Things were definitely shifting in my inner being. My meditations were taking a turn to include more insight and understanding. I also seemed to be having deeper experiences or, should I say, more transcendent experiences. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it is an experience of the self beyond the self — an experience of connection that includes all things. At least, that’s what seemed to be occurring for me at that time.
These new experience were not at all scary. At all times during these experiences, I felt I had not left my physical body, unlike Robert Monroe. For me, the experiences were more like having insights into the true nature of reality through dream-like visions. I would continue to hear myself snore from time to time, as my physical body slept while my mind went for a magic carpet ride. All of this was without the aid of Hemi-Sync or drugs.
Other changes were also occurring. As the weeks turned into months since I first met Bob Monroe, I found myself working a lot: every day for 12-14 hours. The schedule at my studio was increasing with nightly sessions. I accepted a gig at the local rock radio station doing weekend shifts and productions. I was writing more music with more people, for more situations, including commercial jingles. On top of this I had committed to Bob that I would have H+ completed before the year’s end.
Money was coming in and for that I was quite happy, but the work load was taking a large toll on my marriage. There where lots of factors that contributed to its eventual failing, but I consider my infatuation and drive toward success as being the greatest. I have since learned that you cannot have a wife/family and not attend to them as the primary concern. I thought that work was what men did for their families, and convinced myself that all I was doing was for them. But the truth was, I was doing it for me as well — perhaps more so for me than for them. I loved my work. In order to keep my promise to Bob, I stepped up the pace. I was spending most of my days at “The Tute” as I called it.
A lot of the things that I thought were initially strange (like the groups of people wandering aimlessly on the grounds), now seemed common place. As it turned out, these weren’t wandering zombie like at all. These were participants in the programs taking place in one of the other buildings on the hill. I hadn’t been aware that there were programs taking place. My business was in the lab. The woman who was running the business affairs at “the Tute” was Bob’s daughter Scooter. She informed me that these people were engaged in a sort of retreat. During the “wandering periods”, they were doing a sort of walking meditation and connecting with the beauty of the landscape. This, I completely understood. I spent many hours walking in the woods of Virginia just taking it in without saying a word. She let me know this so that I wouldn’t inadvertently try to make pleasant conversation with them. Message received. I would stick to my gig and be as unobtrusive as possible.
I was also beginning to integrate more with the staff in the lab. There was Tina, a lovely woman with a wonderful laugh who turned out to be a channel. I had no idea what channeling was at the time. There was Bucky, a cook over in the residential center where they held the programs. He supervised the ladies who were the housekeeping staff, as well as cooks at the center. All of these were really nice, local people who didn’t seem predisposed to being involved in a cult. I guessed that most of them were Christian, given my knowledge of the locals and the occasional sight of a crucifix dangling from someone’s chain.
Then one day, I met Skip. He was recently appointed to be the head researcher in the lab and had a white lab coat to prove it. Earlier, I had seen it hanging on the coat hook when entering the lab, but had no idea who it belonged to. It didn’t seem so strange, given that it was supposed to be a “lab” after all. Skip walked in to the lab entrance and I could see him down the short hall through my opened studio door. I went to introduce myself. On first meeting, Skip seemed a bit rigid and cold to me. Perhaps it was his military training. He had a fascinating career that I will share with you a bit later in the story. So, maybe it was the lab coat or perhaps my gregarious nature rubbed him the wrong way. Or maybe it was just a bad day, who knows?
The reason I share this with you is to let you know that first impressions can be deceiving and should be short lived. Skip and I became quite close, and he is one of the warmest people I have ever met. Perhaps his attitude lightened up when he lost the white lab coat. I think Scooter made him do it. All in all I was beginning to really enjoy being at the “Tute”. It was still a very strange place with lots of mysterious corners and hidden secrets, but I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that something important was going on here. I wondered if I would discover what it was before my time was through.
That time was rapidly approaching as October turned into November. The chill in the air made my senses come alive. I love the Autumn season in central Virginia and so does the rest of the country. The Skyline drive becomes virtually flooded with RVs and cars with license plates from all over. The colors of the foliage are vibrant and during a good season, stay around for quite a while. This made the drive from my house to the “Tute” even more enjoyable.
Upon arrival, I went to the “gate house” ( the one on the hill across from the old barn), to pick up my paycheck. Scooter announced that Bob would like to see me up in his cabin. I had no idea where the cabin was, since I had never been beyond the three buildings where the Lab, David Francis Hall and the Residential Retreat Center were. The tree lined paved road leading up to these went far beyond the buildings. I was told that the road went all the way up a mountain where it eventually turned into a gravel (mostly dirt) driveway that led to Bob’ home. The cabin was a stone’s throw away from the house. Now I understood why Bob drive a four wheel drive Jeep. My Toyota hatchback struggled, but managed the climb. It was the first of many times I would be summoned up to the mountain.
Bob Monroe’s cabin was an Appalachian style log cabin, with what seemed to be hand-hewn logs. There was at least 9 inches of chinking between each log. It was well constructed and perfectly situated amid the wooded landscape. His main home, where he lived with his lovely wife Nancy, was in stark contrast to the natural environment. It was a beautiful home to be sure, but to me it seemed somewhat out of place at the very top of a mountain. The views were stunning. I took a moment to admire them before knocking on the cabin door.
Bob greeted me with a smile that let me know he was up to something and invited me in. This man cave was awesome to my 27 year old sensibilities! It had two rooms and a bath. The main room was modestly furnished with a multitrack tape recorder, a hand-built, sound-diffusing voicing station complete with microphone, and a Lowery Organ. I had never seen a Lowery up close before. It was the sort of thing that was rarely seen in the music stores I frequented, but was once quite popular among folks of Bob’s age who enjoyed making music at home. I remembered Lowerys being featured as prizes in the game shows that I watched as a kid. As I was looking it over, Bob fired it up and began pushing buttons. He smiled like the Cheshire cat, while the preprogrammed ensembles played background to his melodies, in every possible genre. From Reggae to Disco to Rock, that Lowery chunked out some cheesy sounds.
” I didn’t know you composed” I said. “Oh yeah. This is where I do all the Metamusic in the catalog,” he replied, while playing chords and hitting buttons. We talked a bit about Metamusic, which apparently was a portion of the entire Hemi-Sync tm catalog. I was familiar with the textures and sounds of New Age music of the time, and thought to myself that this Lowery wasn’t really up to the task, but said nothing. He seemed so proud of it. I simply smiled and said something complimentary. This conversation led to the reason why I was summoned to the hill.
“I am wondering if you are ready to take your work here to the next level?” he queried, leaning back in his chair. His smiling eyes again made me wonder what he was up to. I secretly hoped he wouldn’t ask me to write New Age music on his Lowery. Fortunately, that was not his intention. “I have been getting some requests to make some changes in the masters from some of our more popular titles and I was wondering if you’d like to get involved. I don’t really think they need changing, but since you are here, you can probably do the work fairly quickly.”
Coming from the mindset of: “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I wondered aloud why these popular titles would require a new production. Bob confirmed that we were of like minds on the subject and mumbled something about re-inventing the wheel, but went on to inform me that he wanted me to do a multitrack production from scratch and employ all of my skills. “Will we record and edit your voice here?” I asked taking a few notes. “Er…..that is a question.” he hesitated. Obviously one he didn’t want to answer. I had already had the experience of Bob when he was trying to be evasive, so I didn’t press it.
A cricket chirped in the room and broke the mildly uncomfortable silence. I couldn’t stop myself. “There’s your buddy from the H+ voice track,” I chuckled. “Yeah….They get in here from time to time. That’s the problem.”, he replied with a frown. It was obviously not a problem he was willing to confront at that moment.
Bob told me it was his intention to turn me loose on a full Hemi-Sync production to “fix” several titles from the “Mind Food” series. He no longer wanted to do sub mixes and believed I could handle the mix better because his hands shook badly and small fader moves were difficult for him. I told him I didn’t think it would be a problem and asked if he was going to show me how to produce the Hemi-Sync tones? ” Er…..Not just yet. I want you to create some phased pink noise for me. Can you do that?”
My mind tried to wrap around what he had meant by “phased pink noise.” I responded,”Oh, you mean the flanged airplane sounds on the H+ tapes? Why do you want to re-invent that wheel? I asked. “Er…..No……You wouldn’t be re-inventing the wheel as much as giving me a chance to see what you’re capable of.” There was that smile in his eyes again. He was testing me. Fair enough. I liked a challenge. The conversation continued with Bob explaining what this phase pink was intended for. He told me what tools were available to complete the task and explained other criteria he hoped would set me on the right path without restricting my creative impulse. Over our years of creating together, he proved to be a master of doing just that. The cricket chirped happily in the background as we talked.
When the meeting concluded and I began to make my exit, Bob exclaimed, “Good God, I almost forgot.” He led me into the other room where clutter showed the signs of creative work in progress. Piles of paper, folders, magazines and books surrounded a computer work station. This computer came complete with a track-fed, dot matrix printer. This was the era of IBM floppy disc-drive PCs. I gathered that this is where Bob Monroe did his writing.
One magazine called “Focus” caught my eye. On the front page was Bob’s picture along with an article written by him. I didn’t want to pry and quickly averted my eyes to follow his movements toward a pair of boxes on the table. The Sony label was on the outside of the boxes. “Do me a favor and bring these back to the lab with you. Hook ‘em up and let me know if they work as well as they are purported to,” he directed. “Sure. What are they? ” I asked as I made a move toward the boxes. “There called DATs and they are supposed to be the next big thing. I want you to try them out and see if they are suitable for mixing,” he replied. I almost stumbled. “How did you come by these?” I asked. I had heard of this new digital technology, but had not actually seen or used it. ” Bob simply smiled and said, “Oh….. have my sources.”
DAT. Digital Audio Tape recorders were extreme rare in the US and were actually banned from import at the time. The reason was that these recorders allowed pristine digital recordings to be made by consumers in Japan and Europe. The American Congress of the late 1980s still concerned itself with protecting US copyright holders through the copyright laws. It was the contention of the music industry, who had just recently invested billions in CD inventory, that these devices would begin the eventual downfall of the music industry and should remain illegal in the US. It was prophecy which proved correct, but not because of DAT. He certainly must have had great sources to get these “grey market items”. I remember thinking once again, who was this guy?
With my newly acquired toys, I set about the task of creating a new phase pink sound for my first real Hemi-Sync tm production. Phased pink was used by Bob to mask the Hemi-Sync signals underneath for two reasons. The first was to make sure that no one could copy the Hemi-Sync signals in raw form and use them for their own productions. Bob had a US patent on Hemi-Sync and was very protective of the technology. The second reason was that the raw signals were not really all that pleasing to the ear. The phased pink noise served as a buffer to make the listener less irritated by the raw Hemi-Sync sounds. This masking technique allowed the signals to be more effective.
Apparently, one of the reasons that there was a need to re-invent the wheel is that the phased pink noise was not really accomplishing the later intention. As I noted from the H+ series, the pink noise sounded a bit too much like an airplane. Not very relaxing, but not very intrusive either. There was room for improvement and I was going to get a chance to show my stuff. Armed with these new DATs, I set work to create a flawless product.
Pink noise is actually a standard audio tool. It is designed to help sound engineers do a spectrum analysis of sound systems and the environment in which those systems are being used. It is called pink (as differentiated from white noise) because the frequency range of the cacophony of sound matches the upper and lower thresholds of human hearing. Left unaltered, the sound of pink noise is quite annoying — perhaps even more annoying than raw Hemi-Sync tones.
Bob had ingeniously decided that alterations could be made in order to achieve his goals. The tool he used was a piece of gear called a Mu-tron Bi-Phase, which was quite popular in the 1970s with guitarists and studio engineers. I won’t bore you with technical details of how it works. Suffice it to say, the device adds a “wind-like effect” to whatever sound you put through it. Putting pink noise through it made a convincing wind sound, which is what Bob had intended. The problem was that he was a bit heavy handed with the effect, and it sounded more like a rushing turbine than a gentle breeze. My intention was to create a pleasing sound to mask the Hemi-Sync. It didn’t take long.
A few hours of tweaking the Bi-Phase and equalizing artifacts coming from the source produced immediate results. I was also able to increase the stereo spread artificially through the use of a Lexicon digital delay — another carry over from early 1980s technology. Time + Tools + Talent = Success in any record production. I was listening to what I considered to be a major upgrade within no time. I cut a cassette copy for Bob to listen to over the weekend. This was cut directly from the master I had made on the new Sony DAT.
I couldn’t really tell how well the DAT was performing, since the superior nature of this new technology was improved signal to noise ratio. Here I was recording noise. As far as I could tell it was the cleanest noise I ever recorded. I went home feeling satisfied and a little envious of Bob’s new toys. I wished I could have a DAT, but even if it were available, it was way too expensive for my pocketbook at that time.
I returned in the middle of the following week and, as was my custom, stopped at the gatehouse before going up to the lab. Dan, the brand new marketing guy for Interstate Industries (the commercial branch of the organization which distributed Hemi-Sync tapes to various retail outlets), met me and congratulated me on the creation of the new technology. “Wave Phase II,” they had decided to call it. He was eager to show me some copy he had written touting “the improved technological breakthrough, which would revolutionize the already powerful Hemi-Sync technology.”
I understood that he was referring to the changes made in the phase pink experiments I had done the week before, but had no idea why Dan was making such a fuss over such a small change. Such is the nature of marketing guys I guessed. It seemed that my little experiment had passed the test with those who had listened, including Bob. I called to ask his thoughts and he casually said, “Yeah. It’ll do.” Not exactly high praise coming from the big boss, but I wasn’t really expecting much. In my mind, it was a small improvement to a technology that I had little understanding of. I was about to find out more that week and was looking forward to learning. I had enjoyed the H+ tapes and felt that they improved my meditation experience. Now I was going to get a shot at making and producing a Hemi-Sync recording from scratch.
Bob met me in the lab armed with a 1/2 inch reel of tape which contained the voice tracks for two Mind Food titles: The Catnapper and the Way of Hemi-Sync. Both of these were among his most popular single titles. He and Skip had introduced me to the Commodore Amiga computer, which had specially written software to generate the Hemi-Sync signals.
I wasn’t very familiar with computers at the time. They were not so common place in the home as they are today, although I had a Roland Midi Sequencer in my studio which allowed me to make music. Operating this would prove a short learning curve. The Amiga was known for its sound card which allowed audio to be recorded, processed and/or generated. The software was specially designed to allow the generation of raw Hemi-Sync signals.
My introduction to and being given access to the Amiga was a very big deal in the eyes of others at the Institute. However, I was still unaware of just how big a deal it was. Apparently, there were many people within the organization who were asking the same question about me under their breath that I was asking about Bob Monroe. Just who is this guy?