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July 2024

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The Spirit Of Music
Good kamis that bring out the Spirit of the Music.
Article By Roger Skoff


The Spirit Of Music Good kamis that bring out the Spirit of the Music.


  The ancient Greeks had a story about Pan, the horned and goat-legged God of the Shepherds, who fell in love with a beautiful wood nymph named Syrinx, who, sadly for both of them, couldn't return his interest and, instead, ran into the woods to be away from him. He gave chase and, as they ran, Syrinx found herself cut off by a river and, rather than be caught by him, she called out to her sister's spirits, begging them to find a way to hide her. They responded by transforming her into a bunch of river reeds hollow stemmed cattails, lilac reeds, or something similar which, when he got to them, Pan embraced, and when he breathed across them, he found to make a sweet and haunting sound.

According to the story, this pleased Pan so much that he cut and bound them to make a new kind of musical instrument which he called the Syrinx, but that we are more likely to know as the panpipes.

To the ancient Greeks, every tree, plant, animal, place or stone, may have had a nymph, dryad, or hamadryad bound to it as its motivating spirit and all of nature was a single pantheistic whole, rich in gods, goddesses, and woodland spirits, worthy of and, in those Hellenic times, inspiring people's worship.

According to Wikipedia, a nymph is a minor female nature deity in ancient Greek folklore. Distinct from other Greek goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as personifications of nature; they are typically tied to a specific place, landform, or tree, and are usually depicted as maidens. Because of their association with springs, they were often seen as having healing properties; other divine powers of the nymphs included divination and shapeshifting. Nymphs, like other goddesses, were immortal except for the Hamadryads, whose lives were bound to a specific tree.



Another, still current, religion also has its equivalents of the nymphs, but in it, they are called kami.

Shinto is a polytheistic nature religion indigenous to Japan that, having no central authority, enjoys a great diversity of belief and practice among its followers. One constant thing, however, is the belief that kami supernatural beings are all around us; that they inhabit all of the things and forces of nature, as well as certain prominent landscape locations, and that, like nymphs, they affect the human world.

What makes this all to be of particular interest to music lovers and audiophiles is a posting that appeared on Facebook some while ago from a Japanese audiophile who happily announced that he had recently acquired a perfect three-hundred-year-old cedar log; that he believed it to have been inhabited by a favorable kami (an Asian Hamadryad, perhaps?); and that he intended to machine it into a pair of cedarwood horns for the speakers of his high-end home audio system. The good kami, he said, was certain to make for great sound.

It's interesting that both ancient Greece and modern Japan should have similar beliefs about certain aspects of nature and the supernatural, and like pyramids of remarkably similar design built both in Egypt and in Mexico, half a world away, it causes me to wonder if the stories about them might be true. 



More importantly, though, it causes me to wonder how much of Japanese High-End audio has been either directly or indirectly influenced by Shinto beliefs.

Besides just cedarwood horns, consider how many other Japanese High-End audio products seem to place special and not necessarily technologically justifiable emphasis on the materials from which they are constructed. Two phono cartridges immediately come to mind: the Koetsu Rosewood and the Kiseki Lapis Lazuli. In both cases the material mentioned is not in the motor mechanism of the cartridge (the stylus, cantilever, pivot, bearing, and coil and/or magnet assembly) but in just the shell in which the motor is housed. And those aren't the only unexpected materials to be found in Japanese cartridges.

Onyx, Jade, Coral, rhodonite, tigereye, and various other exotic minerals and woods are also used, and used specifically in the cartridge shell, which, other than in its resonant characteristics (which one would think that other design factors could either eliminate, duplicate, or enhance, whichever was preferred) would seem to have little effect on the cartridge's sonic or other performance.



Other Japanese audio products have been known to either use conventional materials in an unconventional way (Audio Note Japan and UK, for example, uses pure copper for the chassis of amplifiers and preamplifiers) or to use unconventional, rare, or precious materials (gold, silver, platinum, palladium) in such otherwise ordinary way as for chassis, for transformer windings, for the plates of capacitors, or for the internal wiring of electronics, speakers, speaker drivers, and, once again, phono cartridges.



Usually, the sound of Japanese High-End Audio is great, but is that because of its design, the materials, or both? Westlake Audio, a USA firm, also makes very expensive horn speakers using wooden horns. Is that because wood inherently offers sonic advantages? Or do they and that Japanese audiophile and the designers at all of those other Japanese firms just know how to pick materials blessed by good kamis that can bring out the spirit of the music?

Beats me, but whatever the reason is, all is well as long as when you go home, turn on your system, and put on some tunes, you...



Enjoy the music!


  Roger Skoff















































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