This week, I read the various articles from the July edition of this rag, in which our esteemed editor, Steven R. Rochlin, bunched several that carried one theme; that we audiophiles and possibly most high fidelity audio journals have lost our way. There were three sub-themes; first, our loss of the feeling for the music, from Herb Reichert's comparing previous generation's love of music for its pleasurable effects compared to the average audiophiles love of the pursuit of the "absolute sound" to Roger Skoff's about the various types of audiophiles who listen for the sound rather than the music. Then there were a couple of articles discussing the business model of selling equipment or bringing new blood into the fraternity. Finally, there were multiple articles discussing the relative merits of the equipment reviewed, not how they improved the feeling for the music, but how they improved the reproduction of the sound.
There was only one article, by Ray Chowkwanyun, discussing what it should really mean to "enjoy the music", using his trip to Vienna to discuss the joy of hearing great orchestras in great halls. But even there he strayed from that theme to discuss the relative merits of the two Vienna orchestras, the Philharmonic and Symphoniker. It was just another way of reviewing the sound rather than the music. So I went back and looked at my articles for the past several months, and realized that I had also fallen into the same routine of discussing the qualities of the sound rather than the increased enjoyment received from the ability to draw emotion from the reproduced music.
Then it dawned on me that for the past several months I could not remember once listening to a full 3 to 5 minute song, never mind a complete symphony. Two nights ago, like many nights before, I sat and evaluated the qualities of the recording or the equipment by listening for a couple of minutes to the reproduced sonic qualities of each piece, instead of noting the pleasure received from the music. Most reviewers fall into this trap as their job is to try to glean the positive and negative attributes of the various equipment and recordings to allow the readers to get a grasp of what they might do in a person's system, but in the attempt we lose the ability to feel the soul of the music.
I had noted the same phenomenon over 20 years ago at the last Chicago CES. This is where, long before my writing days, I snuck in under the guise of an employee of an equipment manufacturer in audio dealer and equipment manufacturers. While attending an evening Chicago Symphony concert, I surveyed the audience both out and inside the hall, and found only one representative that I knew from the show, Dave Wilson of Wilson Audio, who took the time at the end of a long presenter day, to walk two blocks to spend two hours listening to the Chicago Symphony with his wife. That's out of several hundred supposed classical "musicophiles". On discussing this the next day with several show attendees who were supposed classical music lovers, they all stated that the business of selling music had destroyed their ability to enjoy it.
There may be a second group of causes for my inability to listen to entire pieces; the computer, Internet, and our increasingly hurried lifestyle. When was the last time you read an entire book, wrote a complete letter without any abbreviations, or listened to a complete album or musical piece as it was meant to be heard? While I don't text and don't know any of the deconstructed words the kids use to speed up their messaging, simply can't remember the last time I didn’t just scan an article rather than reading it completely. Thus, my inability to "enjoy the music" is also an inability to enjoy other drawn out activities, and can be blamed on two factors; my being sucked into the audio business fraternity, and the speed of the modern world.
So Fearless Leader Steven, thank you for allowing me, through the above bunching of articles, to see the error of my ways (Steven says: It’s all good Doc G). Thank God I have a possible solution. As luck would have it, my wife and I will be spending the next four weeks traveling between Vienna and Amsterdam on a river boat and touring Ireland. This will give me time to slow down, read some full length books, attend multiple concerts and spend many nights in Irish pubs listening to and absorbing the music presented. That may break the audiophile curse. And hopefully this article will jolt you out of your audiophile zombie listening and let you get back to just "enjoying the music".
Last night, as the Europeans would say, I started the "cure", by forcing myself to sit and listen to an entire symphony, the Brahms First with the Vienna Philharmonic. With the lights off, and all seven horns and 11 subwoofers reproducing the best sound I've had from my system in thirty years, thanks to the....
PurePower+ 1500 AC
I say almost, as on most nights, the sound is the best ever heard here, but there still are certain nights when it doesn't quite reach that standard. Interestingly, a friend outside of Boston who has a PurePower+ 3000 has also been keeping track and his findings almost perfectly line up with mine. As he is 50 miles away, still on the same grid but probably receiving his electricity from a different distributor, but close enough that the weather is the same, rules out two possible causes; our body's physiology and local line disturbances. Thus the grid is being corrupted by some malevolent force being transmitted through it, be it man or God-made, or there is something in the atmosphere, be it RFI, weather or some other phenomenon (neutrinos?). Maybe I or some other soul will need to build a Faraday cage and run on batteries to rule out the RF, or build a listening room several thousand feet underground to block out cosmic rays. Food for thought!
Oh boy, there I go again discussing the why and how rather
than the emotion. Best to get on with the packing for the trip. By the way does
anybody know how to pack 28 days of clothes into a carry-on?