An engineer, musician, professor, studio owner and designer, serial entrepreneur, key figure in the Audio Engineering Society and more, Harry Hirsch died Thursday, Feb. 14. He was 89.
Born on Sept. 14, 1929, Hirsch’s first work in the music business as a 13-year-old drummer in The Catskills, but he made his mark behind the glass as a recording and mastering engineer who became a key part of New York City’s recording scene in the decades to come.
As founder and past president of MediaSound and Soundmixers, and as a co-designer of GRP Records and SoundTrack/NY studios, he hosted sessions for Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, The Who, The Bee Gees, Judy Collins, Meatloaf, and many other notable artists.
An early proponent of digital technology, Harry served as a CD reissue producer for 10 Duke Ellington albums, and collaborated with Mercer Ellington on 10 more. In 1994 Harry Hirsch created Digi-Rom Inc., a New York-based audio CD, CD-ROM, DVD production/replication firm and vinyl mastering house, which he sold in 2004.
Simultaneously, however, he also became a pioneering audio educator, beginning in 1981 when he was appointed dean of the Audio Arts Program for New York’s Center for The Media Arts. That same year, he was named an adjunct professor at NYU where he lectured for the Music Technology Program.
In 2005, Hirsch and engineer Irv Joel co-chaired the Historical Committee for the Audio Engineering Society’s 119th Convention, held in New York that year. He went on to serve as AES Convention Historical Committee chair in 2007 and 2009. In 2011, Hirsch was presented with the AES Fellowship Award in recognition of his more than 50 years of pioneering work in the recording industry. He also served two terms as first vice president of the New York Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.
“The range and depth of AES Historical Events was impressive, but not surprising, considering Harry Hirsch’s considerable expertise,” remarked AES President and frequent convention Co-Chair Agnieszka Roginska. “A long-time AES member, Harry worked closely with elder statesmen Irv Joel, Bill Wray and John Chester on our indispensable AES Oral History Project. He edited nearly 100 hour-long DVD interviews, including in-depth Q&As with industry doyens, Les Paul and Phil Ramone. Harry Hirsch was an irreplaceable fixture at AES Conventions and he has made an indelible contribution to our organization.”
He is survived by Doris Baran Hirsch, his partner at Digi-Rom and wife of 64 years; sons, Bruce and Marc; and grandchildren Paige and Garret. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, February 18 at the Eden Memorial Chapels, 327 Main Street, Fort Lee, N.J. 201-947-3336.