Ho, Ho, Ho, The Time Is Hear!
The kids have come and gone, the pumpkin's been carved or eaten, and now it's time to start thinking about turkeys, family get-togethers, and the December holidays to come. For me, the holiday season mean two major things: presents and MUSIC! Starting right after Thanksgiving (only a few weeks from now), holiday music is going to be everywhere — on the radio, as background to every television program, in the elevators, and in the shopping malls, and on most of our turntables, CD players, and streaming services. Even in places where snow is only the wildest of fantasies, people are going to be dreaming of a white Christmas; a Happy Chanukah (Editor's Steven's note: Hanukkah, or the other two or three ways to spell it); a Joyeux Noel, a Fabulous Festivus; a Kickin' Kwanzaa; or one or more of any number of other religious, ethnic, or cultural holidays, the overwhelming majority of which call for music, presents, or both.
Think of the wonderful opportunity that offers: If you'll be on the receiving end of the merriment, now's your time to start dropping hints to everyone you know about the new recordings — whether something like Bach's Christmas Oratorio, the Corelli Christmas Concerto, the latest blockbuster performance of Handel's Messiah, popular seasonal favorites, or even Klezmer holiday musicor Tuvan throat-singing — that you hope might grace your (figurative) Christmas stocking. Or, if it's not the music, itself, you're longing for, how about mentioning those new cables, components, headphones or other personal listening gear that you'd love to be surprised with on that oh-so-quickly-coming holiday morning? There's nothing in the whole world better to say "Thank you" for than something that you actually want!
If you're on the giving side of the equation (or on both sides, as most of us seem to be), the Holidays are your perfect chance to do two things at once: By giving the gift of music – maybe even, if you can afford it, giving a complete home or personal audio system – you can not only provide endless hours of entertainment to those you love, but you can actually enrich their cultural lives and contribute to their psychological and emotional well-being. If it's true, as William Congreve said back in the 18th century, that "Music has charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak", just think how much some new recordings or new equipment for playing them could do to ease the cares of people's daily lives!
The other thing that you can do with a gift of music is to help answer the troubling question about the future of our hobby by actually bringing someone in to share it. Most of us who are already audiophiles can point to one single experience that brought us into the fold. For me, it was hearing pipe organ bass(on a 24Hz-capable Bozak B-310 [mono] speaker with McIntosh amplification) for the first time when I was just twelve years old. That was a grinning-from-ear-to ear-to-ear, overwhelming experience, and it hooked me on our hobby for a lifetime! By giving the gift of good sound to someone who has never heard (or never noticed) it before, you, too, can create a transformational experience for someone close to you and can, by bringing new life and new enthusiasm into our hobby, help to ensure that the love of music and the love of good sound for its reproduction will still be strong for years to come.
When, some years ago, I learned that my sister had nothing but her television set and a table radio as "at home" music sources, I gave her a receiver/cd player/ speakers sound system as a holiday gift. It wasn't expensive, but it was enjoyable and it gave her great pleasure. By carefully selecting the pieces to compensate for each other's shortcomings, I was able, for just a very few hundred dollars, to come up with a sound that she loved, that she listened to every day, and that she soon collected her own library of recordings for. With care (and maybe just a little luck), you might still be able to do that, even today — especially if your choice is for personal (headphone) audio.
How's that for a way to "make" someone's holiday? Think about it — how many times do you get a chance to truly enrich someone' life, and maybe even expand their cultural horizons? Good music will certainly do it, and good sound will certainly enhance the experience.
Music is at the heart of our culture, our history, and our emotional life. There's practically nothing that people do that doesn't find some musical expression: People listen to it as they work; as they worship; as they drive, and as they make love. It's a part of every party and of every public event. It's even been used as a soothing anesthetic for when we visit the dentist or – as played by a military band – as an incitement for us to march off to war. What better way to celebrate a holiday or to express our feelings for those who are special to us? What better way, for that matter, to get them to have those feelings for us in return? The emotional effect of "soft music" (and maybe even a little candle light) is certainly well known.
Now, while you still have time to make your selections at leisure, plan on giving music this coming holiday season. As a gift for others or even as a treat for yourself, music is always the perfect present. Whether you give a system or a start on one to a "newbie; or give a component, a cable, an accessory, or the latest hot new "tweak" to a friend already deep in audiophilia, you can sure that it will be used and appreciated. And, if your gift is the music, itself — some wondrous performance or wonderful-sounding recording of great or inspiring or thrilling, or danceable, or new and exotic music, you can be certain that what you're really giving is lasting pleasure and hours (or even a lifetime of) enjoyment and emotional satisfaction to the person who receives it.
What could be better than to help another person to...