Speaker It’s an understatement to say that Lou is concerned with his voice.

Speaker He is almost obsessed more than any almost any other artist I’ve ever worked with where he he will. Well, Lou and I once went into a hi fi store just to check out speakers, and he brought one of his own C.D.. Most people would like listen to a whole selection of c.D, but Lou just had it was the New York album. And that’s the only thing he played on all these different speakers. And the only thing he you know, most people talk about the great bass and the highs. Lou, is talking about how his voice sounded on all these different speakers. So that was really pretty incredible. And when I’m in the mastering studio and equalizing, which is kind of like the bass and trouble controls on your home, hi fi. Once I was working with some of the sounds where his voice was and I was like dipping out just the smallest bit, something that the normal person would never even notice. And Lou, it’s like, you know, what did you do to my voice? Just then I put this thing back and goes, Ha, that’s better. You know, one of the things. So Lou’s very concerned. Mean Lou is a poet first and foremost. And so the words are completely important to him. And so when he’s mixing, he’s always sure that, first of all, the arrangement of the mix doesn’t interfere with his voice. And then that there’s enough of of the voice in the mix so that it’s always intelligible and easily heard. I don’t think Lou Reed record you really need to print out the lyrics in order to see just what he’s saying. So it’s and I appreciate that because I think the lyrics are the foremost emotional impact of his music screen.

Speaker The more knowledgeable about the average of the equal question.

Speaker Yeah, Lou, is I think Lou Reed is more concerned with the sound of his recordings than any other artist I’ve ever worked with. And the reason I say that is that Lou will call me up before he’s working on a record and will sometimes ask if he can give me some experimental tapes that he’s made, you know, with certain microphone set ups, just so I can listen and see if I think that that’s working for him. And he will call myself and other professionals in the field and find out what the latest gear is like, what people think of different microphones and compressors and equalizers. And he will because he’s so well networked. He can borrow all this gear from people just to try out. And he will do what we call a B testing. And a B testing is where you take one piece of gear and then another and you keep comparing back and forth.

Speaker And Lou will do that forever.

Speaker If the only thing that stops him is if he’s kind of run out of, you know, proved possibilities, if there’s if there is another piece of gear to come on the market before he’s finished, she will try that. In fact, he has done that where that piece of gear got invented as he was doing the recording and tries that on the last record set The Twilight Reeling. Lou’s intent was to have the final record sound like it did in the space that he was recording it. And no other artist has ever come to me saying that, that they would like to make a recording that actually represented the way it sounded live. Most people rock music is similar to what the classical people would call music concrete, which is electronic sounds that are made from organic beginnings that are then manipulated. That’s kind of what rock n roll is. It’s a performance that never took place in real time. It’s a performance that is it only takes place in the control room over the loudspeakers, in the control room for the first time. That’s where most rock and roll exists for its beginnings. Where Lou wanted to make a recording that where he wanted to have the performance happen in his house and recorded and have it happen for the listener at home and to not have the sounds changed too much. Normally when you’re making a rock record, especially with guitar, which is of course, Lou’s instrument, the translation between the way the guitar sounds and the in the control room versus the studio’s very large.

Speaker May say that again.

Speaker When recording electric guitar in the studio, that will have a great sound within the studio and then you go into the control room and listen to what you’ve just worked so hard over the speakers to to get. And it doesn’t sound anything like it. And then you go back and forth trying to adjust. Well, Lou did lots of experimenting so that he would do a recording in his living room and then have master quality speakers right next door to listen. And he would go back and forth and making sure that that comparison sounded true. And it was so great because I was interviewing Lou for an article for E! Q magazine. And I went to his living room where they recorded Set The Twilight Reeling. And he said, I wanna listen to something. And he picks up this guitar that I’d known so well from the recording and plays a score. And I go, wow, it sounds just like the recording did. And that that’s a rarity for someone to to hone in on that and to be able to achieve that. What to me, I thought was an impossibility, and that is to get the guitar to sound on the record exactly like it did in the live environment.

Speaker And really, really, everything has to be real. Real words. Yeah, it’s great.

Speaker He’s amazing. We just did this Letterman compilation record where they’ve they’re putting out an album of all the best artists that appeared on David Letterman. And I was so happy that they put Lou’s performance on there, because I remember I happened to have caught that live. I seldom stay up that late, but I haven’t. I caught Lou’s performance and it completely knocked me out at home like few other artists. Several would knock me out over a TV, you know, and so on. This Letterman compilation came out. I was so happy to see it was on there.

Speaker And indeed, it was a great performance again.

Speaker I know you’re going to ask me to think, was it sweet, Jane?

Speaker I can call the studio. We can look it up.

Speaker Mastering, you know, playing with mastering is well.

Speaker Well, mastering is the it’s a mastering engineer wears two hats.

Speaker The first one is the creative hat and the mastering engineer gets the final tape from the studio and then makes the final determination of how it’s going to sound. In other words, where the final arbiter of how your C.D. is going to sound and our ideas to or purpose is to take the tape that comes from the studio, hear the tape in its raw form. Imagine in our heads how it could sound and then know what knobs to move to make it sound that way. That’s the the magic of being a mastering engineer. Then once the tape has been approved by the artist and the record company, in the end our person in the management and whomever else needs to approve it, then we take off our creative hadn’t put on our manufacturers hat and then we become the very first stage of the manufacturing process. So we have all these computers that verify that all the data is being transferred perfectly from one format to another. And we optimize the tape for different mediums like for the cassette vinyl in the C.D.. Sometimes they have different needs.

Speaker And so we’ll address those needs in the manufacturing side, so to speak.

Speaker So that’s pretty much what mastering is.

Speaker And it’s a very unique step. And there’s there’s a fairly small handful of people that do most of it. Like, if you look at your C.D., you’ll probably see the same names over and over again.

Speaker It’s mastering engineers and the word gets to you. Very little mastering or other people.

Speaker Well, Lou, is this has been a an ongoing curve.

Speaker That’s kind of tangential, almost like Lou’s always been concerned with the sound and always felt very frustrated because he had to turn over the sound making to either other producers or engineers and kind of trust them to do it. And then as Lou got more and more proficient with the technical part of the audio, he was able to take more and more of it into his own hands and then get the result that he really wanted probably all along. But now it’s just been over the last decade where Lou’s really gotten a firm control of the technical aspects of it knows what works, what doesn’t work. He’s the beneficiary now of all this extensive B comparisons that he’s made and knows what works and what doesn’t work now.

Speaker And just describe your involvement.

Speaker Well, metal machine music was my first introduction to Lou. And, you know, I’d heard of this guy, Lou Reed.

Speaker You know, I was I was kind of nervous. I was working at a place called Sterling Sound at that time.

Speaker And Lou came in and I was expecting a normal rock and roll record, and that was these guitars flailing about. And not only that, it was recorded in four channels. It was recorded in discrete quod.

Speaker And this was back in the days that quad was happening.

Speaker And so there’s there’s this word out on the street that some people feel that, Lou, just kind of this was like a throwaway record to complete his contract with his record company.

Speaker And it was kind of a. Word. Well, throw away records. That’s the word.

Speaker And Lou is very serious about this record. There was never any hint that this was a throwaway. There was he was completely into this.

Speaker And I was I helped him all over it.

Speaker We had to go over to RCA, which was his record company, to do this discreet quod version of the record. And then it also came out in stereo. But Lou is extremely interested, again, in every detail of it and let it be just right. There was never a hint that this was anything that he wasn’t 100 percent serious about. And recently I went to the Eastman School of Music up in Rochester, New York, and I was asked to speak at a symposium on pop music. And at the end of the symposium, I played two examples back to back. And one was Lou’s medal machine music, followed by Yanno Senaka, says Bogor, which was an electronic music concat piece.

Speaker And I.

Speaker I asked the students if you know what they thought. And no one there actually knew had heard metal machine music before and they completely accepted it as being in the classical continuum.

Speaker So do you have any memory reaction?

Speaker No, I wasn’t privy to that. Now I just mastering engineers are kind of hermit’s. We have our own studios. We don’t travel all over like independent engineers do. Our whole raise on debt is to to know our room intimately so that we can make the proper judgment sound, the sound and the next thing you want.

Speaker New New York.

Speaker All right. What do you think?

Speaker Yeah, well, he had worked on it at a rate youth.

Speaker OK.

Speaker When I was working on the New York album, it was very exciting for me because he was he had been working out of that one of our competitors place and wasn’t happy with the results that he was getting. And so he came over to me and I was just really happy to see Lou again, like I’d worked with him years ago, a medal machine, music, and then just never heard from him again, you know? And so it was great to see him. And I put the record on and it was, you know, it was really rock and it was it was great. And it had the other players on the record were so fabulous, so fabulous. Every instrument was just played by, like, one of the best players, you know. Fred Ma, I think was on drums. And Fernando Sanders was I mean, these are just the best guys, the best guys. And so every note was like, wow, listen to that. You know, it’s really great, you know? And then the lyrics, of course, were Lou’s normal, like, really engaging, compelling lyrics. What does he mean by that kind of thing? And then the thing that first comes to mind about that was the Broadway Boulevard, which was the first single and I knew it could be 30 Boulevard. OK, first thing that comes, the first thing that came to mind when you asked me about the New York album was Dirty Boulevard, which I knew could be a single. And of course, Lou is working with Seymour Stein at Sire Records. And Lou, as you might expect, it’s not like it’s music tampered with in any way. And yet Dirty Boulevard contained a couple of lyrics that I knew would have a hard time on the radio.

Speaker And so I felt like I was I knew the record company really wanted to put that out as a single.

Speaker And I knew Lou really didn’t want to tamper with it in any way. And I knew that if we didn’t fix some of those words, it just wouldn’t get airplay on major stations. So I spent a lot of time with Lou telling him that it would be OK. And instead of like we taking the offending word and just putting a beep or something like that, and we we found the instrumental track without lyrics on it and then just substituted those chords. At that point and did it in such a way that it kind of goes by so fast that the person that heard the record at home kind of fills in the lyric with his own brain. And Melissa, they’re out there in radio land, really doesn’t isn’t aware that anything’s gone.

Speaker So at least. I think it gave that song a lot more exposure than it would have had if we had left it the way it was.

Speaker The others are like Romeo and Juliet. So what’s the word?

Speaker Only that is it as just a listener, just loving it.

Speaker But nothing else to say about New York.

Speaker It’s just, again, that Lou is very concerned about his vocal quality and that.

Speaker Oh, that’s interesting, because recently there’s been quite a lot of attention paid to compact discs that are manufactured and don’t sound exactly like the master tape that we sent. And the New York album was one of the first records I ever worked on. Where are the artist? Because theoretically, the C.D. that gets manufactured should sound exactly like what we’ve sent them because it’s digital and you’re just transferring a file from this place to that place. There’s no reason why it should sound different. Well, it turns out that we know now that without getting too technical, it is possible for the sound to slightly change on the playback due to some of the manufacturing processes. But Lou is one of the first people to complain, actually, that his manufacturer, SCD, didn’t sound as good as the original tape. And to the point where the record company ran it again and then it did sound OK.

Speaker So. And of course, Lou picked this up on his voice. So we’re in on it.

Speaker It takes someone who is so in tune to his own voice to be able to pick up something so subtle as that. And so, as I said, we just did spend a lot of time getting his voice just right on that.

Speaker Like Lou, when he sings like a lot of singers, and especially when you have the vocal up high and level to hear the enunciation, sometimes the sibilance from his voice can get to be excessive. And so we spent quite a lot of time very carefully controlling that and the mastering. So it wasn’t excessive, especially on the cassette. You could mass produce a good quality cassette that way.

Speaker What was so special? No know. Read something.

Speaker His voice is a little bit like Bruce Springsteen. Some that it has a lot of overtones structure to it, especially some of the. Higher harmonics are very strong in his voice. And you can hear two seconds of a Lou Reed song and go. That’s Lou E-mail, even a song you’ve never heard before. There’s not anyone out there that sounds close to him.

Speaker Let’s jump to Magic and my favorite record.

Speaker Magic and loss is my favorite record. There’s two distinct camps of listeners out there that I’ve heard, magic and loss. There are some people out there that just hate it and don’t get it. And then there are other people, especially some close friends of mine, who heard it. And that’s all they played for six months. I know a guy who used to own a record company who played that record for six months straight in his car. And there’s some moments of that record where even having gone through the technical aspects of mastering and having, you know, being forced from a professional point of view to hear it over and over and over again for some points of that record that I know will make me cry every single time I hear it. It’s such a moving, moving record.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker All right.

Speaker That’s the point where he talks about the uranium being coming.

Speaker It’s got like this great beneficial use thing.

Speaker Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker I think have magic, magical loss and the subject matter, even though you’re a mastery master, here’s the thing that is just so out of place to me. Rock and roll.

Speaker Well, yeah.

Speaker I mean, two of Lou’s dearest friends died of cancer within a short period of time of each other, and he decided to write an album dedicated to them and talk about what that is.

Speaker And, of course, cancer being one of the major diseases in this country next to heart disease.

Speaker It’s certainly on the minds of lots and lots of people out there. And it’s almost never addressed in pop music. It’s almost like a forbidden subject.

Speaker And so for Lou to choose to tackle the whole record based on cancer and the loss and the magic of people’s lives. The whole tragedy of that, it was just. It’s just an amazing thing to hear that record for the first time and hear someone talking about this.

Speaker And it’s like as a mastering engineer, my first job is to deal with the sound.

Speaker And so it very often occurs to me that when I’m working on a record, I will be so in tune with the sound that the lyrics really come later for me. And to some degree, of course, that happens where even a record like magic and loss, when I’m hearing it for the first time, a normal listener on the radio, of course, will be tuned into the lyrics. But I’m really tuned into the highs, the lows and the mids and how they all interrelate. And so as I’m working on this record, these lyrics keep kind of filtering into my head and keep keep going. Oh, my gosh. You know, what is he talking about? And then, you know, then as I’m able to get to the point where I have dealt with a sound and then I can start hearing more and more of the lyrics, I find myself doing more and more moved by what I’m hearing. And it’s interesting because because of my professional position, they’re kind of like filtrated in gradually into me and made this experience, like, last even longer than it would for a normal person. It was it’s quite an emotional experience for me.

Speaker Very similar to other people. Record that people need time to get ready. Right.

Speaker Yeah. It’s magic. And loss is a record that a lot of people find they really need to listen to from beginning to end. And there’s not many rock records made out there where there’s that kind of compelling reaction to listen to it as a entity like an opera from beginning to end.

Speaker Soundbite, though.

Speaker How did it get to you? You were mastering it, you know, in that case.

Speaker OK.

Speaker On songs for Drella, that that record just was presented to me by Lou and Johns on it. I don’t know how much you want to talk about how John and Lou get together or not together appropriate, that is.

Speaker But they weren’t in the same room together. Let’s put it that way.

Speaker It’s really funny. Gateway mastering. We are actually working on a project for John and Lou called. There was a period. One day I was on the phone with Lou while John was on the phone with the front desk. And probably if you put this on tape, Lou would never talk to me again.

Speaker All right.

Speaker So you actually some of that was recorded separately or it wasn’t a recording from back then when they did.

Speaker Oh, no, no, no, no. Songs for Drella was.

Speaker Was as it as it was just as the live performance was, and but it was Lou who came to oversee the record. I mean, it was definitely something that he had decided to take control over and and took control. And we worked on it. You know, when he would go back, I remember there was what was that ethereal song that John sings? What sort of.

Speaker So that’s the story. Yes, Andy.

Speaker All right.

Speaker It was a dream, a dream.

Speaker Some songs for Drella when Lou is doing that song, A Dream, which John Cale is performing, which is a pretty much a spoken story about Andy Warhol.

Speaker It’s a very dreamlike song. And we were trying to make it sound as dreamy as possible.

Speaker And there was a a new piece of gear that came out that it’s like a changes the spatial relationships. And it was one of those things where we put this device in and cranked it up. And Lou said, oh, that’s exactly what I’m looking for. Now it has this incredible spatial. And she says, but it is hurting his voice. And this one, little aspects. So use a little bit less of it. And then we’re listening to me. And to make a long story short, he kept saying, well, it keeps hurting the voice and we kept using less and less to finally it got back to zero. So so even with John Cale’s voice, Lou is very concerned about that aspect. Some of the songs for Drella, when Lou is doing that song, A Dream, which John Cale is performing, which is a pretty much a spoken story about Andy Warhol.

Speaker It’s a very dreamlike song. And we were trying to make it sound as dreamy as possible. And there was a a new piece of gear that came out that it’s like a changes the spatial relationships. And it was one of those things where we put this device in and cranked it up and said, oh, that’s exactly what I’m looking for. Now, it has this incredible spatial, as he says, but it is hurting his voice. And this one little aspect. So use a little bit less of it. And then we’re listening to me. And to make a long story short, he kept saying, well, it keeps hurting the voice and we kept using less and less to finally it got back to zero. So so even with John Cale’s voice, Lou is very concerned about that aspect.

Speaker So that’s what I like about that.

Speaker Maybe the other people do their own studio. I’m sure the studio and all these people have every piece of. Is that different?

Speaker Well, on set, the twilight reeling. Lou, this was the case where, Lou. This is the culmination of Lou taking control of his own recorded sound. Lou hired Steve Rosenthal from the Magic Shop, which is the studio here in New York, who owns a studio. And yet, Lou. Convinced him to come up to his apartment and do this recording for many, many months and supervise it. Steve’s a wonderful guy, did a wonderful, wonderful job on doing the supervising. But and he helped with all these AP comparisons and helped gather gear. And as I was saying before, Lou has enough contacts to gather almost any piece of gear together that he wants to try. And of course, Lou has an amazing guitar collection and some of his guitars have like 100 year old marks on them and the differences between a 100 year old Mac and a normal stock neck. Most recordings probably doesn’t come across so well, but Lou wanted to make a recording that showed off those really subtle nuances, like different kinds of strings, different kinds of amplifiers. Even the chord that goes between the guitar and the amplifier can be heard to have different sounds and even those were experimented with. Set the twilight reeling. So it’s it is when that record was over, Lou called me up and said that for the first time, his vision of what he heard in the recording session came through on the final recording for the first time. So and I got goose bumps from Lou told me that because I’ve never worked with an artist who had a vision in the first place to have that happen and then be able to pull it off.

Speaker So it was very exciting for me there, but particularly.

Speaker Let’s see what we’re going to.

Speaker Really? Yeah.

Speaker I really enjoyed it.

Speaker Well, I just wanted to say just a little bit more about set the twilight reeling you forward. I know it’s going to rain.

Speaker And I’ll set the. Reeling. Not only did Lou have his vision met, but also he he decided he wanted to use the very best technology that was available. And even though it was done in his apartment, he still wanted to use the very best technology. And he did every piece of here, the best guitars, the best performers, the best microphone preamps, the best bass, direct pickups. Everything was really the best. And he wanted to have the dynamic range of the final recording be like it was in the studio. And most pop recordings have what is called compression. That takes a dynamic range and puts it into a very, very small amount, because most of what rock and roll is about is getting as much energy into the smallest space possible. But with set the twilight reeling, Lou wanted to have it be just as it was in the performance to have whatever energy and performance come through on the record. Not more. Not less. That kind of thing. And thus, the dynamic range of the recording that you buy for your home reflects what happened in that studio for radio, where you have to compete against all these records that are super loud. We made a separate mastering that had extra compression on it just so it would sound competitive on radio. But for the home, it represents the final dynamic range. And it was one of the first rock records that I’ve worked on that instead of recording the master bit with a 16 bit dynamic range, which is what this compact disc is. This had a 20 bit dynamic range, which is a lot wider distance between the loud spots and the soft spots. So that was great. And then regarding the lyrics, as I’m listening to it became very clear to me that this was a record about Lori.

Speaker And when you hear it in that context, it’s a it’s a magical record in its own right. It was great.

Speaker It was beyond a year.

Speaker And Lou Reed is the gearheads gearhead.

Speaker Lou Reed is the.

Speaker Lou Reed is the gearheads gearhead, despite some of the musicians we talked to, they say they’ve in studio something and then they just been there and they Wisden like crazy years.

Speaker That ethnic nation is being so scary.

Speaker I work on the Bell Street, have only one.

Speaker We did the one. We did the box set that the box set was great. When we do these box sets, which are the reissued records started again when we did the Lou Reed box set. It was similar to the box sets that we do for other record, other rock and roll artists, and that the record company has to gather up the tapes from their archives, find them, make sure they have them, which in a lot of cases they don’t anymore, and then gather them together and send them to us to be remastered and then lose cage. They found almost all the records, with the exception of the bells, which they couldn’t find in the bells. It’s taken off a vinyl record that has a computer taking all the tick. Some pops out of it and it still sounds very good. But that was the only one going back and having the actual tape of walk on the wild side on the recorder again. It’s always an exciting thing to hear records that are kind of icons of 20th century pop culture. Have that tape on your own tape recorder. The studio is an exciting thing. And then, too, as a mastering engineer, to be able to put, you know, make it sound as good as I possibly think it can sound. And if you listen to the recordings on the box set versus the earlier C.D. of some of the same material, I think it’s pretty startling the difference of the quality. And the more quality that you get on the recording, the more of the emotional impact comes across to the final listener. So it was just great going through all those old songs and some of them being a big Lou Reed fan, even some of the older recordings. I actually wasn’t familiar with. I mean, it is a bit of every record that he made, including metal machine music. So it was really exciting to me to be exposed to some older Lou Reed songs that I hadn’t heard and finally get to appreciate them like everyone else had.

Speaker Well, how does it come to you today or what?

Speaker The the final mixdown tape is a quarter inch wide tape that runs at either 15 inches, the second or 30 inches per second. And it wasn’t until about 1980 that professionals started recording using half inch wide tape of 30 inches before that, most of it was quarter inch and 15 inches per second. Sometimes they would use a noise reduction system to get rid of the tapes like the Dolby or the PBX system. But Lou always had good engineers doing his records. So they you know, they all sounded very good to begin with. And it was just a matter of doing or enhancing to make them sound even better, hopefully.

Speaker It’s always interesting to me. Eat that. And yet really obsession with getting everything on the record maybe.

Speaker Well, when an artist is recording, I mean, it’s similar to the Rolling Stones in a way that they’ll put down a performance on tape. That can be what to your eye would be very loose sometimes was even a mistake left in it. And then once it’s down, then they treat it as if it’s gold, you know, and like the slightest thing that you do to it is now no longer OK. So there are artists like Tom Waits where they’re really into grunge and distortion. But Tom, similar to Lou in that it’s almost becomes like a classical record. There’s a certain amount of distortion, and if it’s one iota more, it’s suddenly not OK. Like it’s complete. It’s distortion, but it’s completely under control.

Speaker You know what?

Speaker I’ve never seen Lou live. And it just brings up a horrible story. I was supposed. Go see Drella. And my wife and I were driving to the Brooklyn Academy and we’re on the East Side Drive and there’s this huge traffic accident. The drive comes to a stop. We’re sitting on the drive. And finally, the cops come and start exiting people off one by one into the middle of Manhattan somewhere. By the time we’d gotten off the highway and half the performance was gone. And we’re so sad.

Speaker So now I’ve never seen Lou love.

Speaker I’d love to get all my questions.

Speaker Karen, anything. Would you? Yeah. All right.

Speaker Let’s talk about how he’s very proud. He’s written up engineering journals.

Speaker Well, when I wrote this interview with Lou for a Q magazine, which is a professional journal.

Speaker My intention was to really get Lou’s point across to the public when most normal journalists that make money off it and do it for a living. Do articles. They always put their own slant on it and try to be, you know, the journalist. My purpose in writing the article was to have what Lou had to say come across to the audience without any filtering. So that was my job in that case. So I felt proud to be a conduit of Lou’s ideas into print.

Speaker Is there a way you could say in one sense, what was the idea?

Speaker Well, I think Lou’s purpose in making music is involved with reality, and to get over that saying, well, I can’t lose purpose in making music is reality. His purpose is to take his artistic intent as he hears it and have it be transmitted to the listener. No holds barred and nothing in between.

Speaker That’s right. That’s right. And the other things like that.

Speaker Now, I’ve actually got to go. I’ve got to be at Sony.

Speaker Do you think you can look straight at the camera without moving or a room on a screen test? Right. Here I go.

Bob Ludwig
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-8g8ff3mj23, cpb-aacip-504-8911n7z76d
"Bob Ludwig , Lou Reed: Rock And Roll Heart" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). September 27, 1997 ,
(1 , 1). Bob Ludwig , Lou Reed: Rock And Roll Heart [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Bob Ludwig , Lou Reed: Rock And Roll Heart" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). September 27, 1997 . Accessed November 29, 2022


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