On October 13, 2007, the Pyramind Media and Music Production School in San Francisco celebrates a new stage of its evolution as a leading center of industry-oriented skills development and artist opportunities. A strong force in the area's digital audio education scene since 2000, this month Pyramind not only celebrates the grand opening of its new facilities and the launch of its own record label, Epiphyte Records, but the release of its TestPressSF CD/DVD, a compilation of the winning tracks from its Test Press industry mixer events. Ableton's sponsorship of this release has helped to make the insights of the winning artists (including one Pyramind instructor) accessible, with Live set files, artist interviews and commentary, and much more packed onto the bonus DVD.
Expansive education: the classroom, the studio, the club...
Pyramind is at its core a production school offering robust training in industry-standard media and music production practices from leading professionals in the field. In both the studio and the classroom, creativity meets technology as students work toward one of three certificate programs, learning the most current software and hardware skills and techniques for their specialization. A course devoted to Ableton Live is offered each session, taught by San Francisco-based composer/producer/performer Timo Preece, a.k.a. Gravity Terminal.
But Pyramind's educational presence extends beyond the classroom and even the studio. Since 2005, at the recommendation of the San Francisco chapter of the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences, they've thrown a quarterly industry mixer event known as Test Press, to which Bay Area artists are invited to submit their tracks to be heard and critiqued by local industry leaders. This meeting of minds from all corners of the industry--everyone from DJs, producers and instrumentalists, to label reps, record store owners and promoters shows up--has proven to be an innovative and successful recipe for extracurricular artistic development and networking, and has been met by an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone involved.
You give, you get: artists share new music, panelists share thoughts.
The opportunity at Test Press events for artists to share their work with the community had instant appeal for both the panelists and the artists. Test Press panelist and winning TestPressSF artist Rashida Clendening, a.k.a. Audio Angel, recalls the positive experience of Test Press night from very early on. "It felt very welcoming and like such a good idea. I thought, 'This is cool. This is a good place to be giving input and hearing all kinds of new music.' I remember Playdoughboy standing out a lot, and I never would have heard this guy's music if I hadn't come out."
For artists, the feedback process has been a crucial part of the Test Press formula. "A lot of people who are involved," says Rashida, "have taken just tons of feedback and eaten it up. That was another thing that was a real draw: The people that did come and get their music on the panel were just really open to the feedback. And I think they all just kept coming back, nobody ran away scared, because I guess they must have felt nurtured on some level."
Greg Gordon, founder/director/president of Pyramind and executive producer of TestPressSF, sees the broader implications of the panel's critique as well. "Even though you may get some negative feedback on a track or something, you need to know that it's not a personal assault, that it's all in the name of art, and improving our art, and really making a mark for San Francisco on the map."
Winning tracks, insights and Live files, now on plastic.
TestPressSF, the new compilation of Test Press's winning tracks and the debut release for Epiphyte Records, resoundingly puts both San Francisco and Pyramind on the map. A testament to the diversity of the scene, the 14 tracks go between and beyond familiar electronic genres, from house to downtempo to dub to drum and bass, some vocal, some instrumental. And the tracks are impressively strong all around: A consistently high production value and thoughtful compositional sense are evident in every track, while each manages to retain the distinctive tone of its creator.
To extend the educational reach of the Pyramind School and of the Test Press artists in particular, Ableton has sponsored the release of TestPressSF. With the support of Ableton, Pyramind has not only been able to offer the release on CD, but to include a DVD full of bonus content. Interviews with winning artists detail their experiences at Test Press, the steps involved in their approach to music-making, the tools they use and how they use them. As several of the winners are Live users, these interviews are packed with tips for using Live in the studio and on stage. Gravity Terminal presents video tutorials of Pyramind's HotTips for Live, Beatropolis explains why his band is multitrack-recording their next album in Live, Divasonic talks about how Live allows her the versatility to tailor her live performance to the crowd in real time, while Techture simply says, "I love this program. I use it all the time. That's all I can say."
Naturally, Ableton is proud to be a part of Pyramind's growing family.