News From The Woods - May, 2006

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published May 24, 2006


"Stephen Curtis Marshall"


Every so often I have to sit down and write something that I do not enjoy.

This is one of those times.

I learned today that a friend has passed away. We weren't very close friends. We were email friends. His name was Steven C. Marshall, but some of you in the music business might recognize his pen name, Stephen St. Croix. He wrote a column in Mix magazine, but that was just one of his many, many accomplishments.

Life can be so ironic at times.

Just yesterday I converted my LP of "Songs In The Key Of Life" over to my Palm Pilot and today I learn Stephen is gone. It saddens me greatly to know we have lost another great mind and contributor to all that should be good in modern man. Stephen Marshall was not just a gifted inventor, Harley fanatic, drag racer, pilot, CEO, musician, insightful writer, gear slut, and audio engineer..... He was my friend.

His "Life In The Fast Lane" articles have always been the very first thing I eagerly turn to whenever receiving the latest issue of Mix. Many times his reportings were so far over my head, and yet he had a way to quantify and clarify each and every dissertation in such a way that I almost "got it". Not that it really mattered, because he always threw in giant helpings of tongue-in-cheek and made parallel analogies in such a funny way that he drew you into his world as though - just for the moment - you could see it through his eyes. He could write about concepts and technologies in a purely technical manner and yet hone down to the bottom line as far as the average Joe was concerned. He had no fear when it came to naming names and pointing fingers, either. I am sure that many of his articles kept the magazine's legal department busy, but to my knowledge no retractions or apologies were ever offered or given. He was always spot on when it came to investigating and responsibly reporting his cause of the moment. He had a certain way of shooting down "the bad guy" while at the same time doing it all in an almost comedic manner usually reserved for such notable acerbic comedians as George Carlin, Dennis Miller, and Jon Stewart.

His list of accomplishments are so vast and diverse that at this point I will just reprint some facts taken from various obits I Googled on the Internet:

Pro Sound News (www.prosoundnews.com)

Stephen (St. Croix) Curtis Marshall - 1948-2006

By Mel Lambert

Los Angeles, CA (May 10, 2006)--We are sad to report the death of Stephen St. Croix - aka Steven Curtis Marshall - who died early Saturday morning, May 6, following a lengthy battle with melanoma. We offer condolences to his wife and many friends around the world.

Stephen was a complex, multifaceted individual who was equally at ease with performance, production, and equipment design, as well as being a respected columnist in the pro audio industry. While a professional musician and engineer/producer, he founded Marshall Electronic, under whose auspices he designed the Marshall Time Modulator.

He worked on a number of landmark sessions during the past three decades, including Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life and The Secret Life of Plants. He designed Lightning Studios in the late-seventies--one of the first full-featured project facilities--and formed Marshall-Quantec to import and support the legendary Quantec Room Simulator, followed by the XL Digital Signal Processor.

He invented the 'Revectorization' process used to reconstruct the soundtracks for motion pictures, including Gone with The Wind, Wizard of Oz, Easter Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy. He became a technical editor/consultant to R-E/P magazine and created the "Living with Technology" column. He later moved to MIX magazine, where for 18 years he authored the popular "Fast Lane" column.

He was a design and marketing consultant for companies including Hybrid Arts, Wadia and Symetrix. In 1995, he co-founded Intelligent Devices, which designed, developed and marketed several software plug-ins, and the highly regarded PARIS digital audio workstation in conjunction with EMU-Ensoniq. In addition to offering custom products and services for the pro-audio industry, ID also designs and develops a number of speech recovery and processing systems for Federal agency and law-enforcement applications. He was also invited to serve on a National Archives committee looking into the possible contents of an 18.5-minute gap on the infamous Watergate tapes.

Outside of the professional audio field, he was a talented designer of automotive and motorcycle engines, working with a number of manufacturers on leading-edge turbo-charged systems. This was all in service of his never-ending quest for maximum acceleration and G-forces.

He was a very unique individual who will be missed by many for a very long time.

The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)

Sound Expert Steven Marshall; Turned Tinkering Into a Career

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 18, 2006; Page B07

Steven Marshall, 58, a sound engineer who played guitar with Stevie Wonder, listened for the voice of Richard M. Nixon on an infamous White House tape and restored the dulcet tones of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh on a rerelease of "Gone With the Wind," died of melanoma May 6 at his home in Woodbine.

Mr. Marshall, better known as Stephen St. Croix, was a rock-and-roll guitarist with a thing for sound -- both making it musically and recovering it digitally. Founder and president of a Baltimore-based company called Intelligent Devices Inc., he approached the National Archives in 2000 with a plan for extracting the sound from the infamous Watergate tape with the 18 1/2 -minute gap, known as tape No. 342.

The tape was known to contain a conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, but how the gap occurred remains a mystery. Nixon's personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, testified that she accidentally erased it while making a transcript, but forensic tests undercut her explanation.

"And being the sort who would rather think too big than too small," the Baltimore Sun noted in a 2001 profile of Mr. Marshall, "who seeks rather than shirks challenges, who -- from racing dragsters as a teen-ager to touring on one of his half-dozen Harleys at age 53 -- has always liked to live fast, loud and brashly, Stephen St. Croix believes the best person for that job is Stephen St. Croix."

The process he proposed involved building a special tape machine with 200 heads that would read remnants of coherent sound that the erasing missed. After a two-phase test, archivist John W. Carlin decided in 2003 not to proceed with further testing, based on recommendations of the National Archives Technical Evaluation Panel, of which Mr. Marshall was a member.

Steven Curtis Marshall was born in Baltimore and grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz. He spent part of his childhood on a Pima Indian reservation and became a rock-and-roller while sweeping floors at an alcohol-free club in Phoenix.

As the Sun noted, his musical career was born when the house band's drummer failed to show up and Mr. Marshall stepped in. He taught himself how to play keyboard and guitar, toured Europe with bands in the 1960s and managed to graduate from the American School in Lugano, Switzerland, in 1967. He also attended Carnegie Institute of Technology, predecessor to Carnegie Mellon University, as a fine arts major but dropped out.

His wife said he was a born tinkerer, whether on motorcycle engines, recording devices or computers. The New York Times in 2000 called him a "gizmo fiend."

His genius for tinkering helped make him a millionaire in the early 1970s after he invented the Marshall Time Modulator, a delay processor that allowed musicians to modify or multiply their voices. The device was used to help create Darth Vader's voice in the "Star Wars" movies.

A session man for many years, he was hired by Stevie Wonder in the mid-1970s to play guitar on the album "Songs in the Key of Life." The liner notes credit him with use of the Marshall Time Modulator on the song "All Day Sucker."

He began moving away from music and into special effects, engineering and producing in the 1980s. His big break came when a friend told him that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was looking for someone to restore and enhance the audio for the rerelease of 1939's "Gone With the Wind." He wasn't sure how he would go about doing it, he said in later years, but he wasn't afraid to try. He ultimately came up with a process called "revectorization."

"We worked on the thing around the clock until getting to the point where our computers could distinguish between the rustle of a hoop skirt and the static hiss of an old sound track," Mr. Marshall told the Chicago Tribune in 1985. He went on to restore a number of classic films, including "The Wizard of Oz," "Easter Parade" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

In 1995, he co-founded Intelligent Devices, a company that designs and develops audio software, as well as a number of speech recovery and processing systems for use by law enforcement. The best known is SES, or Sound Extraction System, a software program that extracts human speech from noisy environments.

The motivation for the device was Mr. Marshall's discovery that a friend, a California law enforcement officer, had been shot and killed during an undercover operation gone bad. Although the man was wearing a wire, fellow officers couldn't hear his calls for help because of noise and sound distortion.

His marriage to Ann Murray Marshall ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of two years, Teresa Marshall of Woodbine; his mother, Shirley Stevenson of Peoria, Ariz.; his stepmother, Margaret Taylor Marshall of Baltimore; and three brothers.

The Baltimore Sun (www.baltimoresun.com)

Steven C. Marshall, 58, musician and sound engineer

By Nicole Fuller
Sun reporter
Originally published May 19, 2006

Steven C. Marshall, a sound engineer who played guitar with Stevie Wonder, worked to decipher a partially erased Watergate-era recording of President Richard M. Nixon and restored the audio for re-releases of the classic films The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, died of melanoma May 6 at his home in Woodbine. He was 58.

Mr. Marshall was born in Baltimore. After his parents divorced, he moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., and lived on a Pima Indian reservation with his mother. He graduated from the American School in Lugano, Switzerland, and studied fine arts at what is now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, dropping out after two years.

Mr. Marshall taught himself to play keyboards and guitar and worked as a studio musician in Europe during the 1960s.

In the early '70s, he invented the Marshall Time Modulator, a delay processor he said "bends time," allowing singers to alter their voices. It was used to create Darth Vader's voice in the Star Wars movies.

The device got him hired by Wonder to work on his album Songs in the Key of Life and eventually led to several jobs working with major Hollywood movie studios restoring sound on classic movies.

He worked on the invention, which earned him millions, he told The Sun in 2001, while living in a "cheap little house in Joppatowne."

"I thought it was a prank; I hung up several times. I thought it was a friend playing with me, but he kept calling back," Mr. Marshall said of the first calls he received from Stevie Wonder.

Mr. Marshall in 1995 founded Baltimore-based Intelligent Devices Inc., which sells computer software to police agencies and government officials that helps enhance muffled voices captured on tape - "speech extraction."

It is this technology that propelled him - as a member of a National Archives committee - to advocate vigorously for the use of an advanced machine to read erased remnants of sound on Tape No. 342, recorded June 21, 1972, three days after the break-in at Democratic National Committee Headquarters. Nixon's secretary erased a portion of the tape, and the 18 1/2 minutes of near-silence had intrigued historians and political watchers for decades.

In the 2001 interview with The Sun, Mr. Marshall, who used the stage name Stephen St. Croix, made his case for making an effort to uncover what was under the silence.

"I've certainly been the guy kicking up the dust. And yes, if it turns out nobody can do it, it's my fault; I've wasted everybody's time. On the other hand, how can you not try? Who knows? We might get the most incriminating thing you evert heard in American history, or we may get Nixon asking for pineapple on his pizza."

Mr. Marshall's idea was rejected in 2003.

Mr. Marshall's first marriage, to Ann Murray, ended in divorce.

About eight years ago, he met his second wife, Teresa Marshall, a co-owner of a veterinary clinic in Catonsville.

"He was the most amazing, least jaded, most curious person I've ever know," she said yesterday. "He never rested on what he knew. He was always pushing the envelope."

Mr. Marshall's ashes are to be scattered in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, as he had requested, his wife said.

Mr. Marshall is also survived by his mother, Shirley Stevenson of Peoria, Ariz.; his stepmother, Margaret Taylor Marshall of Baltimore; and three brothers, Gray Marshall of Venice, Calif., Andrew Marshall of Seattle and Bradley Marshall of Baltimore. His father, Dr. Curtis Marshall, a neurologist, died in 2001.

Mix Magazine (www.mixonline.com)

Fare Thee Well, Stephen

By Tom Kenney
Editor of Mix
Originally published Jun 1, 2006 12:00 PM

A little over five years ago, I received an email from Stephen St.Croix with the subject line “Goodbye, Mix.” Oh no, I thought. What have I done? I've pushed too hard. We were a day and a half from shipping the magazine, and even by Stephen's measure, we were cutting it close. I opened the file, dreading what he might say. Then I read a love letter to our industry, which closed with the hardest couple of paragraphs I've ever had to read. I've held that document on my hard drive, opening and re-reading it a number of times over the years. Today, we're sharing it with you.

Stephen St.Croix passed away in the early morning of May 6, in his home, surrounded by family and friends. He wasn't supposed to live that long, but because he did, we all learned a little more about how it can feel to be passionate about music…and life. He stretched our deadlines over the past five years, but he never missed a column. When his bones were so broken from a motorcycle accident, he composed from his hospital bed using ViaVoice. When morphine made him groggy, he stopped taking it. It pained him these last three months when we ran “classic” columns. He was burning to write. He had so much to say. He felt love and a deep responsibility to you, his readers, whom he always considered family.

Stephen was quite simply the smartest guy I've ever known, and one of the most creative. He designed and built the Marshall Time Modulator, and he hosted Stevie Wonder in his home for six months during their work together on Songs in the Key of Life. He redesigned the interface for the Quantec Room Simulator, and he restored The Wizard of Oz. He held dozens of patents worldwide in technologies far removed from music-making, and he delivered a column about swimming into the Mediterranean and listening to a solo guitar on a rock in the water. That brought him great joy, at a time when he needed it.

Yes, he had an ego that would fill a concert hall. And he had the Harley swagger and rock-star persona that would dominate a room. That's what you read each month. At home, he was humbled by the genius and significance of an iPod. He would describe in great detail the sight of the first snow on the naked Maryland trees. More than anything, he loved to sit and pet his cats. He approached death with the spirit of a Teddy Roosevelt and the dignity of a Nelson Mandela. He was one of a kind.

More than anything, I think I'll miss the phone calls. A voice from 3,000 miles away that could answer any question or reassure any decision. He told me why we have so little lightning in California, and he long ago predicted how records would soon be made. He was right.

A few years back, he called just to say that he was in love and was going to be married, to a wonderful woman named Teresa. He, a man who lived life for the sheer experience, said he couldn't believe he waited all this time to experience real love.

I can't remember our first phone conversation way back in the late-'80s, but I'll never forget the last. A week and a half before he died, while trying to tweak a column, he called to say thank you. To me. To Mix. For allowing him to talk to all of you all these years. He wanted to remind me how special it was that we got to be a part of this whole music-making world. I can only hope that I am so gracious as I stare at my final days.

Stephen, we love you and we'll miss you. All of us.

Years ago I responded to something he wrote in his Fast Lane column about how much he loved the classic old rock and roll instrumentals of the 60's, not ever expecting or even dreaming that he would reply. Imagine my shock days later when I got a lengthy and quite personal response! The result was that I sent him a CD I had burned containing some of my very favorite instrumental oldies that we both shared a love for. He wrote back after receiving it that it was currently his favorite driving music. Since then we have corresponded on a fairly regular basis, although I tried not to bother him too much. I still have all his emails, and am so glad now that I saved them all.

He will truly be missed by many, but he will never be "gone" as long as we hold dearly to his memory in our hearts and minds.

Finally, I received this very personal response from Stephen's wife Teresa, just a couple of days after the announcement. It pretty much sums it all up from the person who knew Stephen better than any one else. I hope she doesn't mind that I share her thoughts with you:

Bob,

Thank you so much for your email. Stephen was the most brilliant, creative, talented, joyous, funny, loving, and remarkable person I have ever known, and I loved him beyond imagining. In the midst of this devastation -- there is no other word for it -- I have received some wonderful emails and letters with messages like yours, that there are many people whose memories will keep Stephen here on earth.

Thank you for taking the time to write.
Teresa

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