By Dan Daley
The Producers & Engineers Wing of The Recording Academy has more than 6,000 members, and it seemed like most of them were there for the P&E Wing's 10th anniversary celebration, held at the Village recording studios in West Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 9.
The P&E Wing's annual GRAMMY Week event honors the work of all of music's "engine room" ― the creatively technical personalities that help shape artists' visions, and each year chooses one in particular to shine the spotlight on. This year's honor, at an event entitled Shaken Rattled & Rolled, went to T Bone Burnett, whose production work for artists such as Elvis Costello, Jakob Dylan, Elton John and Leon Russell, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, John Mellencamp, Ralph Stanley, and countless others, as well as on soundtracks for landmark film projects including Crazy Heart, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, and Walk The Line, has helped redefine the Americana genre.
Burnett took the stage at the Village to tremendous applause and pointed out that digital technology has done as much damage to the sound and recording art of music as it has done to the economics of its distribution. Citing the "insane fact that in the past few years movies and games have put out higher quality audio than music has," Burnett gave the audience an impassioned prediction that "we are approaching the end of an era when music is free."
The audience cheered Burnett's words. They understood when he described the LP ― a set of carefully created and sequenced works of aural art ― as an American contribution to the arts on par with a fine wine from France. And all agreed with Burnett's observation that "guitars are analog, drums are analog, voices are analog…we are analog."
The presentation closed with songs performed by the Secret Sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, whose self-titled debut record was executive produced by Burnett.
There were plenty of P&E Wing members gathered there that could attest to the artistry Burnett ascribed to analog technology and the music culture it fostered. They included renowned producers and engineers such as Phil Ramone (Billy Joel), Ed Cherney (Bonnie Raitt), Al Schmitt (Steely Dan), and Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix). But it was Robert Margouleff, who won a GRAMMY in 1973 for Best Engineered Recording — Non-Classical for Stevie Wonder's Innvervisions, who most succinctly summed up Burnett's career: "It's been one long, wonderful album."
(To view more photos from Shaken Rattled & Rolled and additional GRAMMY Week events, click here.)