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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy/DAVID MCKEE An artist's rendering depicts what the Cosmic Cowboy Studio, 322 W. Meadow St., will look like in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Benjamin Meade remembers looking through the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 1972 album Will the Circle be Unbroken and seeing everyone sitting in a room with a microphone hanging from the ceiling.

He'd like to recreate that intimate feeling on a small lot at the corner of West Meadow Street and Shipley Alley.

Analog vs. digital sound recording

• In analog recording, sound is recorded by converting continuous variations in sound pressure into continuous variations in electrical voltage, using a microphone. This varying voltage is then converted into a varying pattern of magnetization on a tape, or, alternatively, into a pattern of light and dark areas on an optical-film soundtrack, or a groove of varying deviation on an LP.

• Digital recording, on the other hand, converts the electrical waveform from a microphone into a series of binary numbers, each of which represents the amplitude of the signal at a unique point in time, recording these numbers in a coded form allows the system to detect whether the replayed signal is correct. A reproducing device is then able to distinguish between the wanted and the unwanted signals introduced above, and is thus able to reject all but the wanted original information in most cases.

Source: Sound and Recording: Applications and Theory, 7th Edition by Francis Rumsey and Tim McCormick

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"You see more studios now being put together without isolation booths," Meade said. "You're basically doing a live performance without an audience."

The Cosmic Cowboy Studio will feature the best of both worlds of analog and digital recording, plus editing suites for film and video production, in the middle of a downtown neighborhood. Meade and his wife, Jane Hunt Meade, bought the lot at 322 W. Meadow St. for $225,000 about a year ago, according to property records.

Meade, 62, was born in Missouri and grew up in the Kansas City cultural arts scene. He attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City's music conservatory for six years and studied film at Central Missouri State University. Meade also received a master's degree in American history and a holds a doctorate in film and theater from the University of Kansas.

He spent three decades as a financial consultant with New England Financial. He also has produced or directed about 30 documentaries or short films, according to his Internet Movie Database page.

Meade ran a similar operation in Kansas City, which he closed in October because it became too much, he said. Tour buses full of bands and their friends would roll through just to get a glimpse of the rock memorabilia Meade has collected over the years -- a signed banjo from Pete Seeger, a signed guitar from Johnny Cash, a drum head signed by Frank Zappa -- and it made it difficult to get any work done, he said.

After spending years as a stockbroker and college professor, Meade hopes to foster new talent and present opportunities to artists who may have been marginalized, he said.

"I'm kind of looking at it as providing a service," Meade said.

Enthusiasm for filmmaking and studio recording is rising in Northwest Arkansas, according to those in the industries.

HBO's True Detective has been filming Season 3 in Fayetteville and surrounding cities for the past few weeks. The Bentonville Film Festival, co-founded by Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis, is entering its fourth year.

Rockhill Studios, a full-service film, television and promotional media production company, will hold a grand opening Wednesday at its state-of-the-art digital facility at 240 E. Township St. Rockhill has produced content since last summer, but now its completed facility will be open to the public, according to a spokeswoman.

Aspiring filmmakers don't have to go to Los Angeles or New York to start their careers, said Christopher Crane with the Arkansas Film Commission.

"If you stay here and create your content, there's going to be an outlet for it," he said.

On the music side of things, not as many recording studios exist since the advent of digital recording about 15 years ago, said Chris Moore, owner of East Hall Recording Studio at 4210 N. Salem Road. However, musicians within the last couple of years have realized a studio can provide services they can't necessarily get at home, he said.

The regional music scene is dynamic, Moore said. Tape recording, like what Cosmic Cowboy plans to offer, is seeing a resurgence, he said.

"It seems like we all manage to find our own niches," Moore said. "We're all kind of working in different areas. It doesn't feel like a direct competition, necessarily."

Haxton Road Studios, at 222 S.E. Second St. in downtown Bentonville, bills itself as having advanced, digital equipment and analog offerings. Crisp Recording Studio, at 2737 N. Drake St. in Fayetteville, has been around for years. StoneRidge Recording at 2402 E. Tahlequah St. in Siloam Springs, prides itself in digital recording and embraces hip-hop, metal and everything in between, according to its website.

Architect David McKee designed the Cosmic Cowboy Studio and Crossland Construction was hired as the contractor. Meade also has a partner, Ted Runnels. Runnels' production company, Mockingdog Communications, and Meade's company, Corticrawl Productions, will be housed under the same roof at the studio.

The building design takes inspiration from renowned Arkansas architect E. Fay Jones, using brick, wood, cypress siding and steel. Parking will go in the back, with a high, one-story ceiling and mezzanine. The 16,000 bricks on the exterior of the building will keep it well-insulated for sound, Meade said.

The city administratively approved development plans for the building in February. The site is zoned under a downtown general district, which allows studios without a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission.

Groundbreaking should happen in a week or so, Meade said.

Joseph Alexander, who lives next door with his cat, Oscar, said the only thing he's a little concerned about is the noise. A musician himself, Alexander said the project intrigued him. It'll likely go over well with the neighbors, he said.

"All these guys are artists and stuff, so I don't think anybody would have a problem," Alexander said. "On the contrary, they'd probably really like having something like that here."

NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Benjamin Meade, musician and filmmaker, stands April 13 at the location of the new Cosmic Cowboy Studio on 322 W. Meadow St. in Fayetteville. Plans are being made to break ground on the new film production and music recording studio in the next couple of weeks.
A map showing the planned location of Cosmic Cowboy studio.

NW News on 04/22/2018

Print Headline: Studio planned for downtown neighborhood

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