Archive of the MixSounds Category

I’m dumber than you…

and I can prove it! I’ve been a Finale user for years now, and just loaded up my review copy of Finale 2012. Over the years I’ve done some detailed score work using this program- here’s a recent example:

IV

But for some inexplicable reason, I never did the fundamental investigative work that would have let me take advantage of the Metatools function that has been part of Finale for quite some time. Looking over what’s new in 2012 (a few things that help the workflow pop out immediately) I opened up the online instructional video dedicated to the Metatool function. It’s so easy to select multiple notes, for example, and apply staccato markings to the whole bunch with one keystroke! How could I have avoided this feature up to this point?

There, I told you I could prove I was dumber than you!

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Thinning CC1 data in Cubase

Back in the early days of MIDI, continuous controllers were used, well to do just what the name implies- give the user the ability to control a function smoothly over all of the 127 values the spec provides. That’s great when you invoke a Hammond organ plug-in that has a Leslie effect built into it. If the mod wheel is the default controller you can open up the effect and release your inner Felix Cavalieri at will.

Beefier computers have allowed sample library manufacturers to add more articulations than they probably ever dreamed they’d be able to include back in the day. As a result, every available controller has been pressed into duty to help switch between samples, including the mod wheel.

So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, there really is none, except that if you consult your DAW’s list editor on a frequent basis you’ll find a string of values cluttering up the screen each time you use the mod wheel to shift, say, between a staccato and detache violin articulation in a Vienna Symphonic Library preset. If you decide that you’d like to select a different articulation after the fact you’ll have to scroll through this list to find the last value. What a drag!

Which brings me to Greg “Mondo” Ondo, Steinberg’s long time guru in chief. Can you believe that Greg tells me I’m the first one to lay that nickname on him? Me neither- it’s so obvious! Every time I encounter a Cubase issue that seems intractable I call Greg. Of course, I’m hoping he’ll be able to help me. Secretly, though, I’m looking forward to the day when I stump him!

I thought I might have him with the problem outlined above, but alas, Greg found a way to use the Logical Editor in Cubase to create a preset that forces the editor to retain only the last value of a recording you used the mod wheel on.

For all you Cubase users (I’m using Cubase 5 but this should work in all versions of Cubase that support the Logical Editor function) here’s how the Logical Editor preset that you’re going to create should look like this:

LE

Name this puppy and save it as a preset. Now, open up a lane in your DAW, set it to read CC1 values, and overdub a pass with the Mod Wheel. Call up your preset and poof- the last value is the only CC1 data that’s retained! What magic!

The “magic” is actually quite simple. When recording you’re moving the mod wheel rapidly until you reach your destination value, at which point you park. This preset tells the Logical Editor to get rid of all CC1 data that lasts less than a sixteenth note.

Very effective… thanks Greg!

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Crosscut Saw

What’s your favorite Albert King track? “Laundromat Blues” certainly is a worthy contender for best of the bunch. Albert’s version of “Born Under a Bad Sign,” (“if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”) has to make it onto the short list. The title cut from an album he recorded for Stax in 1967, “Born Under a Bad Sign” (written by Booker T. Jones and William Bell) is probably the song that AK is most remembered for.

For me, though, nothing beats “Crosscut Saw,” King’s version of a simple 12 bar structure that floated along the Delta until 1941, when Mississippi bluesman Tommy McClennan first recorded it. “Crosscut Saw” is the second cut on the “Born Under a Bad Sign” album, an LP that’s undoubtedly Albert King’s masterpiece.

“I’m a crosscut saw, baby just drag me across your lawn.
I’ll cut your wood so easy fer ya, you can’t help but say hot dog.”

With the MG’s as supporting cast (check out the upright piano part hocketing with the horns to create nothing but a simple pattern of harmonic stabs) “Crosscut Saw” sits on top of a light swing pattern played on snare and toms by producer/drummer Al Jackson Jr.. The arrangement leaves plenty of room for Albert to answer his vocal lines with those trademark stinging guitar lines that others have copped verbatim but never with the master’s authority or originality. As every fan knows, Albert was a lefty who played a right handed Gibson Flying V upside down. This unusual technique (copied by another left hander a few years later), along with a strong right hand and an even more powerful imagination, resulted in King’s signature sound.

Listen to the colors, the different shadings that Albert puts on a single note when he repeats it several times in a row. Each articulation has its own weight and curve! King’s virtuosity is on display in “Crosscut Saw” and throughout the album, which includes his outstanding take on the A.C. Williams classic “Oh, Pretty Woman.” “Oh Pretty Woman” received another good read by John Mayall and the Blues Breakers on their “Crusade” album, the cover of which, taped to the wall of my studio, I’m gazing up at right now.

About ten years after “Born Under a Bad Sign” was released I went to see Albert King play at the Lone Star Cafe, a cherished, long gone venue on 12th street in the Village. My high school buddy Brian Williams and I arrived early so that we could get seats close to the stage. By the time our hero entered the spotlight I was, truth be told, fairly looped. I kept calling out “Crosscut Saw,” but my pleas were ignored.

Then, just before he closed his set, Albert stepped up to the microphone and said, “A little while ago the young man asked to hear ‘Crosscut Saw.’” What?! Hey, he’s talking about me! Man, what a great night!

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iZotope, Inc.

A decade ago Mark Ethier and Jeremy Todd were a pair of smart kids who shared an aptitude for science and a passion for music. The Massachusetts natives met when both were students at MIT, and it didn’t take long for them to hatch a plan to combine their skill sets and create a company within the music industry specializing in signal processing and effects. Today, iZotope, Inc. (http://www.izotope.com) is recognized as a major player. Their latest release, Ozone 5, will be on display this weekend at the AES show. I spoke with co-founder and CEO Mark Ethier a few days ago.

Gary Eskow: “Mark, your website says that iZotope is a “research-driven audio technology company. What does that mean?”

Mark Ethier: “That statement speaks to our founding. Our company’s first address was my dorm room at MIT. Scientific research is in our blood; we’re always looking for new and better ways to use science to do improve things. We have people at iZotope working on forward looking projects, even when there’s no guarantee that the investment of time will result in products.

“Our noise reduction line is a good example. We thought about what it would take to create an algorithm that would allow for the automatic recognition of noise within a signal. What are the common characteristics of noise? How do they differ from the sound of the human voice, for example? Our hardware device, ANR-B, came out of this kind of inquiry.”

GE: “Would that be analogous to developing an algorithm that could identify the meter maids within a flow of traffic and apply a process- removing their pens, say- to these ticket writers only?”

ME: “Not a bad parallel, actually! We were able to build a noise profile, based in part on the fact that noise doesn’t generate harmonics, and then extract the noise from a complex signal.

“But that research didn’t work itself into a product until 2004, when we built a prototype of the ANR-B and demoed it at a trade show here in Boston. An engineer from WGBH came by, and we gave him a demo. He was working on a show called “The World,” that had people calling in live from all around the world. ANR-B gave engineers the ability to instantly remove noise from these calls. Within a few years that product had become a staple on the Oscars, the GRAMMYs, and other major live productions. The laboratory is where things percolate up, but we then have to look at the real world and ask ourselves how we can best apply an idea to circumstances as they exist.

“Stutter Edit, the product we worked on with BT, is another example. What would it take, we asked ourselves, to create a playable audio effect that syncs to a time line- not just a delay, but something that includes low and high pass sweeps? Stutter Edit came out of that thought process. It’s an effect that starts rhythmically and speeds up to the point where it sounds pitched- the effect that BT created as an artistic vehicle is now available to everyone.”

GE: “Many companies have loudness maximizers. What distinguishes your products from those of your competitors?”

ME: “Subtlety of sound, in my opinion. The fundamental question is, how much change can you bring to a sound in this area without introducing distortion? Ozone 5 has a new loudness maximizer that works in real time. It’s constantly analyzing several distinct ways that the audio signal can be modified, measuring the amount of distortion each process would add, and selecting the most preferable option.

“Mastering is the combination of art and science. You are ‘correcting’ a mix, but it has to be done in a musical way. Ozone 5 is big leap in the area of real time analysis. The feedback it provides can, we believe, help the mastering engineer make the wisest choices in terms of limiting, noise reduction, and finding the path to creating the most musical masters possible.”

GE: “What’s the practical value of Sonifi?”

ME: “This iPhone app is an experiment in new media. Over the last 50 years music listening has changed from mono to stereo. Notwithstanding the experiments in quad and surround, stereo masters are still the dominant release platform.

“Sonifi offers the user the ability to restructure the form of a piece of a stereo music, to give him or her another way to experience music. Why should the composer be the authoritarian figure who dictates how the listener should experience a piece of music?”

GE: “Wait, so maybe Beethoven got the second movement of his 7th Symphony wrong?”

ME: “I’m not saying that! We’re working with a prominent musician right now, though, on the release of his next single. This person thinks it would be interesting for the listener to have a unique experience each time he or she listens to a song.”

GE: “As computers get faster and even more powerful, will they allow you to develop products that you can’t currently bring to market?”

ME: “Yes, in the area of real time processing, for instance. So much is about listening! You want to be able to close your eyes, move a control, and listen. We’re trying to find ways to give people more and more direct feedback. Ozone 5 has a new visual interface. Faster computers will allow us to deliver products that offer more and more real time feedback.”

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Rue de la Soleil

Some things are just good, right? You may not like everything David Benoit has released- me neither, frankly. But “Rue de la Soleil,” from his 1997 CD, “American Landscape,” commands repeated listening.

Ab major, the muted key. David sets this gentle, evocative, touching melody in Ab, then colors it with a snare gently kissed with brushes, and those beautiful finger cymbals. The nylon guitar solo wisely refrains from stepping too far from the gorgeous theme. And the upright bass…

I’ve been to Paris a couple of times, walked down this street, to the best of my recollection. But I can’t say if the wistful image David Benoit paints is redolent… it’s just, well, comforting.

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Ed Goldfarb

Ed Goldfarb is the shizizzle. Ok, let’s agree that the term, while widely accepted, has to date failed to garner universal acceptance and requires clarification. Ed is gifted as a player (keys, primarily), writer (in many idioms, specializing in a variety of pop influenced styles), arranger, and producer. He’s a kick ass engineer as well; I’ve used him on a number of projects. It’s unusual to find a guy who works primarily in popular forms who has the breadth of knowledge that Ed does. We’ve had lengthy conversations about Stravinsky, early Webern, and the clarity of Mendelssohn’s orchestrations- as well as Albert King and The Allman Brothers.

Over the last several years, while working on a number of other projects, Ed has been writing and recording songs with Jon Seltzer. “All I Want Is To Make You Happy,” the initial CD release from their group, The Sad Truth, can be heard and downloaded at their site, www.thesadtruthmusic.com. Ed, who lives in the Bay area with his wife and daughter, spoke to me recently by phone about the project.

Gary Eskow: “What was the genesis for this record?

Ed Goldfarb: “I had some songs that I’d written for myself, but no idea what to do with them. I started auditioning singers, mostly folks I’d been making records with over the years. Around the same time, maybe nine years ago, I was the Musical Director for “Beach Blanket Babylon,” the longest running theatrical review in the world. Jon was a waiter looking to break into show business. I gave him a song to work on, “War Babies,” and he killed it. He showed me a couple of songs of his that sounded really good and we took it from there.

GE: “How did you go about putting the group together to record this album?”

EG: “Obviously you want the best players on any record you make, particularly when you put in as much time as we did on this one. Lyle Workman, Bruce Kaplan, Barry Finnerty, these players have legendary resumes. Jon also played some guitar, and so did the late Paul A. Fox.”

GE: “Paul’s picture is on the inside of the CD and a Magritte painting (“Le mal du pays (Homesickness”) that features a man with wings is featured prominently on the packaging. Can you tell us something about your relationship with Paul?”

EG: “Paul was my first call guitar player, and he was excited about collaborating with me on this project, so he waived any fees. He auditioned for lead singer, but joked that since he was only half Jewish he lacked the personality to cut through! He played all the guitars on the opening track, “Couldn’t Be Clearer” and rhythm guitar on “War Babies” and “Lay Your Burden Down.”

Sadly, Paul got into a car crash and was gone at the age of 45.”

GE: “Where did you record the album?”

EG: “We tracked most of the material here in my house, including drums. We have a peaked ceiling in our master room that makes a nice recording space. I’ve got a ProTools rig. No board, I just use the mouse.”

GE: “You told me that you used a trick on some of the acoustic rhythm guitar tracks. Can you explain it?”

EG: “I thought it up, but the idea was based on something I read in an interview with someone (I can’t remember who) who had worked with Jeff Lynn on one of the Wilburys records. All five of the players would play at the same time, with everyone using a high quality microphone except for one guy. They’d put an SM 57 on him. Lynn apparently felt that the combination of detailed mics and one (maybe it was even a couple) recorded with a less detailed microphone sounded cool.

“I modified that idea and had several rhythm guitars tracked properly, and then an overdub, which we put in the center of the stereo field, recorded a few cents out of tune. It was hard for the player to record while out of tune, but the effect is really cool, purer than using any time based effect, since you’re not messing with the fabric of the sound at all, just adding some beating. You can hear this effect on “She Breaks My Heart” and “Lay Your Burden Down.”

GE: “My wife was a big Todd Rundgren fan and she says she hears his influence on this record. Is she right?”

EG: “Absolutely! Congratulations to her for picking up on that. This record is, in a sense, a tribute to the great pop records of the 70’s and 80’s.”

GE: “Jeff Saltzman mixed this record. Have you worked with him before?”

EG: “For years. Jeff’s my oldest friend- we met in Saturday school when we were nine years old. Jeff used ProTools LE, and it doesn’t matter what platform he’s on. He’s brilliant. He use a bunch of cool plug-ins and hardware, including Anamod Audio’s
AM670 Stereo Limiter, their recreation of the Fairchild 660. He leans quite heavily on the Waves API plug-in as well.”

GE: “The record was mastered at Sterling Sound, wasn’t it?”

EG: “Yes, Dave McNair did a great job for us.”

GE: “How are you distributing this CD?”

GE: “On a name your own price basis off of our website. At this point it’s all about expanding the base of people who are aware of what we’re doing. The response has been great so far, and we’re extremely encouraged by the feedback we’re getting. We’ve also been experimenting with targeted advertising on Facebook, making our presence know to folks whose musical preferences mirror our own. Through these efforts we’ve gained lots of new fans all over the world.”

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Baron Raymonde

Stars. Sure, we need ‘em! But our industry is founded upon great players. Their contribution to performances- live and in the studio- fuels the business and inspires the front man (or lady).

Baron Raymonde is one of those musicians. He grew up in Scarsdale, NY, headed south on Route 62 and obtained both Bachelor and Masters Degrees in jazz performance from the University of North Texas before migrating back to Manhattan in the late 1980’s. I first met Baron in the mid 90’s when I had a music production company and was struggling to make a living in the jingle business. Eventually, we made a five song demo, “Before The Memory Fades,” that we released online. Before sinking it received over 100,000 hits.

Baron currently lives in Nutley, New Jersey. I caught up with him last week.

Gary Eskow: “Baron, what have you been up to lately?”

Baron Raymonde: “I’ve been subbing recently in Levon Helms’ band up at his place in Woodstock. Most people know that he built a studio on his property, the Midnight Ramble. It’s a great space that also serves as a concert facility, seating several hundred people.”

GE: “How did you get that gig?”

BR: “Erik Lawrence, one of the band members recommended me. There are some great players in the group; Dave Bromberg (guitar), Brian Mitchell (keyboards), and Howard Johnson (baritone sax/tuba) among them. Larry Campbell is the Music Director.”

GE: “How deep is Levon’s groove?”

BF: “He has an unbelievable pocket, and he glows when he plays. He’s also a real gentleman, a very gracious person. The group performs some of The Band’s material, plus Levon’s own stuff. He won an American Grammy in 2009, I believe, plus another one, on his own.”

GE: “When did your first big opportunity in the industry come?”

BF: “I moved back north to Manhattan in 1984 and started playing with J.T. Bowen, Clarence Clemons’ lead singer. We got a gig at the Sands in Atlantic City, but Matt “Guitar” Murphy called me and I went on tour with him instead. That was a defining moment for me.”

GE: “What are some of the highlights of your career?”

BF: “Well, first of all I’d say that just being able to spend 25 years living the life of a touring musician has been amazing. Nothing beats doing what you love to do, even with all of the ups and downs of the business.

“In 2001 I was with Rod Stewart on his “Human” tour. We performed in 42 cities in North America and Canada, and I played six instruments- all reeds, plus flute and clarinet.

“I didn’t think I was going to get that gig because I’d heard that Rod was looking for a female player. But he heard me play at a benefit and told me that he wanted me to join him for that tour. I didn’t believe him- but the next day I was on the Rosie O’Donnell show playing a solo on “Tonight’s The Night.”

“We performed in a huge arena in Tampa, and that night I played a long solo on “Downtown Train.” When I finished Rod acknowledged me and the crowd started chanting my name… that was thrilling!

“Just recently I played a show at Lincoln Center with Ronnie Spector and Leslie Gore. It was great to hang out with them. Ronnie was very nice and approachable. Gene Cornish, the original guitar player with the Young Rascals, was on that date.

“As far as recordings, I’d have to say that the work I did on India Arie’s 2002 album, “Voyage To India,” which won the R&B album of the year award in 2003, remains a highlight for me. We recorded at Electric Lady, and I played saxes and flute. The album was released on Motown Records, which was also exciting.”

GE: “You went back and got a teaching degree several years ago, didn’t you?”

BR: “Yes. Work was slow, though I had some interesting gigs at the time; I was subbing on the show “Love, Janis,” and playing with GE Smith. GE’ band played the televised Mark Twain award event which honored Whoopi Goldgerg.

“But as I said, work was slow, so I started subbing in the public school system. In 1994 I got my teaching certificate at William Paterson University. These days I teach fourth to sixth graders, five days a week. I really enjoy it! It’s a way for me to give something back, and the job doesn’t interfere with my performance schedule, although things can get a bit hectic at times!”

GE: “Anything interesting coming up?”

BR: “On November 26th I’ll be playing with Alan Chez’ band- he’s the trumpet player in David Letterman’s band- at Dominion, in New York City. The group is called The Brothers of Funk Big Band.”

Baron urges everyone who wants to keep up with his schedule to visit his website, www.saxbaron.com.

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Hal Winer

When I heard the requiem sounding for Bennett Studios I thought of Hal Winer- particularly since my friend Ron Levy was suddenly in the market for a recording space that had a beautiful piano and wonderful acoustics. I gave Hal a call to see how things have been going in the year or so since I last worked at Bicoastal Music, the studio he built in his hometown of Ossining, New York.

Winer graduated from the University of Hartford with a liberal arts degree in 1982 and headed out to LA to try and bust into the record business as an engineer. Rather than go through the typical apprentice route, however, Winer veered off into another aspect of show business, building sets for film and television productions. This work helped him later on. “The skills I learned on the set helped me build this studio,” says Winer.

In 1992 Winer moved back home and went into the family business. “I sold buttons to garment manufacturers and started my home studio at the same time.” Early equipment included a Foxtex eight track recorder (supplanted in a few years by several Tascam DA-88 recorders), and a Mackie 3208 console. “Actually, I had a SEC 1882 before the Mackie. I got into the Spectral Synthesis work station and purchased a Mackie Digital 8 Buss console, which I used in my home studio until 2002.”

He was doing pretty well at that time, so Winer reached out to a number of the premier studio designers in the country via e-mail. “I picked up all the magazines- Mix was at the top of the pile, of course!- and wrote to the top guys saying that I needed help putting my room together. They all ignored me- except for Russ Berger. Russ hooked me up. I leveraged my house, got a bit of financial backing, and cashed in my IRA. I bought an SSL C200, and suddenly I had a studio.”

The C200 was new at the time, so SSL opened up the company black book and introduced Hal to a number of free-lance engineers, many of whom formed the core of his client base. “I also developed my own independent client list, and over the next couple of years my clients kept growing with me.”

Winer can’t remember if he cried, or the exact day the record industry died, but things changed. “Right now 90% of my business is my own production work. I met Cliff Carter when I opened the studio in 2002 and hired him as as a session player for singer songwriters. Several years ago we started producing together. Cliff functions as music director, arranger, and co-producer. I engineer and co-produce. We take singer songwriters with no band and put them in a place they couldn’t be otherwise.”

How do these clients measure success, if a gold record is no longer a reasonable goal? “Success has nothing to do with the sale of their record; we don’t believe that’s what makes a career. We give them a calling card that they can use to market themselves. They walk out of here with a professional recording that has world class musicians playing on it and they know they’re getting a product that they would have had to use a label for in the past. It’s all about the song, the sonics, and the musicianship. We make it as affordable as we can, but the cost is obviously higher than what someone would pay if they followed the old Elvis model and walked into a studio off the street and booked a few hours to cut their tracks live.”

If he had to round it off, what percentage of Bicoastal Music clients end up happy with the experience they’ve had at the studio? “All of them-one hundred per cent- are happy. They all give us a variation on the same theme- ‘I never thought I could have record like this.’ They know that a professional career is hard to develop and sustain, and that using social media to develop a fan base is critical. We give them the product; it’s up to them to market it.

“I also open up the studio to some high level engineers who use the room to record chamber music. That gives me a chance to take a break, and I get to listen to music that’s new and different and watch talented engineers work.”

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Another one down…

Ron Levy, pianist with the Palisades Virtuosi and a long time friend, e-mailed me over the weekend saying that Bennett Studios shut down operations abruptly earlier this month. What a drag for artists like Ron, who has called the studio home for years (for me, too, since Ron and Richard Hobson, a baritone at the Metropolitan Opera were getting ready to track “Dispatch From The Killing Floor,” my settings of four poems from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves Of Grass” at Bennett Studios).

How have we gotten to this point? Have convolution reverbs, multi velocity level sampled pianos, and cheap microphones from Asia really turned wonderful acoustic environments like Dae Bennett’s place into anachronisms that serve no vital function in today’s world?

Progress, I guess.

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Soundiron

I’ve been a big fan of Tonehammer for some time. The company’s founders, Mike Peaslee and Troels Folmann recently parted ways. Two new sample library companies, 8dio (www.8dio.com), and SOUNDIRON (www.soundiron.com) have come out of this seperation. I spoke to Mike Peaslee the other day about his new venture, SOUNDIRON.

Gary Eskow: “Why the split with Troels at this time?”

Mike Peaslee: “We just had different creative ideas, different areas that we want to pursue. The split was perfectly amicable.”

GE: “What is the philosophical underpinning of SOUNDIRON?”

MP: “It’s really important to me that we have a community connected direction. We’re going to balance affordability and accessibility with innovative content, even within the realm of the more mainstream instruments we cover like choirs. We respond to users and interact with them directly. For example, we like for users to submit demos, and we ask other users to comment on them.

“We might release a product like our new Russian male choir, MARS, thinking that it will apply to the film scoring community most directly. But users might incorporate MARS into a rock or techno track, and put an entirely different spin on it. We also have gone as far as creating individual presets for users who have requested them.”

GE: “Can you give me an example of how you’ve adapted a piece of software based on user input?”

MP: “Sure. We just released an update to Requiem Light, one of our choirs. Some users had told us that they wished the marcato samples could be looped- they wanted to be able to weave those articulations into sustains. We dug into those sample and used the best of our tricks to to what had been a one shot thing into an infinitely sustaining set of seamless loops.

“SOUNDIRON is three people: Greg Stephens, Christopher Marshall, and me. If a customer sends an e-mail to the company they’ll be hearing from one of us. Whether they’re an institution, a professional, or a beginner, it’s important that they feel attached to the instruments. We need to let people know what inspired them, how they were created, and the best possible way to use our products.

GE: “What will SOUNDIRON be focusing on in the near future?”

MP: “We’re going to be releasing one or two products a month. There will be a lot of tuned percussion, and textures and ambiences. One of our long term goals is to get into the area of traditional classical orchestral instruments, but we’ll sample these instruments in a way that is unique. If we can’t deliver on something that’s powerfully compelling and well done, we put that project on the slow track.”

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