Here i sit in a far off land attending yet another Hi-Fi show. Over the past years my travels have led to from good ol' Las Vegas USA to London England. From lovely Milan Italy where hand craftsmanship is king to Singapore where just outside is a small island that makes speakers whose employees live in the 3rd world disparity. What amazes me is that all these people seem to enjoy music yet are "audiophiles" truly free or are they slaves to their hobby and passion? After taking a very long look at the audiences that attend these shows it has made me wonder. Wonder whether the pursuit of high performance music frees the spirit, or have we become a slave to it?
It seems to be a very rare sight at shows to see attendees tapping their feet to the music, let alone dancing to it. Generally i see middle-aged men with very serious expressions on their face as (usually) some of the best recorded sounds of the what seems to be the world's worst music fills the air. i mean, do music lovers really listen to this music or is it strictly for "audiophiles" (which might explain the very low sales of "audiophile" software versus the sales of other music)? At what point does one go from musical freedom to musical slavery? The bigger question is, is there any road that leads from this slavery back to freedom?
When sitting in front of your music reproduction system does an entire album side play all the way through without tweaking this or that? If enjoying a CD, can you listen to an entire song without going into that "i must hear this certain part of the song where..." ritual? Do the people i see at jazz and dance clubs do this "audiophile" ritual? While in Venice Italy i enjoyed such a vast amount of incredibly well performed live acoustic music that possibly my soul is getting a bit jaded about "audiophiles"? Perhaps? Still, is the pursuit for higher enjoyment of music wrong. Absolutely not!
In fact the pursuit is a highly admirable one so long as, in my humble opinion, the music is to serve you and not the other way around. It is when life becomes unenjoyable because of this pursuit that i question. As i read a great interview of David Chesky by cool dudes Doug Blackburn and Rich Brkich in Positive Feedback Magazine (Volume 6, Number 1... buy the back issue!) it is where David Chesky says on page 29 about his musical recordings "We can make it so perfect that it's not human and doesn't covey the basic nature of music." In our pursuit of better music reproduction have we stripped the true nature of music to achieve this so-called "better sound"? At what point is there a personal turn to the dark side from being a music lover to only being an "audiophile"?
Perhaps my shallow judgementalism is being quite harsh, yet in my humble opinion audio is technology whereas music is art. If only my closest music loving friends were with me during my visit to Venice. This is where i heard drop-dead gorgeous inspirational performances from a stringed quartet playing in a centuries old church and also performances by a small quintet playing outside in the main square. The quartet played the standard classic music whereas the quintet (four stringed and one clarinet) played everything from "New York, New York" to great jazz tunes. To see the audience clap their hands, dance and sing along to the music as the band joyously played for hours was as though my music loving soul was being shot with a newfound drug called "true joy". Sadly, i have never, and it depresses me, never seen any audiophiles break out into such as public demonstration of joy as the crowd did in Venice. Where have we gone wrong? Is it me? What can be done to realign an "audiophile" back into a music lover?
i do not know. For some the discovery of tubes and/or vinyl seems to be the answer whereas for others slavery might be, for them, a lifetime of "crime and punishment". i have heard that some people enjoy sexual encounters to a higher degree while being a slave. Pain and pleasure... Maybe some people enjoy music more in this fashion as well? So as i sit here in a country which pays the basic government employee around $200 USD a month enjoying the Red Hot Chili Peppers album "Californication" on a $250,000 music reproduction system, who am i to say what is fair, just, or "right"? In a few moments i will be attending another Hi-Fi Show... As the Red Hot Chili Peppers song says: