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One Essential Element: From Powwow to Post Production in Asheville (Part One in a Series)

Toward the end of last summer Jack Becker and Matt Levin, creative directors at Element Advertising, opened a large orange door looking for help. It’s a double-sized door the color of a fruit from Florida. While walking a few blocks to 2BruceStudio, what willpower it must have taken – bypassing coffee and pastries from Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, avoiding delights from The Chocolate Fetish, resisting an urgent text message while crossing the street? Jack and Matt needed help with plans for The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians package of fifteen videos. Raven’s Eye Productions would shoot and edit the videos. 2BruceStudio would supply post production services and one element missing from each of the videos – sound.

Jack Becker’s history of award winning work with 2BruceStudio began in 2007. The fun often begins with a pow-wow about the message. Jack and Matt already had a creative direction for music and sound design, but they were eager to hear my ideas. We agreed to music and sound ideas for each video so quickly, we were still fresh enough to rough out a timetable and budget. Element approved my post production budget within two weeks. It was the last good luck sign we needed before the Visit Cherokee project kickoff.

Before the first video arrived I had a good chance to learn more about Cherokee history, culture and music. The Cherokee people remain, after their first contact with European settlers in the 16th century, one of the most socially and culturally advanced of all Native American tribes. Sequoyah’s invention of the Cherokee syllabary in 1821 made it possible to read and write in the Cherokee language. The Cherokee published newspapers and built over one hundred schools while neighboring settlers, for the most part, eked out an illiterate existence. The Eastern Band of Cherokee are mainly descendants of 800 non-participants in the troubled Trail of Tears to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Read “Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab” by Steve Inskeep for more.

Our first video “Itinerary Builder” instructed site users on using tools in the web site for building a visitor itinerary. After the animation was finished, original music was scored and the ubiquitous voice of Sharon Feingold was recorded and mixed at 2BruceStudio.


Greatest Hits“Greatest Hits” is a bouncy music track with frequent cutaways for sound design. Cherokee has much more to do and see than could possibly fit in a video, but somehow the team at Element Advertising makes it work. The original music by Bruce Sales is woven together with the sound effects, one might say, as nicely as any basket for sale in the Qualla Arts and Crafts. Listen and notice the choice of native instruments including drums, shakers, and flute.


Skate ParkIn the first frames of “Skate Park” one hears tinkling piano, triangles and bells begin a surprising transformation from star dust magic to real world rhythms. Cherokee Action Sports Park isn’t just for skate boarders preparing to “soar with the eagles”. The park is for anyone, regardless of skill level, willing to bring a deck and an attitude. As the story unfolds via on-screen text, the music moves from orchestral percussion, sustaining strings and brass, and breaks down to dub-step until a visual misstep. It lands with one skater in the bowl, music stomping, live drums and hand claps keeping the pulse.


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Deep Breath, Original Music, and Release

Click for Video

Click for Video

For Keresey Proctor, editing video for the Traveling Yogini Tours started with a song. One of her client’s favorite songs, by Moby. It sounded like a perfect fit during the opening sequence, but quickly stumbled as a confused dance partner. It demanded a slower rhythm, made moves in weird places, and stepped on the picture’s toes. The picture deserved better.

Alternate Moby tracks tried, but stumbled. Only custom music would work.

With a deadline approaching, the director recommended hiring a highly reputable collaborator. The producer contacted Bruce Sales of 2BruceStudio, to score original music and sound design, and deliver the final audio mix for a tight but fair budget. A few soundtrack demos, and two weeks later, hugs and laughs went all around and 2BruceStudio delivered the final audio mix.

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From the jingle house to the Miles Building

SOUND GUY: Bruce Sales sits in his studio space in the Miles Building in downtown Asheville. Photo courtesy of Bruce Sales

SOUND GUY: Bruce Sales sits in his studio space in the Miles Building in downtown Asheville. Photo courtesy of Bruce Sales

From Mountain Xpress  

You probably won’t find a rock band in Bruce Sales’ 2BruceStudio, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t keeping busy. “My studio is more geared for postproduction,” says Sales. “I work with filmmakers and people doing video. So it’s [creating] the sound for the picture. They need sound design or voice recording or original music, or they just need me to mix it. Or fix it — I’ve been doing a lot of fixing lately.”

After majoring in songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Sales landed a gig at David Horowitz Music Associates, a commercial “jingle house” in New York City. He spent the next 15 years composing and engineering for big-name clients like Pepsi and GE, as well as small films.

And while the Asheville native says out-of-towners such as HBO and The History Channel still call on him regularly for voice recording work, he’s also made his mark in the local community. Besides producing the Asheville 48 Hour Film Project, Sales sponsors the Asheville Music School’s summer camp program, giving young musicians their first recording experience. The kids, he says, “just kind of walk in and play, and they get their mix. The largest group I had in here was 12 kids: They’re all lined around the walls, and I recorded them all at once playing a couple of songs. In the last 15 minutes, I mixed it together and gave them a version they can give their parents.” He also works with local musicians (including a lot of rappers and hip-hop artists lately, thanks to his knack for high-quality vocal recording), and businesses such as The Biltmore Co. and Travelling Yogini tours.

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