The Glass Opera T-Shirt Incident

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was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

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In the late 1990s I worked as a mastering engineer in a low-rent recording and mastering studio somewhere on the European continent. It was the days when access to a CD writer was a special thing. I had the original vinyl recording of Philip Glass' "Einstein On The Beach" Opera and did not want to play it to pieces, so decided to transfer it to CD, while assisting a freelance sound engineer recording a band in the studio next door. I had never met this engineer before, he was a bit older than me and worked at much better gigs than I did. The music he was working on could be described as "chanson". It should be pointed out that a) Philip Glass is not exactly mainstream music and b) he has extremely high standards when it comes to reproducing his work, which makes public performances rare. While fine-tuning the master sound before writing to CD, replaying segments loudly, the freelance engineer poked his head around the door, and gave a start. He then took his shirt off... ...under the shirt he wore the limited edition T-Shirt printed for the premiere of that Opera in that country, a momentous occasion several years earlier. It turned out that he had been the sound engineer at that event, it was a big step in is career, and he rarely wore the T-Shirt because it was so special. He could not recall what made him chose it for that day, but of course he had not expected to hear the music at our studio. I reckon one needs to know more about the market for sound engineers in the late 90s, Philip Glass music, the cultural clash of the Glass opera and our studio environment, and the lovingly preserved T-Shirt to understand both of our surprise. Or maybe we were just kidding ourselves. But it was a bit spooky. (Nevertheless, we both remained completely rational people :P )
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Date submitted:Thu, 12 Jan 2012 17:37:46 +0000Coincidence ID:3257