Saturday, July 23, 2011


I've been entirely too serious of late, so here is a lighthearted take on a serious subject: skating music.
Yes, I know I've talked about this before, but it's a sore subject with me, so I'm going to (down)beat the topic into the ice again. This time, however, my rant is about production quality, not about overused music.

As a former competition announcer and skating music DJ of sorts, I am amazed, astounded and often-times deafened by bad edits, scratchy tracks, over modulated recordings and selections that make NO musical sense whatsoever. Who thought this was okay? Let me regale you with a few true, though slightly embellished, examples:

A skater turns in a CD that says "PLAY LOUD!" all over it. Really? How about recording it properly? I've had music that was cranked ALL THE WAY UP and was still inaudible. Even if you bought hearing aids for everyone in the building, Beltone wouldn't save that program.
Next, a skater turns in a CD that says "PLAY LOUD" all over it. Dutifully, I crank it up and it blows out every speaker in the arena, sends dogs into uncontrolled howling, clears the bleachers and sets off emergency alarms summoning a barrage of police, ambulances and fire trucks.

A skater turns in a CD that looks like it was drop-kicked in the parking lot, backed over by a forklift, used as a Frisbee and then as a mirror to check makeup before competition. I wipe it off, put it in the machine and lo-and-behold I get the sound of fingernails on a blackboard before it decides it doesn't want to play! Tears from the skater; words from the coach that cannot be repeated here. Of course it is my fault because, "It played PERFECTLY in OUR rink yesterday!"
A skater turns in a perfectly good CD. That's a step in the right direction. The opening pose is stuck. The music begins. Heads turn in breathless anticipation. The sound system is suddenly taken over by aliens and out comes Hip Hop Polka that jump cuts into Rachmaninoff and scratch spins into some Michael Jackson that was thrown in at the end because it didn't meet the minimum time requirement. And it doesn't matter because the skater is doing Swan Lake choreography - the part where the swan dies. (You're praying for the next CD to be a well recorded version of "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Les Mis," or "Zorro" so you can break out your Kazoo and join in.)
Am I exaggerating? You be the judge. No, seriously - you be the judge who sits in a cold rink as a volunteer for hours and days on end listening (or trying to listen) to poorly edited, badly recorded and mixed CD's that are trying to pass for music while a skater on the ice is doing his or her level best to compete and interpret to scratches, skips and the worst thing of all for a new competitor - the sound of silence when the music fails and they are left with only the scraping of their blades. It is heart wrenching and it is totally unnecessary. Music is an integral part of skating. It is as important as boots, blades, costumes and the fortune that has been paid in coaching and competition fees. It is the foundation on which our sport is built. If it doesn't work; if it doesn't sound right and if you don't have clean, good and protected backup CDs in the hands of your coach for the time that things do go wrong (and, believe me, they will!), there is no one to blame but yourself, and no one who is more hurt than your skater. 

Better just head for the hills. At least they have a 50/50 chance of being alive with the sound of (well recorded) music.


  1. Well said!! We recently hosted a competition and had all those issues and more with music. We even had to move an event due to a music issue (it was a fairly small competition and the referee was very generous!) How can coaches and parents not be more on top of this issue?!

  2. Snort. Recently returned from a session of repeated listenings of Malaguena, Carmen, Firebird, generic tango, Claire de Lune for juv-novice skaters prepping for Skate Detroit. I have said many times that all skaters MUST take a music appreciation course in which they are FORCED to listen to a massive variety of music out there--and this can be supplemented with a course on "Aural Quality" to teach how to cut and mix well and get the decibel level correct. :)

  3. At my first competition my music didn't work. Coach ran down to the music player with my spare CD. That didn't work. In the end we used her ipod. I was the only one in the whole competition to have music problems! Whereas at a comp I went to (to watch, not skate in), lots of people had issues. one little girl even got disqualified cause she stepped off the ice in the confusion of her CD not working