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Life and Work

In search of quiet

Recording studio leaves Cotton Mill after 10 years

BRATTLEBORO—If you are the proprietor of a recording studio, the one thing that you would likely insist upon is quiet.

But the Cotton Mill complex is a busy place these days, and quiet is at a premium.

So, after 10 years in the Cotton Mill, Michael Cerulli Billingsley is moving Straight Arrow Recordings, and temporarily relocating to his Canal Street home until he can find a new place to set up shop.

“Our most recent space, although visually appealing, was extremely difficult to adapt to our work,” said Billingsley. “Given the increasing noise levels in the building and technical issues, we decided to move.”

Before he moves, however, Billingsley is planning a sale of excess recording gear, musical instruments and darkroom equipment on Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the south loading dock at the Cotton Mill.

The list of sale items includes cables, equipment racks, mixers, keyboards, speakers, amplifiers, pickups, microphones, stands, televisions, DVD players, and decoders.

From the darkroom, there’s an enlarger, processing trays, developing tanks, and drying screens.

There is even a few collectors’ items, such as a Moog-licensed Radio Shack synthesizer and a Sequential Circuits DrumTraks machine.

“We’ve moved three times since 1996,” said Billingsley. “Rather than move this stuff again, I’m selling it. I want to get rid of everything I can that’s of marginal value to what we’re doing.”

Billingsley started Straight Arrow Recordings in 1984 in Montpelier as a location recording company. Its projects have included symphonies ranging from the Vermont Symphony to the London Philharmonia Orchestra with the London Symphony Orchestra Choir; chamber orchestras such as the Craftsbury Chamber Players, plus 11 years with the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival; and world music and percussion ensembles such as Africa d’jolé, Ethiopia People to People, Hafizz Shabazz’s World Music Ensemble, and Anaanda Vaani.

Other individual musician/performers and small ensembles Straight Arrow has recorded include have included Nischt Geferlach Klezmer Band, Pat Metheny, Michael Arnowitt, Banjo Dan & the Midnite Plowboys, Ellen Powell Quartet, John Luther Adams & Amy Knoles, The Fred Haas Ensemble, Norman Kennedy, Peter Burns, Janice Perry, The Dave Keller Band, Mark Nelson, and Michael Hedges with Daniel Hecht & Michael Manring.

In 2001, Straight Arrow moved into the Cotton Mill. Billingsley said that for the first three years, he was adjacent to the Vermont Jazz Center. That setup was great, he said, until a dance studio open directly above his recording studio.

“That was unconscionable,” said Billingsley. “Most of my work is with acoustic musicians.”

While he still believes that the Cotton Mill is a great building for artistic endeavors, Billingsley said he was unable to find a suitable spot in the building to continue his business.

“At a minimum, a recording studio needs clean, electromagnetic inference-free electricity and at least 12 hours a day that are moderately quiet,” he said. “For my work with chamber groups and world music ensembles, it would be great if I had access to performance space too.”

Until he finds a space that fits his needs, Billingsley said he’ll be doing basic mastering and editing out of his home office. “I have a lot of work to edit, so I’m not in a big hurry.”

More information on the May 7 sale is available at http://bit.ly/drtNqD. To receive an itemized list of gear, email a request to michaelbix@straight-arrow.cc, or leave a message at 802-254-2504. Billingsley advises that there will be no pre-sales or reserved items, and all sales are final.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #99 (Wednesday, May 4, 2011).

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