Sound Practices is really a lifestyle publication, like Low Rider or Chevy World and the editor is really a lifestyle consultant. And you know what? That really is a picture of me in the drawing above my column. That's me in one of my dream lifestyles. I haven't started wearing a bow tie but right now I'm sitting here, smoking my pipe and listening to 1/4 track tapes on a Revox G-36. I want to be the calm poet listening to the voices in the wind.
I believe you are what you aspire to be and the only way to discover your aspirations is to travel a few untravelled roads. Me? I have chosen to find my future self by following the various paths that music and art lead me down. Lately, I have been exploring alternative source material like tape and 78s and I have a good feeling about where it is leading me.
Sound Practices appeared at the dawn of the alternative hardware revolution. Its program is to encourage new ways of thinking about audio engineering and new ways of listening. For me, this magazine is the magazine of suggestion. Here is an idea, take it and run. Then get back to us. Tell us what you have learned. Now I am beginning to think it is time to reconsider WHY we build audio components.
I believe that now is the time to take a holistic view of the audio design process. The tea ceremony of playing tapes and discs, the processes of developing more effective amp/speaker combinations, the creation of a beautiful audio installation, the laying down of wires! To build a shrine in your home. To install your speakers and light them effectively. You didn't know this? The lighting of audio components and the lighting of the listening room are every bit as important as the circuits you choose. Home building must be a complete conception!
If you are to pursue the Ultra-fi DIY aesthetics suggested in SP, don't do it to build boxes to save money, build a temple for music! Try to see the home construction of hi-fi in architectural and artistic terms. Create a secret place: a tree house or a monastery. Use your time, your skill, your personal resources, to create a magic world. Aim for intensity of experience. Don't just go in the basement to isolate yourself, use these ideas to connect yourself to the forces and laws of nature. Use these projects to broaden your intellectual and social horizons. Use these suggestions to unleash the artist and scientist within you.
The home builder is the only one that operate on this level. The big audio companies cannot compete with a man inspired to reinvent himself.
There are three processes that make the music hobby. First the creation of the playback system and the integration of this system into the home environment. Second, the selection and acquisition of the music software. Third, the tea ceremony of listening.
To be successful at building an amp or speakers, I maintain you must PICTURE, in your mind, how you will look and how you will feel playing discs. I mean how it will feel to put the disc on/in the player. I mean how you think you will look in the room lighting, standing in front of the player and between the speakers. I mean try to imagine how you will feel putting on the disc and sitting in the chair, dreaming and carrying on, in the new world you have created. This is your time machine, your sanctuary. This is your religion. You are the wizard, the movie director, the conductor, the mad scientist! When you create your own music system, you create you own new music culture. I really like the feel of playing 78s. It takes me somewhere.
If I could be remembered for only one contribution to audio it would be this: How the system looks, how the electronics and speakers interface with your room and lifestyle, how they are placed and how they are lit, is THE most important thing you can consider when planning a home building project. Please don't just build a box full of tubes and stick it on the carpet of your living room.
Create a PLACE to go. Create a personal RITUAL. Integrate the process of soldering with the process of listening. Do not separate the process of building and planning from the process of living. Let the gluing and soldering lead you to notice the birds singing and the wind in the leaves. Create a hi-fi that reminds you to listen to the rain falling.
I can only speak for myself, but nearly thirty years of building audio has forced me to finally reflect on the why more than the how. For me, audio is about becoming a more peaceful, cultured and reflective man. It is simply a process. In my dreams, I see myself as a lone Zen scholar sitting in a little wooden boat, fishing and painting pictures. When I get tired, I take a nap!
My daily reality is somewhat different. I talk on the phone, I pack boxes, I do bookkeeping, I solder a little but I rarely get to sit, puff my pipe and listen to music. When I do, I really, really want it to feel special. I want to go somewhere and be someone new! The few hours I get to be alone and listen and dream must (for now) be a tangible and rewarding substitute for what I really wish I could be doing.
My personal explorations in audio are motivated by a strong desire to make my musical moments... transcendental. It is a path. The act of placing a 78 on a Thorens 125 and listening to Fritz Kreisler play Paganini, in tones that make me cry, is as close to the Zen poet's lifestyle as I can get... for today. This is why I pursue basement audio.
For each of us it will be different. I think my friend J. C. time travels, becoming the early ‘dark lantern' alchemist one day and the future cyber-poet the next. For my friend Rio, it is sexual. He wants to lay his head on the breasts of Julie London before he falls asleep. For others the path is about connoisseurship, becoming a person of higher appreciation and deeper sentiment. Any reason or plan is good. A magazine like Sound Practices can open doors and give you a peek at what's outside the house you are living in, but you will have to choose which path you walk down first.
Uchida Makes a Transition
Well, I am sorry to say Uchida is not here for the spring rain in New York City. He died just after the article was published. Uchida was the Cheshire smile behind the Triode movement in New York. He was a good teacher and an inspiration. He was a great friend to any kind and genteel music lover. He galvanized a circle of alternative audio people and he reminded us never to get too technical. I wish I were more like him.
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