May 30, 2011

Is there a lo-fi gene in every musician's DNA?

Over the years I've come to know a few professional musicians, and not one of them (including those making really good money as studio musicians in Hollywood) owned anything like a decent sound system.   In most cases their sound reproduction preferences were downright indecent.  One listened to recorded music only on his (standard) Toyota car stereo.  Another was quite happy with a boombox in a distant corner of the living room (partially obscured by heavy furniture).  Still another was fully satisfied with a tiny clock-radio-cum-CD-player in the bedroom.  And these are the better cases!  Toward the bottom of the scale there was a musician who listened to recorded music in the form of fuzzy Youtube streams, using giveaway airline headphones.  And then there was a fellow who simply never listened to music at all (recorded or otherwise) unless he was performing, rehearsing, or practicing.
      I should note that this group is well distributed across different instruments (piano, strings, woodwinds, brass), forms of employment (symphony orchestras, Hollywood studios, private and college teaching), age groups (from the late 20s to the mid-50s), and levels of musical talent (from the average to the prodigious).  Moreover, these musicians were acutely aware of sound quality when it came to their instruments.  They could go on for hours discussing the sonic characteristics of strings, bows, reeds, and valves.  And choosing the right-sounding instrument seemed to be far more torturous for them than choosing a house live in or a person to marry.
These observations bring me to the fundamental question which lies at the heart of every intellectual inquiry: What the fuck is going on here?

May 11, 2011

Mother Russia in a snapshot

I can't think of a more concise way to capture the innermost essence of Soviet Russia than the above image: bleak, dilapidated, oppressive, yet thoroughly deluded in thinking that having lots of rusty military hardware is sufficient for being a great nation.