet airplane, and the instructions to all of you. It was all becoming very tiring for me. I remember telling my wife that I was looking forward to it coming to an end.
I arrived at the lab one brisk morning to find a memo on the familiar track fed computer print out paper lying on the recording console. It was addressed to me. I had never gotten a memo before. Not really the sort of thing musicians give to one another. The memo laid out the plans for a project Bob wanted to do along with several pages of scripts, and a handwritten note in Bob’s famous scrawl produced in Sharpie Black saying, “Call the cabin and let’s discuss.” I was being summoned up to the mountain again. Another colorful piece of paper stood in stark contrast to the track fed dot matrix print. It was an invite to a Halloween party Scooter was having. Nice to be thought of, but I knew I would have to politely decline. It was on a Friday which meant I was scheduled to be on the air. I was really enjoying the radio gig, and it was proving to be a boon for my studio. I was getting more recording clients and doing more radio productions. These included commercial jingles, and an interview show which featured local musicians. Things were looking up.
My Toyota complained as it struggled up the hill to Bob’s cabin on a rainy day. Bob was waiting at the front door having heard me arrive. The gleam in his eye told me something was up and he was excited. A pleasant conversation ensued as Bob shared with me his past experiences doing radio programs with NBC networks during the golden age of radio. He was once quite a player in the fledgling genre of entertainment, and produced a good many of them during his time in NYC. This explained the memo and the accompanying script.
“Well kid. What do you think?” He said with his blue eyes smiling. My new mission was to hold auditions and weed through the local Charlottesville actors pool, to find the right characters to play out an excerpt from one of Bob’s books in the style of old time radio programs. What could I think? It sounded to me to be a bit outside of what I had done for him thus far, but who knows, it could be fun. “Sure Bob. Why not?” I smiled in reassurance. It certainly would take the edge off of my boredom with H+.
I was given a video camera which in the late 80’s, was not a device everyone had and told to use it during the auditions. The auditions were to be held at my studio for which Bob agreed to pay my usual rate. He also was going to make the trip to my place and over see the auditions. This was fine with me. I went back to the lab to continue doing H+, leaving Bob to handle the details of this new production. I had never seen him so excited and thought to myself once again, this is one of the strangest gigs I have ever had.
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