RIP: Art Snay of Arabellum Studios, 1951-2012

Art Snay (photo by Dave Suarez)
Art Snay

Photograph by Dave Suarez

Art Snay – musician, engineer, producer and owner of Arabellum Studios in Albany – passed away earlier this week.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that without Snay, the Nippertown music scene might look – and certainly sound – radically different. In the late ’70s and early ’80 when the DIY indie rock scene was just beginning to blossom all across the country, Art and his Arabellum Studios – tucked away on Sand Creek Road in Colonie – was the place to go record whatever the hell you had in mind.

Maybe it was radio-friendly pop and rock. Maybe it was go-for-the-throat punk or balls-to-the-wall metal. Maybe it was something just completely off-the-wall. Whatever. Snay was probably your best go-to guy.

Along with the old WQBK-FM radio and such long-defunct live performance venues as J.B. Scott’s and 288 Lark, Art and his Arabellum Studios helped create the perfect storm of opportunity for non-mainstream bands looking to showcase their original music.

*UPDATE (10am Monday, March 19): Here’s info on “For the Love of Art: A Celebration of the Life of Art Snay” to be held on Sunday (March 25)…

*UPDATE (8am Tuesday, March 20): Art Snay’s obituary at The Times Union

*UPDATE (3pm Monday, March 26): Photographs from “For the Love of Art: A Celebration of the Life of Art Snay” at Lynn’s Uptown Tavern, Albany, 3/25/12

Here’s what a few friends, fans, clients and bandmates have to say about Art Snay:

STEVEN “CLYDE” DAVIES: Art Snay was a kind-hearted gentle soul who had impeccable taste in music and a well-developed sense of hearing, which served him well as a music producer and audio engineer. His passing is a major loss for the Capital Region arts community, as he was a seminal force in producing and engineering excellent recordings of some of the most influential and creative bands and solo artists of the local music scene, going as far back as the early 1970s. He also composed some very intriguing electronic music and was a capable visual artist and graphic art designer as well.

Art was a founding member of the Albany-based group called od, which began in 1975. Art was the primary electronic music composer of the band, as well as audio engineer. And yes, he originally established Arabellum as a place to record od. The first rock opera created by od, to which Art made contributions, is known as “Spheres.”

On a more personal note, Art was often affectionately referred to by his bandmates and friends as “R2”, in reference to one of the robot characters in “Star Wars,” and he appreciated well-designed sports cars and speed boats. Art will be missed by all the folks he touched with his creativity and generosity over the years. I will miss him very much.

KEVIN BARTLETT: I met Art around 1973 or 1974. We hit it off immediately, sharing our fondness for Robert Wyatt, Peter Hammill, Crimson, Gong and the other prog-rock oddities of the time, as well as our wrangling of all the Jane Roberts/Seth material we could get our hands on. Art also had a room full of synthesizers and recording gear that made me drool. As he showed and taught me the ins and outs, I began my love affair with these strange and wonderful noise makers. Art was my engineering and sonic guru and soon became my mentor.

In 1976, od was born and Art was in on the ground floor. No way could any self-respecting chaotic, prog, rock opera outfit do without the electronic wizardry and recording expertise of such a pioneer of that time. We actually all chipped in to build Arabellum as a conclave/rehearsal space for our grand undertakings. Thinking back, those days were like my college, and Mr. Snay was certainly the Dean – exploring not only the sonic possibilities and colors of those machines, but educating us all on the importance of fidelity and the care it took to produce stellar recordings.

To this day when I’m asked about my influences, Art Snay is always mentioned. I am so humbled and proud that I can say, “I was in a freakin’ band with him. He was the synth guy.” I will miss him fondly and deeply. I’m sure that’s a sentiment shared by the multitude of musicians he slaved over, crafted, engineered, produced, educated and made sound their best. Thanks my friend, for everything and all the rest.

JIM TEMPLE: Some of the best memories I have is late night recording with Private Plain at Arabellum. Eight-o-clock bean coffee readily available. Art was the best at interpreting whatever language I brought to the session. I once asked for a track to sound like a comet trailing through the sky. (I know, we say silly things when we’ve had a few.) He knew exactly what I was saying. He was the best at that. I’ll really miss him.

I also credit Art and Arabellum with the life I have today. I met my wife there when we were recording.

JOE PUTROCK: He did a recording I played on when I was 12 years old. He fixed all my screw-ups, and he did it without a computer, he did it by splicing tape!! I was only 12, but at the time I thought he was a genius.

JOHN POWHIDA: I felt like I had arrived in the albany music scene recording with someone as cool as the gentle giant Art Snay 26 years ago. Glad I got to know him. R.I.P. Great all night and morning memories of hijinx recording with Rees Shad at Art’s place.

HARVEY KOJAN: I spent countless hours recording, laughing and partying (and quite often crashing on the couch) at his funky palace on Sand Creek Road. He was one of the smartest, funniest and most generous people I’ve ever met … a seminal figure in my life.

PAUL JOSSMAN (aka BOWTIE BLOTTO): So sad to learn of Art’s passing. He was a fixture of the Albany music scene for a long time and helped a lot of people. He stood out, and not just because he was always the tallest person in the room. Hey Art – let’s do one more take, and turn up the click track.

CHARLENE SHORTSLEEVE: Oh, so sad … Spent alot of time at Arabellum – good times, good memories. R.I.P. Art.

SARA AYERS: What I remember most fondly is how totally and completely enthusiastic he was about any project he was working on. It didn’t matter how green you were, or what style of music you played or how weird your music was. He was always happy to help you arrange your songs, happy to teach you about recording and, most importantly, incredibly skillful at making your recording the best it could be. The guy could take a mediocre song and make it sound like a masterwork. His patience and reassurances most likely kept me from giving up in my early music-making days. Art, thank you, and rest in peace.

NOTE: MARY PALEY and some of Art’s other old friends are trying to plan a ceremony for sometime next week. There will also be a post-ceremony gathering to share stories about the big guy. Do you have any photographs or other memorabilia of Art and Arabellum to display during the ceremony? Please contact Mary Paley at [email protected]

Here’s a very short list of the many bands that Art Snay engineered, produced or co-produced during his long tenure at Arabellum Studios. Please feel free to add more below:

The Dronez
Mechanical Servants
Bob Radliff
Bob Van Detta
Johnny Rabb
The Morons
Sue Carpenter
Lethal Lipstick
Blotto
Mambo-X
The Tom Healey Band
The Lustre Kings
Dirty Face
AKA/etc.
Clay People
Ric Roc Bop
New Shiny Things
Killtech
Victoria Harper
Diversion Factor
Vertebrae
Ariel

53 Comments
  1. TL says

    In addition to the Morons I recorded the GhostRunner album and most of the Last Conspirators debut album with Art. The work was just part of it. Spent many a long night hanging at Arabellum with Art and Y, plus a lot of time out on the boat, laughing, listening to music, talking politics, UFO’s and conspiracy theories. Me and my partner are devastated by this news to say the least… we miss you already buddy…

  2. Theresa Temple says

    R-T was one of the first friends I made when I moved up to Albany. I met Art and Yvonne through my brother Mike and they sort of ‘adopted” me. I think they did that with alot of people. Generous does not even begin to cover the type of guy Art was. As my husband, Jim Temple mentioned, we met at Arabellum and the studio, as well as Art, will always be in my heart. Rest in Peace my good friend, I love and miss you, T.

  3. jim furlong says

    I’m shocked and saddened. The A.D.’s first 2 singles were recorded at Arabellum.
    Art was a great guy. We had our differences on production; he was the expert and I always wanted the needles on the soundboard pinned in the red zone. I remember him playing a part of Pink Floyd’s The Wall LP and showing me how the needles always stayed within the non-distorting black zone.
    Being of the Nigel Tufnel school of sound, I preferred ’11’.
    Haven’t been in touch with him for years now. It’s a shame that he is gone.
    Nothing in the TU obits yet. What caused his death? Is there to be a wake?
    Jim

  4. Joshua Vincent says

    Art helped take our band, Lumpen Proles from a beer and garage approach to sound, and helped us shape what we wanted. What we heard in our heads, he helped us put on tape and vinyl. Art was a great guy as well.

  5. Jack Maeby says

    It’s a little-known fact that Art started out as a drummer, albeit not a very good one. When I was in high school and Art was at HVCC, we played together in an ambitious but ill-conceived progressive funk-rock band. Art’s drum solos were referred to by titles like “Stumbling Through The Dump”. Fortunately for the Albany music scene, Art found his way to engineering and producing, and he knew more about those arts than anyone around. I remember the late 70’s and early 80’s as particularly creative times at Arabellum, when I played piano on numerous projects Art produced including a Christian folk music album, country records, live theater sound tracks, local radio promos and so much more. Art was a great friend, humble, generous and creative.

  6. Al Kash says

    Sad & shocked. Was just thinking of him the past week. Many sessions/recordings come to mind. Was amazed at the process for recording Screaming/NAJA nAJA w/Leopard Society. Using the tiled bathroom for the Chants on Naja,, snare drum parts for Ghostrunner, etc. Always felt at ease & knowing it would sound Great. Thoughts & prayers go out to Y, Mark, Family, R.I.P.

  7. Dominick Campana says

    Horrible news. Art taught me so much about sound and recording. I’ve always thought he was the area’s best recordist. And in addition to making my Hiwatt combo sound like a wall of Townshend stacks, his hospitality was unmatched. He was a crucial component of my career path. I’m so sad that I lost touch with him. Still, the memories that this bad news has triggered (and there are so many of them) are all awesome ones. Damn, talk about “too much fucking perspective”.

  8. TL says

    Jim and everyone… I originally heard that there would be a service on Monday night on New Karner Road, however, I spoke to Y and since it was an unattended death it is pending an autopsy. As soon as I hear anything firm I will post it here. Forgot to mention that my partner just saw Art last week when he was in for his twice a year hair cut. She said he was in good spirits and mentioned he was going to make it out to one of next gigs… I am sorry that won’t be happening now. We will be going at it next Friday night and I know I speak for Al Kash, and myself, when I say in light of these recent developments expect nothing less from us but to be on fire….

  9. Chris Busone says

    Stole a lot of studio tricks from Art working with him way back when, some I still use today. We’ll miss you big fella.

  10. Todd Nelson says

    Art was the first person to record the Units, engineering our DIY single “Japan/I Am Sorry”. When the band reunited for a couple of shows a few years ago, Art graciously helped me catalogue, digitize and master all the band’s recordings we could muster up for the commemerative CD. He also engineered and co-produced the Rumdummies’ “Too Dum to Quit”. He was a pleasure to work with and made us sound our best. You still had to wake him up when you arrived at the studio though! I’ll miss him.

  11. Jim Temple says

    I remember playing the Q and seeing Art and Y come in, towering over everybody. Was always a fun time hanging out with them in the back room of the Studio when I was waiting my turn for a take. I loved that Pinball machine he had…

  12. Russell Slater says

    I will miss Art – he was a great ear and creative force. Too many memories to mention all but they were all great. RIP

  13. dale metzger says

    art was a good friend and a true gentleman(giant). he will be sorely missed. i am a better person for knowing art snay. r i p art, got an extra nat shermans?

  14. Joe Pallone says

    Art was truly an original genius. This news saddens me terribly. R.I.P. Art, thanks for taking the time to record for us. It was truly an amazing experience and you are someone who will never be forgotten.

  15. Ken Powis says

    I recorded under Art’s gentle guidance and impressive expertise in sessions with French Letter, Mambo-X and Tone Arcade. All were memorable, particularly a Mambo-X session when Art happily accomodated our “emergency” need for a new demo by patiently working us through a twelve hour marathon. I’m sure he had many other such sessions…may he rest in peace.

  16. Thomas D'Ambrose says

    I am very sad to hear this news. Arabellum was the first studio I ever recorded in and Art made
    all of the time I spent there a great experience. He had such a laid back approach, there was
    never any pressure and it was just really fun to hang out over there. Arabellum was one of my
    favorite places and Art was areally great guy……..I will miss him.

  17. Gene Sennes says

    Arabellum is where everything started for me. When I wasn’t recording, it was a place to hang and learn. I marveled at Art’s skill in editing tracks. No Pro Tools, just a razor blade and a gold tipped Sherman dangling from his lips. The magnitude of this loss is staggering. Art Snay was a genius. Art Snay was royalty.

  18. Bill Rella says

    My bro Tom & I were over there about a year ago getting digitized tracks of Lumpen Proles and The Verge. We actually hadn’t seen or talked to him in years, but nothing changed. The board looked kind of new and the reel to reel was a museum piece. He was still going to “get back” to us when he was done cooking some other tracks of ours. Just waiting for the right weather, you know

  19. Bob Lukomski says

    Who else in this world would’ve taken a joking request for a Mellotron (this was back in ’88 when the tech was completely out of vogue) as an actual challenge and have it waiting for you at your next recording session? Only Art.

  20. Mike Normandin says

    I am shocked and saddened by this news. Art was always so gracious, knowledgeable and masterfully precise at his chosen craft, he will be dearly missed. A true pillar of the community and local music scene. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunities to record at Arabellum, watching Art do his magic. Some of the greatest recordings I have ever heard came right from Sand Creek road. Art thank you for everything my friend, your legacy will live on in the music you brought to life in all of us.

  21. Cherry Ryan says

    I have nothing but fond (and a bit foggy) memories of every time we had the pleasure of going to Arabellum Studio. Whether it be to record or just celebrate Art’s legendary b’day parties, it was always an incredible time. Feel blessed to have known such a true and devoted music man.

  22. Pamela MekServ says

    I have to echo everything Gene Sennes said so well. Artie was certainly all that and maybe most important of all, Art was a mensch. He was just the best guy, the best friend, the best collaborator and now the best cloud of memory.

  23. Marty Feier says

    Just when you thought you had Art figured out, he would do something else that would have you scratching your head. One day he told me about Barry Manilow stopping in to do some vocal overdubs. He did it all, Hard Rock,Pop,Punk,Electronic,Techno,Metal,Country,commercials,voiceovers and everything in between. He always gave his all no matter what the project and tried his best to serve the song. He was a gentle giant of a man but also always stood his ground if it was something he believed in. Not only did I have the opportunity to work with Art many times at Arabellum but he was also my teacher in electronic music/recording engineering at the Skidmore studio which was first outfitted with his old Otari 1/2″ 8 track and board. Art was a true original who helped shape the sound of the music scene in the Capital District and well beyond for several decades. RIP Art !

  24. John Lynker says

    Let’s not forget one of Art Snay’s first bands – ‘od’! Such an excellent Progressive Rock Band – one of the best. Members: Art Snay (during the initial building of Arabellum), Kevin Bartlett, Guy Spataford, John Gould, Steve “Clyde” Davies, Mary Paley and Dennis Mead. Although they never received the notoriety they deserved, their work was a marvel of Rock Multimedia! As a high school student in Albany, NY, I hung out (they’d kick me out and I’d come back) as much as I could and Art taught me so much about recording, sound and, life in general – in short, simple, unpretentious statements. Recently, I shared an email with him and was so happy he and Arabellum was still in business – his response was as nice as he’s ever been. I’d hope to see him again this year. I’ll miss that. Although Art has left us far too soon, Art had a great life! Reading how he’s influenced so many artists and musicians is so pleasing. THANK YOU SO MUCH ART SNAY!

  25. Kristin says

    I remember so many parties at Art and Yvonne’s place. (well, at least the begining of them)
    The first time i met Art and Yvonne, a X boyfriend and i gave them “Voodoo” the Tarantula for a birthday preasent… He had him for years..
    I was wondering if anyone else remembered that Barry Manillow recorded there, But saw someone did. Thought I made that up.
    Art you were a great guy, such sad news…. such a gentle giant…

  26. Legion says

    We recorded our” Nice Guys Finish Last” single with Art..Primative beauty.Thanks Art

  27. Brad says

    So many great memories of the guy. Art made this nervous kid feel right at home and welcome in the “Out of Control Room”. Sometimes more laughing than work was done. I’ll never forget Yvonne showing me an old childrens birthday picture and challenging me to find Art amongst the thirty or so kids. She told me it wasn;’t hard and she was right. He was the one with the cone shaped birthday hat on sideways. Which to me pretty much summed-up Art’s perspective on life and art. One of a kind ? – almost an understatement.

  28. John Lynker says

    Errata: ‘od’ member(s) missed Diane Blanche and Dane McCauley. Loving condolences too all of Art’s family and close friends as well.

  29. Steve Cohen says

    Art recorded the first Units songs – our single “Japan” and “I Am Sorry”, and we worked with him quite a bit over the years. I can still see him at the console in Arabellum, thumb and two fingers gently poised on an EQ knob, pinky slightly raised. He was a rare bird, indeed.

  30. Jeff Caro says

    Damn.

    What a loss for the local music community. My band Anne Boleyn was poor Art’s first metal project back in ’82. I’m quite sure we weren’t his cup of Earl Grey, but he rose to the occasion with great technical skill and incredible patience for an obnoxious bunch of adolescent headbangers. We so many laughs with Art and Y, and did quite a bit of wacky experimentation that did, at least somewhat appeal to Art’s old love of Prog rock. We did discover one night that you can’t tune a bagpipe:)

    Rest In Peace my old friend.

  31. Paul Sadowski says

    I played guitar in Art’s first (I think) band, the Statiks. We played two dates I think, at a little CCHS gym in Watervliet and the LaSalle Academy Gym. What to say? It was rough. But those were first steps for Art and I, who remained involved with the music business lifelong. RIP Art.

  32. Scot Gray says

    Before going into a recording session at Arabellum, Lumpen Proles did some quick tracks as a pre-recording demo and reverantly named it “Art for Art’s sake”. He truely did shape the Albany sound and will be greatly missed.

  33. Greg bell says

    Art snay was an amazing supporter of
    The local music scene. He was one if the
    First people to sponsor the original Guthrie/bell
    Productions music series at valentines
    In 1983. His support of music was only
    Rivaled by his great parties at the studio.
    Rest in peace art. You will be missed.

  34. greg bell says

    that should have read 1993.

  35. Vic Gennett says

    I’ve been in Art’s orbit since 1966. Although I have no musical inclinations, I was always in the shadows of Arabellum. Hundreds of good memories. RIP, RT.
    Vic

  36. Bill Migirditch says

    The time we all (The Morons) spent at Arabellum was something I will never forget. Art was a great guy to be around, always had a smile on his face, and a great technical guide. He had a great ability to relate to anyone and put you at ease even when you were stressing out about how things were going etc.

    I will never forget the countless hours I spent in the sound room reading National Lampoon and laughing myself silly (often not only becase of the magazines…) until it was time to go back out into the studio.

    Although it was 30 years ago it’s a great memory that will always stay with me.

    Here’s to you Art.

    Bill Migirditch

  37. Caroline Meyers says

    Another great loss. These remembrances bring back so many memories of a different time and a different age. Rest in peace, Art.

  38. Josh Greenberg says

    Art was an amazing person.
    He not only had the technical wizardry to capture sounds, but he also had the personal magic to create the setting in which great music would come to be. Thank you, Art, for so many years of friendship and producing music together.

  39. sreve nover says

    I’ve been looking for a single I played on to give the year but can’t find-Dance Planet invited me to play bongos on ‘pirates of life’-I believe it was a 4 song 45-perhaps 1983-as in many of the testimonials Art was a gentle giant & had a wonderful positivity. Arabellum was The place for Albany’s first wave but even when recording studios were opening all over many of the top bands of the 2nd wave chose Art including my fave-Mambo X-it was especially sad to hear of the passing, partly since I hadn’t seen him in some time. Rest In Peace Art

  40. Matthew Hayes says

    Arabellum was an unforgettable experience; legendary hospitality, games, uh…magazines, unabashed cats and Nat Sherman cigarettes. Even the deep woods landscape out the back door was like a scene from an alternate dimension. And Art was a pillar of patience, and temperament amongst the low-level divas that we were. There was magic in that big, beautiful head. R.I.P. Art.

  41. Jim Sande says

    Art recorded two bands of mine – The Executives and Signs Of Life with Richard Lainhart and Rocky Petrocelli. He also recorded many of my first solo pieces with layered overdubbing. Whenever we had a few extra bucks, which was rare back then, we would record at Art’s studio. We worked well together and I always valued his commitment. He was a pro. I’m really sorry to see him leave us and like too many as of late, way too soon.

  42. david formanek says

    This is harsh news, doubly so because it so closely follows Richard Lainhart’s death in December. Art produced my band Standing Offer’s release. We thought we’d try to find out what we sounded like, but it turned into a real session, and something of a marathon: 7 pm until 2 am, a dozen songs recorded in real time Bob Dylan style: all at once. Art was very cooperative. I wish we had let him experiment a little more than the underwater sounds of _Serial Flounder,_ but we were wicked pleased with our album, which sadly exists only on cassette tapes, and whatever we had hoped someday to ask Art to retrieve from his archives. He liked our stuff, though, and directed me to bring a copy of “Nothing” up the mountain to Peggy Apple at ‘QBK, where it joined the playlist in the days when local bands were on local radio. When there was local radio, I guess I mean. I remember his fabulous parties populated by Albany rockers (and often a couple of dumbass narks), and other pleasant times passing time. Art was a mainstay of the scene in those days. I always think that everything is as it was, and I could go back for a visit and find everything the same. But a lot of our immediate associates are gone forever. I still see Art on an August day in sunlight in his front yard spray painting his Cadillac’s engine parts with short bursts of cherry red enamel.

  43. Gary Cunningham says

    This is just so sad….our band Bootleg recorded an album at Arabellum back in the ’82 time frame, Art & Y were two of the kindest, funniest people I’ve ever known. Oh, the stories we could tell, as could everyone who has commented here. The parties that they used to throw were legendary!
    Art’s “ear” was incredible, he just had a knack for telling you what should be tweaked in the studio. And remember, these were the days of tape, nothing was digital! To this day, one of my favorite 45’s ever is the New Shiny Things (Billy Harrigan & Sara Ayers) single “Changing Colors” / “Breadlines & Dissidence”, recorded & produced by Art.
    R.I.P. Gentle Giant…

  44. Craig "Dred" Scott says

    I’ve started this 5 times…….I met Art back in ’80 or so. I was doing sound for Chrysalis and we were shopping around the local studios (all 3 of them!) to decide where we would record a demo tape. When we met Art (and Y), we knew where we would be recording! What a great time to be in the “business” too. JB Scott’s and Hulla Bulla were rockin’! WQBK was the best radio station I had ever heard. (And I got to meet many if not all, of the on-air personalities at the studio.) Some long nights were spent recording and “getting it right” The tape turned out great, we were all very happy with it and it got us MANY jobs. During that time, we discovered we all had similar tastes in music. Prog rock! So that was a never ending conversation. Oh, and the parties! LEGENDARY! and just as nice were the quiet herbalization “meetings” at the pond. I could go on….but I will save the tales for the Memorial Party. I will never forget Art Snay and I look forward to seeing him again on the astral plane…..

  45. brian wellbrock says

    good times Dance Planet art and miss y you are the man!!!!!

  46. Bert Pagano says

    Art recorded the one and only Downtime record ever released albeit impossible to find then or now. Met Art in the very early 70s. He was always a fun guy with a very creative mind. A musical force that help fuel our Albany music scene. RIP

  47. Freddy Giannetti says

    Just read this from a post on Facebook from Charlene Shortsleeve. I did lots of recording with Art. I remember long sessions, late nights and lots of fun. Like Charlene said, “I spent a lot of time at Arabellum”. I recorded as a member of Rip Roc Bop, Spring Fever, solo stuff and others. I was just thinking about him, talking to my wife as we drove by the studio last month. This is sad, he was too young and I know he’ll be missed by many.

  48. Michael Corcoran says

    Sad to hear about this. Art and Arabellum were a huge part of the Albany I lived in from 1980- 82.

  49. dave owens says

    everything that has been said is true . a very kind soul very willing to educate and teach ..he is the whole reason I got into the recording business with signature sound . many many sessions with at least 4 different bands , there is no doubt in my mind art enjoyed life t. o the fullest. I will see you in that great mastering session in the sky .

  50. Timothy Samascott says

    Some people leave us too soon. When that happens I always find myself wishing I had made a better effort to visit more even though no one can really know the future. I’ll never forget the first time I saw those burlap walls and parachute ceiling January 1980. Having been to the first Blotto shows in Saratoga it wasn’t long before I saw the Units and the ADs that same year along with the rest of the original music scene in Albany. And Art was a key figure in it all. I was back at Arabellum many times over the next dozen years or so. Art always understood what I was trying to do. Through the 90s I spent even more time there assisting Mark Wilken with various work projects on that great old house including remodeling the studio. There were many hours of conversation and Art & Y made sure there was always another beer cooling in the fridge as Maggie the cat watched over everything. The last time I got over to visit with Art was January 2010. Now he is gone and I wish I had made a better effort to visit more often.

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