It was a cold, dreary night, and barely a star could be seen against the ashen sky. I trudged wearily into the studio as the assistants were breaking down the rental gear from the previous session, and spotted a mysterious cassette, hiding among the tangled cables.
I quickly retrieved the tape and inquired if anyone in the room knew the whereabouts of its owner, or recognized the content. None did, so I began a careful examination. When I was finished with my analysis I announced my conclusions to the roomful of interns and assistants.
“We’ re looking for a balding Caucasian male in his late 40s with short, grayish hair and very fashionable clothing. Our man is a lefty, walks with a limp, and carries a wooden cane with a carved handle. He’s a bitter man, due to his wife having recently left him. Though he came into a lot of money and was well off for a while, much of it was lost in the stock market. He is originally from England, but has lived here in the United States for the last 10 years or so.”
Everyone laughed as I tossed the cassette down on the coffee table and retired to the lounge for a spot of tea and a buttered scone.
About 10 minutes later, I returned to the control room to astonished looks on the faces of the staff. They explained to me that a man fitting that exact description just came up looking for his cassette. One of them asked if he was a lefty, and he replied with a British accent, “Yes, most certainly I am. Why do you ask?” They asked me to explain how I could tell all this from just a cassette. Here is the breakdown of my analysis.
The music sounded like it was done in the late ’80s (or the artist was locked into that period creatively). The metal cassette was in excellent condition and Dolby B, not C, was used. You had to live through that time to still believe it’s the format of choice.
His voice on the tape sounded seasoned, but obviously white, and I could detect he was trying to disguise a British accent. But his use of the word “quid” gave him away. Once I had placed his age, I could guess that he might be losing his hair or that it might be turning gray. The fact that he was using this studio to record meant he had money to spare for his own project. But the use of the dated, once-state-of-the-art synthesizers that I heard on the track led me to believe the guy hadn’t made any new gear purchases in the last few years, as money became tighter. His bitterness could be heard in his lyrics, which related his recent divorce after his wife left him for another man.
“Pray tell, Mr. Skye,” exclaimed Mr. Freedwad, the assistant engineer, “what about his being a southpaw?”
“Aha,” I replied. “I first suspected it when I looked at the cassette label and saw that the ink had been smeared from left to right, as often happens with lefties as their pinky scrolls across the page. But it was confirmed when I heard the tape, and noticed the extensive use of the left hand on the keyboard tracks. “Elementary, my dear Freedwad.”
I was pleased with the impressed looks on the faces of the interns as they filed out of the control room so we could begin our session.
“You still left one question unanswered,” said my assistant, Rodney. “How did you know about the limp and the cane?”
“Oh, that,” I replied. “I noticed it while we were having coffee together downstairs in the reception area.”
How perceptive are you when you listen to music? Do you analyze the type of reverb used on the lead vocals, or try and guess the dominant frequency in the snare drum that’s making it smack? If you pay attention and study and really listen, you’ll be surprised how much you can learn. No %M@, Sherlock.