I have loved music since I was a kid. A healthy part of this love came from my father, who himself was a classical music aficionado, as well as from records my parents got me when I was little. These ranged from a box of 45 rpm discs with snippets of everything from the Bourrée from Handel’s Water Music to an abbreviated version of The Funeral March of a Marionette by Gounod. There was also a 10-inch 78 I had with the story of The Trojan Horse, with background music courtesy of Prokofiev’s “Love of Three Oranges.” These and other records I had built a surprisingly strong foundation for the genre in me. Next thing you know comes 1964 and the British Invasion, and while I will admit to being a bit slow out of the gate, rock and roll and I became pretty good friends.
During this time I was also very much interested in sound reproduction. It wasn’t long after I got a rather nice (though crude by today’s standards) reel-to-reel tape recorder that I got into tapping into the output of my record player (I could hardly call what I had back then a “turntable!”) and taping records. Further such experimentation would continue into my college days, and for a while there, I was pretty adept at creating audio “letters” to my parents, complete with lead-in and lead-out music!
The real awakening came when I went to work as an audio engineer for the Transcendental Meditation organization, in what was known as “The Academy” in upstate New York. This was the video and film production arm of the TM organization, and they had some pretty nice gear. Most notable was the fact that, rather than JBL’s or Voice of the Theatre monitors, the film sound studio had four IMF Super Compact loudspeakers, and the video studio sported a quartet of Dahlquist DQ-10’s! For the uninformed, these speakers, back in the mid-70’s, were both very well respected in the audiophile community. All of the above were driven by Crown amplifiers, perhaps not the ultimate of electronics back then, but still not quite what one would call chopped liver. Whenever I wasn’t doing film-sound rerecording or syncing up sound and picture on our Steenbeck editing table or maintaining the various pieces of equipment which made up our production facility, I was listening. I would frequently bring in samples of my then-meager record collection to cue up on the film-sound studio’s turntable and channel through the Super Compacts. Slowly but surely I learned that there was a lot more information within the grooves of my Beatles or Prokofiev albums than my fold-up stereo console in my digs was capable of reproducing.
Yet another level of epiphany occurred when I gained access to the video studio’s hardware, most especially the aforementioned Dahlquists. This was right around the time of the premiere of Star Wars. Having seen the movie (in 70 mm, no less!) and greatly admiring John Williams’ track for it, I popped for the two-disc soundtrack, set it up on the video studio’s turntable, and let it cut loose. WHAM! That explosive first chord hit hard enough to almost blow me out of the studio, but that wasn’t the biggest surprise. I was beginning to hear auditory cues that began to suggest distance, that the strings were closer, the woodwinds further away and the brass yet further. There was more than the left-to-right information one might expect of stereo; there was depth! Not only that, but the details in the music that the ’Quists were finding were beginning to seep into my ears, past my eardrums and into my brain. The subsequent addiction to such quality of reproduction was inevitable. No doubt at this point, I was hooked!
I left the Academy in late 1977 and once “back in the world,” I found a high-end audio store and began the process of building a system that could do what I had heard in that video studio. Over the years, my system has evolved from Kenwood and Denon and Infinity to Threshold and Dahlquist (yup, owned a pair of DQ-10’s for a while!), to Proceed and Quad and finally Mark Levinson and Martin-Logan. That evolution is a story in and of itself, but the bottom line remains the music. Being an audiophile to me means having a system that gets out of the way of the music, that can let the music present itself in all its detail and beauty, whether hushed and subtle or explosive and declamatory. More times than I can count, I’ve fired up my ML-2’s, cued up a piece on turntable or CD player, which then reminded me of another, then another, and darn that reminds me, I haven’t listened to that in a while … and the next thing I know, three or four hours have gone by, virtually unnoticed. Certainly, I could do this with lesser gear or even with an iPod and I have … but being able to listen to all the music, listening into the music, soaking in the details and subtleties … that is something special … and that is why I’m an audiophile.
I love music too. Always have. Enjoyed reading your story Loren.
ASCI, otherwise known as "the Academy" to us, was located in Livingston Manor, NY, right off of NY-17. The movement purchased a resort hotel up the hill/mountain there and put our film and video production facilities there, in addition to our printed media outfit. I was there about 2-1/2 years.
My primary foci are classical music, with a sub-focus on 20th and 21st century composers, some jazz, with a particular focus on the jazz ensemble known as Oregon, and a fair amount of classic rock. I don't know as I'm horribly eclectic. There is a lot of classical music I find uninteresting and sometimes downright boring and other music which holds me rapt whenever I hear it.
I think of my preferences in terms of resonance. When I hear music that appeals to me, I feel as though I resonate to that music, that it and I have found a very profound commonality which moves me at a fundamental level, much as the Beethoven Violin Concerto moved the old man in Thomas' story. Each of us is different in that we are attuned to different kinds of music. Music that one person may resonate to may have no reaction to the person next to him or her.
As Lt. Howard Hunter, late of the Hill Street Precinct once said: "That's why there's chocolate and vanilla."