Chasing the mix

After years of work (and play) in CELEB’s Maple Tree Recording Studio, Adriel Limas’20 now engineers music for emerging artists in the Sound Arts and Industries master’s degree program at Northwestern. After editing multiple projects with college alumni band Saturn Hat, he’s one of three Ferrall Artists-in-Residence, leading a group of students to write and perform their own original songs.

Adriel experimenting with an electric guitar in Maple Tree Studio, summer 2021. Adriel experimenting with an electric guitar in Maple Tree Studio, summer 2021.
Credit: Amanda Reseburg

Adriel Limas’20 knows his way around a sound board.

After graduating from Beloit College in the early months of the pandemic, Adriel pursued an honors term project and was quickly snatched up by the Center for Entrepreneurship (CELEB) to work as a technician in the Maple Tree Recording Studio and BeloitTV public access station, both located in CELEB’s downtown Beloit location.

Now, as a graduate student in sound engineering at Northwestern, and one of this year’s three Ferrall Artists-in-Residence at Beloit, he’s looking toward a career in the music industry, taking the mixing skills and boundless curiosity he honed at Beloit with him.

A curiosity for all things audio

Adriel, who is from Jakarta, Indonesia, double majored in music and sociology. He shredded the electric guitar in multiple student bands and wrote scores for dance performances and a short film. Along with bandmate and friend Anton Cross’20, Adriel spent much of his time as a student in Maple Tree, beginning with an audio production class he took in his sophomore year with Dr. Ian Nie, the recording studio’s former director and professor emeritus. Nie gave Adriel and Anton summer projects, including recording live-stream shows for the Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra. Adriel went on to TA for the audio class during his senior year, spending much of his down time practicing and experimenting in the studio.

“I was lucky to work with Ian a lot, having taken his classes and building a close mentorship with him,” says Adriel. “Not only did it sharpen some of my skills, but it also cultivated a curiosity and hunger for learning all things audio and going out of my way to read about gear or technology.”

For Adriel, CELEB’s audio recording and editing facilities became something of a laboratory. He tried out many techniques while planning his Beloit-centric honors term project, which he completed under Nie and Professor of Music Daniel Barolsky. For the project, Adriel modeled the reverb of the college’s Eaton Chapel by creating audio files that could allow inputted musical tones and other sounds to be recreated as they would sound (and echo) in the chapel.

“They became an asset for the studio — something [CELEB] can use for productions,” he says. “As an education tool, you can use them to teach mic positions and distance and the proximity effect and all that kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun to do.”

Anton Cross and Adriel Limas, taking a well-deserved break while working in CELEB, summer 2021. Anton Cross and Adriel Limas, taking a well-deserved break while working in CELEB, summer 2021.
Credit: Amanda Reseberg

After completing many musical projects in the studio, Adriel was hired to record lectures for the economics department in fall 2020, while many international students were taking classes remotely. He discovered how to patch the camera system into Zoom so that lectures didn’t have a delay when they were live streamed via YouTube. Although he was grateful for the work, he itched to get back into a studio.

Adriel started his master’s at Northwestern University last fall. When he’s not hitting the books — his acoustics class requires a lot of tricky math — Adriel looks forward to finally attending a few concerts in the Chicagoland area this year, as well as landing a summer internship in a studio.

“Then maybe, hopefully, I’ll be able to take on clients and record, engineer, mix, and master their stuff,” says Adriel. “It’s one of those industries that can be a bit competitive, but who knows?”

Adriel already has a leg up in that department. He has mixed and mastered music for Saturn Hat, a student band composed of drummer Philip Adrian’21, lead vocalist Tony Renzema’22, and guitarist Evan Watkins’21. The band’s album Space Soup and EP Brillig — both of which were recorded within the past two years — join Adriel’s growing list of audio post-production projects.

A solo record with Tony is also in the works. Adriel looks forward to the weekly studio time in Evanston with Saturn Hat’s frontman.

“It’s fun working with people I know and music I like,” Adriel says. “It corresponded with some of my class assignments, so we set up some sessions and we’re working on it. It’s a good time.”

In addition to his new role as Ferrall Artist-in-Residence this spring, Adriel balances school, editing projects, and making his own music — when he has the time. He hopes that his wide range of talents and boundless curiosity will attract exciting new artists to work with him full-time after grad school.

“I want to be versatile and not just good at one thing,” he says. “That’s the goal.”

Coming full circle

The mixing and sampling master, hard at work. The mixing and sampling master, hard at work.
Credit: Amanda Reseburg

Since 1998, Beloit College’s Victor E. Ferrall, Jr. Endowed Artist-in-Residence Program has invited visual and performance artists from across the country and the world to conduct workshops and collaborate on performances with groups of arts-minded Beloit students.

For the first time since its inception, this year’s residency has been split between three musicians who are all Beloit alumni: guitarist and mixing and mastering aficionado Adriel Limas’20, his fellow classmate and Chicagoland area gospel choir director Jonathan Dudley’20, and UK-based pop artist Matt Prosser’14.

This year’s Ferrall Artists have been assigned to lead their own small group projects. The assignment: Create original songs and perform them to an in-person audience on Saturday, April 9.

Adriel was asked to participate after he sent a friendly “happy holidays” email to one of his favorite professors, Assistant Professor of Music Yiheng Yvonne Wu, who coordinates the Ferrall residency. She told him he was being considered and urged him to submit a project proposal. From the beginning, Adriel wanted to incorporate improvisation and elements from various genres he enjoyed, from electronic to metal and hip-hop to jazz. He formed a group with two music students, Peyton Scarpaci’23 and Tae Charles’22. But he wanted to make sure it was a collaborative effort — even as he was still in Evanston taking graduate school classes at Northwestern.

“A lot can be built in the box — with one laptop, not needing a studio or setting up mics,” Adriel explains. “What we’ve been trying to do is have a repository where we can dump whatever samples, files, loops, and ideas that we have, and then we’ll try to use them in a composition in our weekly meetings. It’s mostly bouncing files and audio back and forth and seeing if we can craft a beat out of it. In the end, we’ll try to make a cool performance out of it live, instead of just pressing play.”

It was also important to Adriel that both the recording and the live components were as tight as they could be, even if both versions don’t sound identical.

“I try to write and record whatever sounds good and then figure it out later when the challenge of performing it live comes. Maybe I should rework some parts for the live performance, or set up a backing track situation, or rework the project file and take out a few parts. It’s a fun challenge to take something that’s not meant to be performed live and figure out a way to perform it,” Adriel says.

Meg Kulikowski’21
March 28, 2022

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