I began to get involved with all of this sometime in 1970 when into the studio at Pacific High Recording in San Francisco walked a rather lanky fellow with a noticeably jaunty bounce in his step, a wide-brimmed floppy hat - with feather, on his head, and from his belt hung what I recall to be a twine-bound grapefruit. Within the hour I would be recording a vocalizing quite different from anything I had ever thought to hear from a singer.
For quite a few years in the mid sixties I'd been at many, many fantastic recording sessions, watching and listening to the great popular singers of my lifetime - Frank, and Dean, and Cass Elliot, Brian Wilson, Ray Charles, Bing, Bobby Darin and Johnny Mathis and on and on and yet - here I was, hearing the voice on a completely different adventure, sounding as I would never have expected and exploring in directions that most of us would not have imagined could contain anything of value. Here was Tom Buckner, plumbing for riches in the untapped veins of sound he was finding at the core of vocal emanation and on the cusp of language - and just one of the eighteen or so other adventurous musicians in this ad-hoc Ghost Opera ensemble who were recording music on the far edge of the art, inside the warehouse-sized recording space of the very spacey Pacific High Recording, where some of the legendary recordings of the notorious San Francisco Music Scene were being made. For me the Ghost Opera recording project resulted in one of the unique albums of that period, with truly terrific musicians such as Allaudin Mathieu, Jerry Hahn, George Marsh, Mel Graves, Johannes Major, Tom, and others providing me an opportunity to get into the deeper reaches of listening, good microphone placement, signal integrity, mixing, and improvisation in all things.
Two years later Tom contacted me and asked if I could plan a multi-track recording studio for a new record label that he had started and that was to feature fine-quality recordings of Early Music, Classical, Jazz, Modern Avant-Garde and New Music. It would be located in a house in Berkeley and would have a concert space in the same building. I had just come out of an involving and exciting period of time creating music for Paul Kantner and Grace Slick and their fledgling Jefferson Starship. But I knew that I wouldn't be going further with rock'n'roll - I just didn't believe in it anymore. Thus, Tom's invitation had the extra appeal of coincidence, though in fact I could only but wonder how a guy who had to carry his own fruit could be planning such an enterprise. Somehow I had missed the fact that Thomas Watson Buckner was hugely wealthy, but when I pulled up in my rock'n'roll Porsche and saw the elegant gardens and the large and beautiful Berkeley home that was to house this recording and performing complex, I decided to be unconcerned with the issue of Tom's wealth. I chose to trust the genuineness of his joy and his unswerving faith in the beauty and value of artistic pursuit and to forget the well-known pitfalls of trusting the wealthy.
And, of course, this was a dream-perfect scenario. Everything I had been doing in the prior few years had armed me with the right knowledge and experience to make interesting choices in planning these studio facilities.
The recording complex I planned for Tom was to be a state-of-the-art facility that would first and foremost be equipped with the finest quality microphones and a clean signal path for the recording of acoustic instruments. The studio control room would be connected to a tuned and isolated recording room and also to a concert hall located on another floor in the same building. Video cameras and monitors would expand communications and the control room was planned so as to be directly connected to radio station KPFA for the live broadcast of concert performances easily and often. I hired recording engineer Bob Shumaker to complete the electronics installation, and studio design specialist Scott Putnam to handle control room and studio construction. The completed 1750 Arch studio and concert-hall complex remained successful and essentially unchanged for the next 12 years.
I returned to a heavy schedule of independent producing, recording and mixing in a delightful assortment of projects that continued for the next three years.
In 1975 I returned to 1750 Arch to become its Executive Director and to begin in earnest the building of the 1750 Arch Records catalog. Bob Shumaker had stayed to become chief recording engineer and, for more than 8 years, the mixer of the very popular 1750 Arch Concerts live broadcasts over Pacifica Radio station KPFA.
During this period, the unique enterprises known collectively as 1750 Arch produced a great many memorable, and some legendary, events, performances, and recordings in Berekley and in other venues throughout the Bay Area, the West and East Coasts of the U.S. and in Europe.
In the 1750 Arch Records catalog you can find evidence of some of the things that mattered to us in those days of art and thought and creativity that were spilling out and away from the 1960s. There are wonderful and often unexpected choices here from some of the most creative people in music, including work by Pauline Oliveros, J. S. Bach, Denny Zeitlin, John Dowland, Roscoe Mitchell, John Adams, Conlon Nancarrow, Big Black, Art Lande, Lou Harrison, George Marsh, John Cage, Charles Amirkhanian, Jon English, Candace Natvig, Laurie Anderson, Tom Buckner, Randy Weston, Mel Graves, Don Buchla, and Guillame Machaut among so many others.
1750 Arch began to wind down all of its activities in the early eighties, with 1750 Arch Records ceasing operations in 1984. Many of the recordings in its catalog are now dispersed to other labels, including New Albion Records and Other Minds, both in San Francisco, and Mutable Music in New York City.
Tom Buckner, founder and musical director, baritone vocalist with the Arch Ensemble, patron of the arts and a proud member of the Nixon Enemies List, subsequently moved back to New York City where his endeavors continue.