Get to know... Jonathan Wyner - iZotope’s Music Master
When it comes to creating an album, the step before a listener pushes play comes down to the person mastering the sound. It’s up to the mastering engineer to tweak the compositions to sound as tight as possible. It’s a difficult job that requires precision, skill, and a good ear for music.
iZotope’s ‘dean’ and education director, Jonathan Wyner, is someone who has built a very successful career out of this unique skillset. Not only has he mastered albums for many
prominent artists like Nirvana, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Miles Davis, and Aerosmith, but his work has also been nominated for a Grammy. He’s also an active voter for the Grammys, as a long standing member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Music has always been a part of Wyner’s family. His father, uncle, and grandfather all had careers teaching, composing ,and performing. “I was born into a family where music was the family business,” says Wyner. “It was a given at the beginning that it was a possible career path. Being a doctor or lawyer was outside the family norm.”
Throughout the 70s, Wyner took note of the advancements that music was making through electronics like mixers, synthesizers, and other forms of audio technology. Music production was evolving into a more sophisticated state, and it was piquing Wyner’s interest. “For me, technology was augmenting creative possibilities for people,” he says.
The combination of these two factors resulted in a kick start for Wyner’s career in audio production. However, when Wyner attended college in the 70s, careers involving his passion with audio technology were slim. “You either designed audio equipment,” he remembers. “Or you went on tour with a band without the prospect of a ‘real job.’”
After receiving his FCC license, Wyner’s career started while working at Vassar College’s radio station. He would record students’ music-related performances, ‘mis-treated’ them with synthesizers and filters, and broadcast them. Wyner later graduated from Vassar with a degree in music composition and performance.
Wyner discovered classes outside of his campus to further his knowledge with audio technology. “Much to my delight and surprise,” he says. “A few years after college, I discovered a six week workshop program in Ohio.” The workshop included lessons on how to utilize and set up microphones,recording studio systems, music production, and other audio technology. He was hooked, and it lead him down the path of teaching the same workshop for a year and a half.
Around this time, the technology behind sound engineering continued to evolve. The introduction of the, then-expensive, digital audio equipment started to change the overall sound of albums. Wyner’s career then took another direction when he moved back to Boston in the mid-80s and joined a company mastering recordings just as compact discs were starting to hit the market.
“I found myself at the right place at the right time, ” says Wyner. He started to work with prominent artists who were looking to record or re-release albums on CDs. One of his most prominent projects came in the form of a Thin White Duke. Wyner remastered many of David Bowie’s albums in the late 80s. “Bowie, being the forward-thinking technologist that he was,” he remembers, “Wanted to do something different from not only a marketing perspective, but from a technological one as well.”
Wyner also holds the distinction of mastering Nirvana’s first album, Bleach. He recalls how they were a new band who had not hit their mark yet. “With new artists, you don’t know what is going to happen,” he remembers. “No one knew for sure they were going to blow up.”
It was all of this experience which brought him to his current position at iZotope, a company based in Cambridge which develops award-winning audio products and technologies.
Wyner’s relationship with the company actually originated about fourteen years ago. He noticed an ad for one of iZotope’s products called Ozone, a computer-based audio mastering solution. Since the company was up the street from his studio, he reached out to offer some advice and feedback on their products. He ended up being an advisor for the company for several years.
Today, his role with the company involves creating and engineering educational programs and documentation regarding audio technology and consulting on product development. Wyner also represents the company by speaking at conferences, and he works to help support the industry.
In addition to his position at iZotope, Wyner is a professor at the Berklee College of Music teaching music production. He has held the position as a professor for a little over two decades.
After being involved with music and technology for so long, Wyner is proud to be a part of the scene in Boston. “The area has such a deep history with audio technology with companies like Bose, Kurzweil, Cakewalk, Atlantic Research, and others,” he says. “There isn’t a better place to be than Boston.”
Images courtesy of Jonathan Wyner.