Creating a space unlike any other

The tag line, "If you build it, they will come," doesn't exactly work for the University of Lethbridge's Digital Audio Arts (DAA) program. They (as in the students) are already here, and they can't wait for it (the new Digital Audio Arts Studio) to be unveiled.

"It will definitely be the crowning jewel of the program," says Chris Morris, the technical specialist with digital audio arts. "It will be a state of the art recording facility as well as a critical listening and practice facility. It will be a collaborative environment for the Faculty of Fine Arts."

Digital audio arts is in just its second semester. With a full complement of 32 students and a healthy waiting list of applicants, the program is off to a rousing start. Dr. Rolf Boon and Dr. Arlan Schultz started the process six years ago. The program was created with an eye to the future, and students have definitely responded.

"Dr. Boon likes to say, 'We're preparing people for careers in music technology that may not even exist yet,'" says Morris. "Right now we're finding a lot of students are mostly interested in music production and working in a recording studio. But it's not just a music production program – it's defining audio research for the future.
"When you really open your mind, the sky's the limit in terms of what you can do. Media is everywhere and wherever there is media, there's audio, there's sound, so there will always be an opportunity with this kind of degree."

The studio is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in late March or early April. An entirely custom built facility, it has transformed what was once a static, drab, concrete-walled area into a dynamic teaching and recording space complete with hardwood floors, custom speakers and a top shelf audio console.

"Basically the whole place is custom except for the console itself," says Morris.

California-based studio designer Jay Kaufman, a specialist in working with odd spaces, was brought in to recreate the area. The result is a studio that will allow students the opportunity to learn in a professional setting, and similarly attract outside labels and recording artists.

"In terms of post-secondary education, nobody has what we'll have. We're definitely on the cutting edge of everything," says Morris. "It'll position us in a way where this is a showpiece that will attract a lot of attention."

Internally, the studio will benefit the entire faculty. Besides the hands-on learning opportunities for DAA students, new media students will be able to use it for audio work on film, the art department can utilize it for sonic art studies and music students will walk off campus and into the job market with professionally-mastered portfolios.

Externally, Morris says positioning a recording studio in an educational facility
allows recording labels to bring in artists for extended stays, housing them on campus to complete projects quickly. This opens up internship opportunities for DAA students.

"Labels always want to bring their own engineers in to work with their artists," says Morris. "To use the space, it will be mandatory that they take a few of our students as assistant engineers so that they can get experience in the studio with real engineers and real artists."

Already off to a flying start the new DAA studio promises to set the U of L apart from other music programs in the country.

"The first semester of the program was an absolute success," he says. "The feedback from the students has been great, and they love to be able to use the audio research lab we have. Once the new studio is on board, it will be that much better."


• The DAA studio is described as a room within a room within a room. The centre room is pressure-fitted and the entire facility "floats" on neoprene pucks at all points within the concrete cavity of the space.

• The recording area is designed to be completely soundproof with lead-lined walls that are 18 inches deep and floors made of an extra-thick hardwood.

• All the walls, including the glass and the roof, are angled. "There are no parallel walls in the space," says Morris. "It's all about not having any standing waves that would be bouncing back and forth. They'll get scattered in all directions, and therefore create an acoustically sound space."

• The studio's console is the latest from Solid State Logic. The 48-channel Duality allows students to work with both analog and digital audio.

• The entire studio will be connected to the University Recital Hall via 16 channels of audio, a CCTV camera and LCD screens. This allows for the recording of concerts and performances or the use of the hall as a larger recording venue for larger groups of artists, such as orchestras.