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Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas' time


Last evening, it was Christmas' Eve, I was peeing the dog near home... well, folks: I consider myself a cynical kind of guy, better a reality-linked kind of guy... yes, of course I read Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and, nonetheless, Ebenezer Scrooge isn't a model for me... BUT, in the years I built up a sort of stress and dislikement vs. Christmas, Snowy, the lights, the gifts, the songs et al the paraphernalia involved... and I loved "100 reasons for hating Christmas" by Roland Topor... to my wife disagreement.
... I was peeing the dog, and... the fog in the old city, wet paves and curbs, the portici in dimmed light and - almost the only noise disturbing the stillness - some youngters in front of a pub screaming and laughing... the lazy walk with Chicco the dog snorting and puffing and sniffing like hundreds times before sort of anaesthetized me, when, suddenly, short after, I heard a song, an old italian Christmas Carol: "Tu scendi dalle Stelle"...
It was a quite far singing and I guessed it was the young people, couple of hundred meters from where I was... few seconds after, I wasn't prepared... it was like I was 6 or 7 years old for a LOOOONG moment... horses clogging, more and more near and near... I had a look out of the portici and...
... what I saw... fog, and lights and two white horses, clopping and clogging toward me, in the desert narrow street... and the song was louder, now...
For a long moment I looked to Santa driving a chariot with two white horses and music and lights and a red light on His red cap... AND he saw me and said hello with His hand, long beard and all...
Chicco feared about the horses, so I - sort of - woke up, and returned in my foolish, anti-Christmas' mood...
... but something was happened... yes... probably it was an "Hire Santa" kind-of service for rich children or the like... strangely, it was about 12 P.M., anyway
;-))).
... but, for me, it was a childhood trip: when the gift wasn't so important, but the wait for the gift, being still virgin to the world, when mom and dad and grandma were Santa, as me and my little friends knew, BUT I wasn't so sure as Christmas Day neared, 'cause I always saw "strange" movements and shadows and whisperings in the long, sweet, Christmas'Eve night...
My wife, when I was back home with Chicco asked to me if it was all OK?!?
Yes, it was... it still is... maybe.
A moral: who care if Santa was a by-product of Coca Cola Inc... people, ME, we all need pureness, surprise, dreaming, can't be all what's coming from TV... and I cherish this little Dickens'-like experience of mine...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Davey Graham died on Dec. 15th - World is a poorer place


Davey Graham

It's all here... sadly, so sadly.

Personally, I knew him in London, in early '90s, and he gave to me a three hour guitar lesson in his Camden Town home and studio... he fell in love with my flamenco '50s guitar... I'll never forget his teachings - I still cherish his handwritten music notation - on EMI music paper - with some technical tips - and I'll miss him a lot, fondly: he introduced me to oud, to high-strung guitar, to EADEAE guitar-tuning.

His discs on Kicking Mule records and - to a lesser degree - on Decca's are among my Desert Island guitar records ever and, fortunately, through his Music a Musician never die...

Too bad I'll only be able to commemorate his death playing one of his Irish music so beautiful, haunting arrangements...

Thanks, Davey.

ETF - European Triode Festival 2008


Few days ago was held in The Netherlands, the 2008 edition of ETF... people gathering from all Europe and beyond, sharing audio knowledge etc.

Thomas Schick and the group of Berliner met there, while I was invited but not healthy enough to join the bunch...

Anyway, here is a link for super pixes of the event - thanks to Thomas Schick and to Holger Barske for the VERY nice pixes.

ETF2008

... it seems I missed something;-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

La Prova del Nove


Ricordate a scuola, quando la Maestra dopo "La Divisione" ci faceva eseguire l'operazione inversa? "La Moltiplicazione di risultato x fattore"... cara vecchia Prova del Nove... niente scherzi il risultato veniva in questo modo sancito ed ufficializzato.
... beh, anche in Audio, seppoffà!
Tempo fa notavo uno strano fenomeno per il quale, se ascoltavo un brano, un bel brano ben conosciuto, in cuffia, sia con la vecchia fida Stax SRX che con la Beyer DT48, ma anche, pur con i (molti) limiti con un ascolto da iPod, e poi, a breve distanza temporale riascoltavo lo stesso pezzo "in chiaro" sul mio sistema... non udivo nessuna differenza, meglio, nessuna limitazione di risposta in frequenza.
Banale, no? Ma non era sempre stato così... ricordo quando sfuggivo ai limiti dei miei primissimi diffusori, ignobili, con l'onesta e, per il tempo, rivoluzionaria, Sennheiser 414... dovevate vedere la mia faccia da adolescente scioccato quando scoprii che nel mio adorato Volo Magico n. 1 di Claudio Rocchi, ad un certo punto della suite omonima della prima facciata, entrava la voce di Donatella Bardi... i miei diffusori di allora, anche dopo la scoperta, mi restituivano sempre e solo "una voce" non Claudio e poi Donatella! Satori a Padova!
Questo banalissimo confronto, eseguito in modo random nel corso degli anni era sempre stato una mia personale prova, allora senza forse background tecnico, ma già vissuta come "rivelazione" sulle differenze di suoni/apparati audio/registrazioni... ahhh, i giovani... e comunque non disdegnavo le ragazze, anche se quanto sopra non costituiva argomento di conversazione come moto/disco/Timberland ecc., ma anche oggi, nulla è cambiato Povero audio negletto, sob...
Comunque, nel renderlo prova cosciente, avevo notato dettagli che sfuggivano ad ascolti, anche critici, in ambiente: il cantante era in piedi, sala grande, sala piccola, editing, girava il capo davanti al microfono perdendo "fuoco" .
Ma ritorniamo alle nostre cuffie... IMHO, + il confronto da risultati, diciamo, allineati tra cuffia/ascolto in ambiente, + siamo (sono) nel giusto.
Vi prego: ridete di quanto sopra, confutate, sbeffeggiate, ma provate!
Costa niente, ed è, appunto, una Prova del Nove, una delle poche da eseguire senza andare a concerto, acquistare un Bosendorfer o una Martin pre-war e MOLTO meglio che acquistare una camera anecoica
Ripeto: + siamo nel giusto, timbricamente, spazialmente, tonalmente, + la stanza risulta neutra e sparisce, + l'ascolto in cuffia, bassi immanenti (ove presenti, of course...) e tutto il resto risulta uguale... e viceversa beh, avete capito...
Come va ora, mi chiederete, dai tempi della 414, Claudio Rocchi e Donatella Bardi ecc. ecc.? Meglio, grazie ...

_________________

Lacrime e Musica


Certa Musica, come un sadico, misterioso, invisibile gigante che schiacci un tasto altrettanto invisibile... mi fa, da quand'ero bambino, sgorgare subitanee lacrime... GROSSE, velocissime - giù per le gote - lacrime salate.
Non so se sia dolore, emozione, gioia, il ricordo di qualcosa di collegato alla musica, Qualcosa che il compositore ed il direttore d'Orchestra hanno instillato o spremuto dalla partitura... ho una decina di pezzi che, come da copione, mi fanno quest'effetto.
Stamani, giornata uggiosa, mi sono alzato e come spinto da una forza invisibile, ho acceso lo stereo ed ho cercato, dapprima casualmente, poi scentemente, PROPRIO QUESTI PEZZI... Autolesionismo? Follia senile? Voglia di ristabilire la giusta umidità oculare, contro la secchezza da computer?
... o forse, semplicemente, la voglia di farsi trasportare in un mondo parallelo, puro, algido, fatto di emozioni, di spirito, di bellezza sublime, come quando tra la neve a 3000+ metri, il sole, dando le spalle al rifugio... solo con Dio... quello Vero!
... ed ecco, mentre scrivo ed ascolto I Pini delle Catacombe di O. Respighi, ma solo quella diretta da Charles Munch su Decca NON quella, sempre su Decca, di L. Maazel, quella mi piace ma NON piango... e prima Schelomo diretto da Z. Mehta con Janos Starker al violoncello, e prima ancora Grieg e la musica dal Peer Gynt, con la Morte di Ase, la mamma di tutti, cosmica... alle prime note, pelledoca sulle gambe e lacrimoni... e, come primo pezzo in questa follia domenicale... o forse viaggio nell'anima + profonda che abbisogna anche di questo cibo come i Romani secoli fa amavano il Garum, puzzolente, schifoso intruglio a base di pesce macerato al sole il mio io fisico non è la mia anima e viceversa, forse... dicevo, come primo pezzo, l'immenso Who May Abide dal Messiah di Haendel... ma solo, SOLO fino alla fine dei miei giorni, Emma Kirby e Hogwood su L'Oiseau Lyre... quindi la mia anima, o qualsiasi cosa sia che mi spinge, oggi come ieri a piancere come un vitello sacrificale, ne capisce di musica, qualsiasi cosa essa sia o significhi... ed ancora, come non esiste prova scientifica dell'esistenza e della sostanza della Musica... non esiste un motivo per cui tutto ciò succeda... ma se a due ascolti, anche ravvicinati, tutto quanto raccontato succede, una qualche scientificità - replicabilità di evento a dato stimolo - esiste?!? Ed ancora, l'aria "Lascia ch'io dorma" dal Rinaldo, ancora di Haendel, su edizione CBS Masterworks e direzione di Malgoire... quanto ho pianto, come mi son divertito!!! ... ma ce ne sono altri... sniff, sniff...
Il mio caro vecchio amico, il compianto prof. Dragoun, la prima volta che ci siamo conosciuti nella sua casa di Merano, nei primi anni '80 - piangeva a dirotto ascoltando il suo amato Wagner, libretto d'opera alla mano... da allora non mi sono mai sentito solo, pazzo ed abbandonato a farmi sconvolgere dalla musica e dai suoi lisergici effetti... li ho accettati, come prima di me innumerevoli altri, migliori di me...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Is a new star born?!?!


While chatting with a Canadian friend, David Beetles, I learned and discovered something really worth a try and further exploration...

A small South Korean workshop is hand-building a truly nice, little masterpiece: a cartridge using the very same approach used in vinyl cutting lathe, the only difference being a diamond NOT carving vinyl, BUT only reading the inner soul of vinyl records grooves. A little, humbly, almost home-made looking device, but nonetheless cleverly done and conceived.

David, a dedicated audiophile, someone who care about music at its very best and also a Lumiere DST user and owner like myself, told me about ALLNIC Verito MC describing its sound lifelike and extremely musical, definitely in the Lumiere's stellar lineage.


ALLNIC site

... so: voilà, I ordered one! Will report soon.

Ear Gym


As the late Gertrude Stein once wrote: "Use your ears as your eyes"... this very sentence, apparently senseless, make a world of sense, indeed.
A sound and music lover since short-legged trousers years, I always - first in a naive way, later more consciously - applied it.
I'm an eyeglass wearing guy, but ears and nose have always been my world interfaces of choice, needing no outer supports.
What I do is sooo simple: when I have a walk with my dog or sit reading on a park bench, when I'm at a concert or when I'm playing myself, mostly alone, I try to differentiate sounds, layers of sounds... from the lower to the higher pitched, from the subtlest to the loudest... then every sound is sort of analyzed, weighted, considered, appreciated or blamed... the wind different noises, the grass, the leaves, the birds, the different birds singing, a burglar... how far is it? Cars and trucks, while in the park... where are them: north or south? Church bells... what church is it? How many times do them rang?
Is the harpsichord on the stage tuned at A440 or A415? Do you hear the soprano breathing, at the concert or through your music system? What heard my dog, when it raised its ears? How did it... my wife's car, how the hell, as I didn't heard nothing?!? Yes, dogs reach higher frequencies and, maybe, level of attention but... now, I'm able to hear my wife's car engine, down in the street... my dog - with its attention - taught it to me;-)
Do all the above make sense? IMO, YES... it's care for Life and what happens around. Sound or music, it's not different... it's like wearing a blinding, dark-lenses eyeglasses or earpads... it ALWAYS makes a world of difference living (trying to reach) the 100% of our essence. Mine is like I described... my fault, my strength?!? Who knows?
Is it tiring? Fatiguing? Music unfriendly?
Definitely nope!
Would you define a clever chap cleverly running his healthy three miles a day? ... or anyone having a daily walk of at least half an hour, the very minimum for heart good health, as "body enemies" or "fanatics"? Or people appreciating the smell of a forest, while trekking, calling'em "nature foes" or "lunatics"?
No, of course...
This very practice, which, like every skill must be cultivated to improve at its best, is among the best Zen-like techniques a motivated music lover and/or musician should explore and learn, period!
When I listen to music, I concentrate on all melodic lines, different timbres, harmonic complexities or easiness, and it's such a joy to enter in a sort of sonic fabric, appreciating, feeling, absorbing down to the tiniest debris of sound and music. I know I'm not alone at doing this and everyone has his approach... this is mine.
When audiophiles listen to "the sound of cables" or "the sound of tubes", they're sure making a sincere, yet limited, effort to listen to the ineffable, to the tiny details of life... only calling this "miracle" with the wrong name;-)
... but, please believe me, as a complete beginner isn't able to listen to hidden details and differences in instruments tone and best recordings, so deeply & properly "feeling" the music, not only "listening to" it as a pleasant noise, everyone's able to reach such a level of "attention" with dedication and passion: through meditation & mind self-cleaning and... yes: Ear Gym.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Alessandro Baricco's LESSON 21 or the challenge of Music at the Movie


Yesterday evening I saw one of the most intriguing, moving, amusing, deep movies of this year.
Baricco's Lesson 21 is about Beethoven's 9th Symphony... it's something to be seen by young and elder, give a path and add a background knowledge to the music lover and to the occasional listener.
It's poetic, deep, light like Music is... describes, hints, gives an urgence to have a critic, careful listening to the last Ludwig Van's effort... it's Kurosawa and Greenaway, with a lot of passion and compassion from the great characters in the film.
I loved it... guess I'll go to the cinama again, this evening. Lesson 21 again, of course... alone, to better understand it, in sponge-like-mode;-)

http://cineuropa.org/film.aspx?documentID=85689

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Learning or being humble with knowledge



Few weeks ago, during my Munchen Rauch & Schall audio/musical trip, Dietmar Hampel, his nice system and hint about "pink nose" as the best friend for system tuning left a VERY deep footprint in my mind.
Furthermore, the always interesting GoodSoundClub site and forum, the several chatting on complex horn system tuning with Roman and others, all the above led me toward unexplored shores.
Since I began using compression drivers, horns and custom made crossovers, both active and passive, I always tried to tune my system by ear, an intriguing sort-of "lost art", very time consuming, done by trial and error, where the final result was depending on several aspects, last but not least, the chance.
Oh, how wrong I was... my friend George from Athens lent to me a cheap, but effective Phonic analyzer and... Holy Hole!
What I found was a pleasant to the ear sound which was rolled-off at 10khz... maybe a musical sound, but when I fiddled on the L-pads of my 4-ways passive crossovers, I obtained a lesser steep rolling-off and literally TONS of details, air among instruments, depth of image, yes... horns can do this;-)... and an almost alarming naturalness, greatly improved with both vinyl, open reel tapes and disks without loosing, instead enhancing it, the vividness, the elusive sensation of trueness in timbre and trueness! Simply amazing, period.
The next step, after recovering from the deluge of the man vs. machine affaire I was experimenting on my very own skin, I remembered a name I used to hear in pro-sound analyzing field: IVIE.
... some Ebay browsing and... voilà! I found a superb IVIE IE-30A with its own top-class 1/4 inch Class 1 measuring microphone.
A moral: machine has been created by men to make things easier, not to substitute human ears, in this case.
... also the cheap, toy-like Phonic was good enough to indicate a path. My audio system never sounded THIS good... I used an electronic ear for coarse tuning and refined to my taste by ear.
One hour or so (plus reading user manual) was enough instead of weeks or months of annoying fine tuning with records, tapes, etc.
A big heartfelt "Thank you" to Damiano Pinazza of IVIE Italia for his kindness and advice, to Craig Saergent for the IVIE, to George for the Phonic, to Roman for his straightforwarded audio and musical severe approach and to Dietmar who - first among all - hinted to me this new (sure it's to me;-)) approach.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Munchen "Schall und Rauch 2" Audio Tasting - October 2008













This current 2008's highlight has been the discovery and experiencing of Audio Tastings... a relatively new kind of event where people coming from everywhere gather together and share interests, hints & tips, records, whatever and, definitely, have good time, in music and audio peaceful spirit.

After Berlin, last May, Munchen on last october first weekend!

I'm only now writing these few words after the gathering itself because I had to let things working, as I learned from this event and people meeting more than I gave to others - i.e. Dietmar Hempel's music system and clever technical approach, his hints re. pink noise and delay, made me to greatly and faster improve the tuning of my new speaker-system.

The listening to his music system, in Bavaria countryside were, them alone, worth the trip!

... and Thomas Mayer's great, exotic, no-copycatted tube projects enlighted the whole event with marvellous sound.

Back at home, what I listened to, the chatting, the people I met... all this boiling pot was filtered in my mind and sensitivity.

The Telefunken M-15A tape-machine I bought from Thomas Schick is really fantastic (have a look at Michael's Audi trunk - a 220 kilos load of Telefunken M-15A... mine is the second row at left...) the overhaul on the fly of the unworking Berndt's M-15A, which Michael Ulbrich brilliantly solved in few minutes... well, I was impressed: a technician maybe would have asked for 200 euro only for a soldering... solved in friendship name.

Also David Shreve, who performed an impressive V.T.A. super-careful tuning to all turntables which played in full Schick's arms glorious analogue sound, at the Munchen's listening room, has been a pleasant meeting... his little gift of a very nice Nonesuch harp recording he had moved me, indeed.

During the two nights, after late hour listening, chatting, laughing, Rolf's dog and all people slept in rucksacks on the floor, in a commune/audio/music/freak way which reminded me of Amon Duul krautrock group, also from Munchen, back in the '60s.

All this happened during the beer and pissing and crowd crazy mix of OktoberFest, held at few kilometers from our location, but so far... we lived for almost three days in a quite quiet place in an industrial estate, near one of the several BMW production plants during a German national holiday weekend...

... almost a new TV format: an audio reality show;-)))

... BTW: during the night I was aware of the... true spirit of Kraftwerk!

24/24, 7/7, 365/365 a plant and its BIG hammers, furnaces and melted, lava-like steel worked at few hundreds meters from the Audio tasting location... during the night, warm in my rucksack, I... felt the city, industrial heartbeat.

Nice people, nice music, nice food... and, you'll say... "What about -... und rauch-?" Definitely "YES!": also smoking was well represented in Munchen... the humidor was never empty of puff-friendly "Habanos"/hecho a mano... Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, Cohiba... the very best!

On second day, the great Berndt, a true buongustaio... materialized from his bag... a Laphroaig brand new bottle and... WOW, cigars & single malt... also if smoking at 4 degrees Celsius in the Munchen breeze on the terrace... it was an heaven!

A very interesting experience.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Horns... hype or the straightest, better way to Music at home?






It seems speaking about horns in audio raises several people eyebrows and mixed feelings... hate or love. Black or white.

I love'em by heart... but that's my Karma!

I recently began my evaluation of a full-Goto horns speakers-system and more than a technical approach, I'm only able to talk about the ancient looking devices and, through the difficulties to squeeze the full-bloom, balanced sound, detailed and life-like it's capable, as I well know in my ideal (mind) audio/music system, about Music.

... and it's not an easy task: behemoth-like size, up-scale weight, weird-looking and HUGE efficiency in my tiny 23 square-meters music-room... all this and more give to me the breeze to tame a true monster.

Gym, wrestling and audio, too... handling these "babies" leave me so tired... and what about the pluses? Are there or not?

It's not saying a plain: "I own a Goto speakers system"... it's not enough, considering the hassle and expense... but, listening to a "work-in-progress" Goto/Westrex' horn-system with transformers-coupled WE-tubed amps, give to Music a so natural flowing, an airyness VERY hard to believe possible in a humble, tiny room.


The old, sought-after SG-555PS mid-low drivers with S-150 horn are a true window, a Time-Machine which bring to the exact place "where and when" the recording took place... more than the "notes", it's the "air" of the recording venue, as the musicians breathed, is so... HERE, tangible... amazing.

I'm still fiddling with a low-end someway flawed which is masking a little the amazing clarity of the upper ways, but what I already hear is... well... a step beyond what I used to appreciate in my recordings... music as a whole, not a bunch of (harmonic) noises sputtered in the room-space. Will go ahead with more evaluations using bass-baffles, much better matching quickness and clarity of upper-voice... the fast-sounding, mighty Westrex 2090 15" instead of softer-sounding Altec 803, I guess will work fine...

... not bad, for those weird-looking, old-timey "apparatus", don't you?

(to be continued)...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is improving an endless process? What's the limit? Does it exists?


People who know me well know I'm a quite straight guy... I try, at least, to say what I think... given this as true, how can we all manage something quite intriguing, human, yet sometimes almost painful like having to amend, change our own mind on something or someone?

Life isn't digital, isn't black or white, it's fractal... knowledge doesn't follow tracks, but wind... it's like a tiger at the zoo or in the forest... freedom, of living and thinking, creating, being wrong... that's Life... as a tiger maybe get sad being unable to catch a prey, but it's strong and brave and straight as an arrow 'til the very last minute of its life, can't be the spike of unafraid intelligence and ideas without freedom, having an high goal...

... but let me bring a.m. thoughts and speculating on audio and music, a friendly field of mine, indeed;-)

Why am I trying to adventure myself in this - apparently - unfriendly field?

It happens people sometimes is afraid of novelties... the different worries... the old trusty path is easier, friendly... BUT so boring!

These days I was greatly enjoying my audio system after some big changes and some minor tweaks... my friend Gianni gave to me a matched pair of fresh, Western Electric 300-B triodes for my transformers-coupled amps... not a bargain for cheap... and for this reason I kept on a shelf, fearsome of purchase, of cost and...

This evening I returned from a long walk with my dog... relaxed, and more bravehearted, I won my lazyness... weared the white cotton gloves I usually use to handle the expensive tubes and turned on the amps... filament first and, one minute after, full triode...

... what I heard shortly after... every minute passing the better, was nothing short than pure bliss.

The old stock Western Electric 300-B from 1983 I previously used, also if sought-after where, I'm now 120 percent sure, quite worned out.

They gave to me several thousands hours of music enjoyment, but the new fresh 300-B aren'r, simply, fresh... they're not better because they're brand new... they're of a completely superior breed, period.

I heard tons of nuances and details on records I listened two days ago, also yesterday evening... a buzzing yesterday, was an hidden acoustic 12 strings strumming in Mark Hollis' solo disk... impressive... awesome resolution.

... so, let me humbly ask to the Sky: is improving any given life fact an art, a science, a chance, a God's gift?

... is it a never ending story? Judging from the solo piano in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" OST... definitely "YES"!

Thanks Gianni and thanks mom for my two good ears;-)))...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lumiere DST: cartridge extraordinaire or a nightmare?

Kimura-san at his workbench.
Kikuchi-san (on his vintage italian bike) and staff


Neumann company, Germany, offered this construction of dynamic moving coil pickup.
Die Firma Neumann (Deutschland) bietet diese Konstruktion eines dynamischen MC- Tonabnehmers an.

and here is link of the Swedish forum which hinted to me about "Lumiere DST": www.euphonia-audioforum.se/forums/lofiversion/index.php/t2185.html (look at the very end of the thread for interesting pixes).

... as Chiaki Kikuchi-san from Japan offered his own replica since not too many months ago... as a proud and fond user and owner of some of these cartridges, I'm asking myself, after lots of chatting, writing and reading on the matter: are these elusive, rare, sought after and extremely nice sounding cartridges an owner nightmare, as many people suffered mixed troubles or they do simply deserve some care, that with VERY simple rules gives to her a very long life-span?

Tech-head who closely examined the Neumann DST or the Lumiere DST still wonders "how" this cartridge is able to give a proper stereo signal... with its old timey 0,6 mil spherical diamond, it reaches groove walls where very few cartridges goes... again, the diamond is VERY long and reading much deeper than many ellipticals, exotic designs...

Someone reported that DST's replica used a quite cheap diamond tip, while Neumann's papers claimed back in the '60s they spent nine-folds the average industry cost - i.e. USD 9 instead of a more common USD 1 per single diamond tip and this diamond was super carefully hand-polished... more than one user I personally know suffered from failure on one channel or other troubles...

I use some samplers exclusively in my system since 2004 and never noticed any problem: I only followed the few hints Kikuchi-san gave to me... never use any liquid and/or brush... only some careful air-puffing.

... but the above are only phisical trivia: what a cartridge like Lumiere DST gives to music is a sort of miracle!

Like an handmade instrument, it nears the listener to the music, letting music to flow in a freer than air way seldom experienced.

... and this makes me wonder: will a Lumiere be my very last cartridge? Who knows?!?
... but I got some spares, just in case... really, can't imagine myself without this relaxed, musical, transparent, soul-infused Sound.

Another great, holy hand from Japan helped, I'm sure: Kimura-san and his hand made rotary headshells RS-3... cannot imagine a better combo: Schick 12" arm, RS-3 shell, Lumiere DSt replica and my own 25 kilos bronze arm-base and plinth. Maybe not perfect, but my very own combo of choice. Thanks Kimura-san.

... and thanks Chiaki-san: you've been able to catch a sunlight, a butterfly flight, the blue of mountain sky without loosing the magic, the ineffable... you got Music.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A WJAAS' reprise


Came into this VERY interesting Japanese DIY audio site while lazily browsing...

http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~hanbei/eng-intro.html

... as usually, Japanese seems to endlessly - and with such a classy approach - investigate every hidden possibility in audio and music reproduction.

Have a look.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Anne Briggs and Watersons - a rare '65 B/W footage


Anne:

have a look... hope you'll enjoy as I did...

... watching at Anne moving and chatting and playing with the kid... yes, I also appreciated Mike and Lal singing, BUT... Anne is REALLY special.

Indeed...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DPOLS or Dead Points of Live Sound - Thanking Romy the Cat and his GoodSoundClub

The “Dead Points of Live Sound”



This, from my prospective a superbly truthful article, was written by a Russian guy A. Polakov. I do not know who he is but the accuracy of Mr. Polakov’s experience regarding the subject and very similar Mr. Polakov’s and my observations of the issues made me to make his article available in English. Approximately 5 years ago I have written something similar and posted at AA but now that post is long gone (courtesy to the idiot who moderate the High Efficiency Speakers Forum). I have no longer that deleted form the AA original post but this subject is so important and so grossly overlooked and misunderstood by audio people that I found that it would worth to touch it again.

The text below is not a literal translation but a “very liberal translation” where I will slightly accent and stress some points, subdue and retouch some others. In some cases I did some rectifications and corrections where I filed it would be necessary. I some cases I even the Mr. Polakov’s position. However, the core idea of the article is very much the same as Mr. Polakov’s had. In other words it would be a very free and very liberal translation….

About the “dead points of live sound”.
Romy's translation-interpretation on the motives of A. Polakov.

It is know that there are many ingredients responsible for “quality” of audio inhalation. Unquestionably one of the most important is the listening room’s reaction to the installed loudspeakers. There are countless solutions how to work with listening rooms and the cost of this “working” in many cases might exceed the cost of the playback components.

Yes, the performance of loudspeakers might be very dramatically changed by the rooms and most of those improvements would be centered to find a correct positioning for the acoustic system in a listening room. Everyone knows that the positioning loudspeakers have an impact on Sound. However, with the REAL depth and imperativeness of this impact very few are familiar. It is pointless to perform any actions targeted to improve performance of playback, including the change of the component of the playback chain or the room acoustic treatment, unit the correct positioning of the loudspeakers in a given room would be found. There are no formulas, programs of any methodology that would simplify this process and the only “tool” that might be use is subjective perception of the audible result. The rules, circulations, abstraction, approximations and the entire practice of position of loudspeakers according to minimization of stay-waves are a juts very rudimental and primitive approach. After the optimum stay-waves location was found it might be considered only a very beginning.

An optimum location of loudspeakers might be called an “optimum zone” beyond which the subjective characteristics of the loudspeaker’s performance degrade very rapidly and very aggressively. For a typical “box” loudspeaker and within an average 400-700 sq feet room the dimension of the “optimum zone” usually within .5-1 inch and the deviation form the towing-in usually within 2-3 degree. Some audio people (approximately 15% of them) were able to determine the correct “optimum zone”. Whoever did not do it was not able to utilize a full potential capacity of thier playback systems. However, practically no one, even among those lucky 15%, knows anything about the “dead points of live sound”. When an acoustic system is placed into those “dead points” than all improvements that comes with placing the loudspeakers into the “optimum zone” really jump over the roof. The “performance yield”, when loudspeakers hit the “dead points”, is much higher then when the loudspeakers are juts placed inside the “optimum zone”. To describe what the “dead points of live sound” I would say that inside of the “optimum zone” there is one smaller zone. The dimensions of this smaller zone are within the scale of 1/16” –1/32” and therefore this zone might be called - a single point in space, or the “dead point of live sound” (or the DPoLS further on)

This effect was found purely accidental within context of one installation. Then the DPoLS was found within others installations, which suggests that this effect is a typical. In all occasions the gain of sound’s quality took place very aggressively and the gain of quality disappeared when the loudspeakers were removed out from the DPoLS. This suggests that the DPoLS might be discovered if one is intentionally searching for it. The probability that the DPoLS will be hit accidentally is practically equal to nothing. There are no publications or methodologies on the subject. Therefore, below are listed some subjective characteristics that an acoustic system do when the loudspeakers are placed into the DPoLS:

1) When the loudspeakers are placed into the DPoLS then all characteristics of sound improving very strongly: imaging, space localization, transient, dynamic range, space presentation, tonal contrast and many other. Even the tonal imperfections of reproduction become way less notable and less prominent. What is characteristic that the improving takes abruptly, very expeditiously and swiftly.

2) The strongest improvement takes place in the subjective domain, reflecting the emotion and spiritual content of recording. The DPoLS highlights the energy of performance; boosts the ethical load of the musical content, highlight the intonations and the timbre connections of the musical phrases. Starting with a certain level of capacity of the rest reproduction chain it is possible to talk about not “reproduction” but about the reinstating and resurrection of the “original energy of live”.

3) A conversion from a regula-audio sound to the “alive sound” takes place very rapidly when the speakers enter the DPoLS. This conversion is greatly catalyzed by an ability of a playback to handle LF.

4) DPoLS exist for mono and stereo installations. In case of stereo the DPoLS is a correlation of both DPoLS for each channel. The DPoLS spots for the individual left and right channel might not have the same location when the system operates in stereo mode.

5) The relation between the towing-in and excursion the loudspeaker into the room, when the loudspeaker is located in DPoLS, is very high. In DPoLS this relation is way higher when in a satiation when the loudspeakers are juts positioned on the “optimum zone” of a given listening room.

6) The correction of “quietly of Sound” by moving loudspeaker within DPoLS is imposable. Any deviation from the DPoLS is worsening sound. Since the loudspeaker is in the DPoLS then the room/system operate in its absolute maximum capacity.

7) When the loudspeakers are in the DPoLS then the “sweat spot” increase very dramatically and in many cases it might spread across the entire room. If the output from one loudspeaker would be even blocked then it be less significantly impact sound compare to the impact if the loudspeaker were not in the DPoLS.

8) The sensitively of loudspeakers from the minute arrangements made in playback system become very high. The loudspeakers begin to act as a very strong magnifying glass that highlights everything. However, this emphasize, if it emphasizes the negative properties do not necessary have a negative impact to the listening experience. I would say that that if you system slightly off the mark after the “highlight” then the subjective affect of this emphasize would be very different then if the loudspeakers would be not in the DPoLS.

9) When the loudspeakers are installed into the DPoLS (disregarding the cost and typology of the loudspeakers) then listener is far sooner get “hypnotized” by sound. The playback become to sound “significant”, “important”, demonstrating the “playback pomposity” and some pretentious. The process of listening perceived by a listener at the very different level and it is practically imposable to do the “casual listening”. The carelessness and the inattentiveness of listening become practically imposable. Sound become not juts a “Sound in the room” but an absolute dominating and demanding force in the room

10) The sensitively of the loudspeakers installed into the DPoLS to the effect of Absolute Phase become incredibly strong. Flipping the Absolute Phase in the DPoLS does not just change the structure of bass removes the fog from the lower midrange and settle down the HF but kind of turn the entire room upside down. To discover the DPoLS is imposable if the system is not set in the correct acoustical and electrical Absolute Phase.

Upon the said it is possible to make following conclusion: a major obstacle in building a high performing playback installation is unawareness of audio people about the DPoLS. The audio and listening benefits that might be received from placing the acoustic systems in the DPoLS are huge, order of magnitude exceeding any changes of loudspeakers of components. A lack of any structured methodologies and guideness that would enable the audio people to discover the DPoLS is a very severe impediment in order the knowledge about the “dead points of live sound” became a common practice among the audiophiles.



Thanks to Romy for this translation (and for his FANTASTIC "GoodSoundClub" Forum and site, always full of hints and inspiration...not a brand new theory, BUT so important to point it out, from time to time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Platone e la Musica



... no, non si tratta di un giradischi esoterico prodotto in tre esemplari con un enorme piatto in carbon-block (un platone, appunto...), ma proprio di Platone (400 a.C.) dai "Dialoghi":

"La Musica è una legge morale: essa da un'Anima all'Universo, le ali al Pensiero, uno slancio all'immaginazione, un fascino alla Tristezza, un impulso alla gaiezza e la Vita a tutte le cose.
Essa è l'essenza dell'Ordine ed eleva ciò che è buono, giusto e bello, di cui essa è la forma invisibile, ma tuttavia splendente, appassionata ed eterna."
... così si scrive...

David Munrow



David Munrow 1942-1976 - "English do it better" -
... dicevamo "English do it better"... perchè? Perchè sono seri, non cialtroni, si preparano, pianificano ordinatamente... anche il + scalcinato gruppo punk inglese è assai disciplinato - una disciplina nel raggiungimento di un risultato dato, senza improvvisazioni.
Vien da dire, ma fortunatamente scherzo, che in Italia "va di cu*o"
Ciò che forse manca è qualcuno in grado di riconoscere i veri talenti, che non facciano la fine dei laureati che vengono esportati all'estero... i musicisti non mancano, forse non viene instillato loro quel "desiderio feroce" teorizzato da Keith Jarrett al raggiungimento di vette elevate: spesso si accontentano di insegnare alle scuole medie!!!
... e la burocrazia, queste pastoie che tarpano le ali delicate... se non c'è il "pezzo di carta" non si esiste... diplomi, certificati, lauree... tutto ciò che sto per raccontare non sarebbe potuto succedere nello Stivale
E' uno sporco lavoro, ma qualcuno deve pur farlo: quest'anno cade il 30° anniversario della morte di David Munrow, morto in circostanze misteriose, vale a dire un suicidio circondato dal riserbo affettuoso di chi l'ha amato, nel 1976 all'età di soli 34 anni.
Chi era e cosa ha rappresentato David Munrow per la musica antica e per la sua prassi esecutiva?
Moltissimo: le intavolature ed i codici necessitavano di una sensibilità fuori del comune per dare loro un'interpretazione (di questo comunque si tratta) non ampollosa, cortigiana, ma anche popolare, non bigotta, pazza, ma ordinata, impeccabile, ma leggera e non cattedratica... facile, no?!?
Nato nella provincia industriale inglese durante la WWII, ricevette in giovane età alcune benedette lezioni di pianoforte e... fagotto... là, il seme era a dimora!
A 17 anni già padroneggiava uno strumento desueto, umile in questo suo XX secolo, ma nobilissimo nelle origine e nella storia: il flauto dolce (recorder, in idioma d'Albione )
A 18 anni fece un'esperienza che indirizzò ulteriormente gli anni futuri di David: sotto gli auspici di un progetto di volontariato istituito dal governo di Sua Maestà britannica, passò un anno intero in sud America; per 9 mesi insegno inglese e letteratura in un liceo di Lima, Perù, e per i restanti 3 mesi chiese ed ottenne di girare in lungo ed in largo il continente, dando il via ad una ponderosa collezione di strumenti da ogni parte del mondo, usati con maestria negli anni a venire... flauti, percussioni, strumenti a corda arcaici da ogni dove...
Al suo ritorno, fu lettore di storia Medievale e Rinascimentale a Cambridge (19 anni) dove approfondì ulteriormente il suo interesse per queste misteriose umane stagioni.
Era fagotto in un gruppo teatrale e musicale shakespeariano.
Nel 1967, in pieno Flower Power, gli fu offerta la cattedra di Recorder e Musica Antica al prestigioso Royal College of Music di Londra, divenne Professore di Storia Medievale alla Leicester University e fondò quello che sarebbe rimasto in SUO gruppo fino alla fine: l'Early Music Consort of London, vero gruppo fluttuante: Hogwood, Tyler, la moglie Gillian Reid, Brooks, Nesbitt, Skeaping e molti, molti altri a seconda del programma da eseguire...
A malincuore fu costretto a lasciare il gruppo teatrale!
La EMI, quella dei Beatles, mise Munrow - questo piccolo, grandissimo giovane dai modi gentili pervaso da un sacro fuoco - ed il suo gruppo sotto contratto. Ma lo stesso fece anche la DECCA (Argo) e la Deutsche Gramophone (Arckiv): pazzesco come se i Beatles avessero registrato per la DECCA e la EMI... un miracolo?
Fermiamoci un attimo per alcune considerazioni: Munrow era completamente autodidatta e la + prestigiosa istituzione inglese gli offrì una cattedra, a 19 anni... Capito?!?
Ma David era anche un giovane, non un omino curvo e melanconico: le sue ricerche si svolgevano in una Swinging London dove parallelamente ai Beatles ed ai Rolling Stones viveva ancora lo skiffle di Lonnie Donegan ed il folk della Cecil Sharp House e dei pubs di Soho... non solo legnose biblioteche a Cambridge e Oxford, ma anche modernità all'inglese, nel rispetto della tradizione... un giovane, imberbe Paul Simon pendeva dalle labbra di Martin Carthy, al quale letteralmente rubò l'arrangiamento dell'hit planetario al suo ritorno negli USA, con Art Garfunkel: quel Scarborough Fair, bellissimo pezzo era già nel 63-64 nel repertorio di Carthy... e Sir Carthy non beccò una ghinea per quello che probabilmente rese possibile l'acquisto di un'appartamento con vista su Central Park ai due fringuelli ammeregani... gente senza storia
Negli stessi anni, anche Bob Dylan era in quel di Soho e la melodia di Masters of War venne da queste serate con Carthy, Jansch, Wizz Jones, Davey Graham... chapeau!
Tra queste contaminazioni, David Munrow ebbe un ruolo oscuro, mai del tutto confermato... i suoi dischi presentavano un Saltarello e Renbourn registrava un Saltarello, La Rotta, idem... Douce Dame Jolie di Guillame de Machaut (sta andando ora mentre scrivo...) registrato dal John Renbourn Group nel 1980, ecc. ecc. ecc.
Tra l'esplicito interesse del Nostro per il Folk, avvenuto nel 1969 con la collaborazione nel classico "Anthems in Eden" di Shirley e Dolly Collins, poi ancora con gli Young Tradition ed ancora con The Roundtable, subito dopo e la comparsa che fece gridare al "miracolo" anni prima con il Folk Barocco, quello stile chitarristico ricco di florilegi e di preziosismi di stampo elisabettiano... un buco, un mistero.
No, non sono Carlo Lucarelli
Ma... ascoltate: nel classico "Sir John Alot..." di John Renbourn, in un pezzo di circa 7 minuti, "Morgana", un esempio, riuscito, di folk/progressive di matrice medievale... non un pastiche alla Rondò Veneziano... sincero nelle intenzioni, come nel risultato...
Un flauto dolce ed una viola da gamba e nessun nome tra i credits sul retro della cover del disco su Transatlantic!!?!
Chi erano questi musicisti "mascherati"?
Il mistero si diradò molti anni + tardi, negli anni 90, quando la Lost Lake Arts, branca della Windham Hill di William Ackermann, rieditò proprio "Sir John Alot..." e "Lady and the Unicorn", entrambi di Renbourn!
... e stavolta, il retro della cover riportava, finalmente i credits... che emozione
Viola da gamba Adam Skeaping
Recorder David Morrow
... oh, oh?!?!
Tranquilli... era proprio il Nostro... il refuso mi è stato chiarito un paio d'anni orsono durante una breve chiaccherata con il vecchio, sempre caro, spelacchiato, gioviale John Renbourn... era David Munrow, nel 1968... la voglia di suonare NON aveva confini, così, senza attendere il beneplacet della grifagna EMI... voilà!
Un sito canadese dedicato a Munrow riporta riporta la chicca di cui sopra... merito di...
Non musica antica = vecchia, ma Musica resuscitata agli antichi splendori, eseguita da giovani entusiasti, non vecchi babbioni, per altri giovani entusiasti.
Ricapitolando:
tra il 1967 ed il 1976, David ed il suo gruppo registrarono circa 40 LP!?!?!?!??? , girarono il mondo per concerti, DM insegnava alla Leicester University ed al Royal College of Music, compose le colonne sonore per Zardoz di Boorman con Sean Connery e per I Diavoli di Ken Russell, oltre che per uno sceneggiato TV, poi film, su Enrico VIII ed un film dedicato ad Eddie Merckx e l'ambiente delle corse ciclistiche (una premonizione?!?).
Dal 1971, la BBC commissionò a Munrow la conduzione e cura di una trasmissione intitolata "The Pied Pier" (Il pifferaio magico): 4 volte alla settimana, musica commentata, argomenti sempre diversi: Britten, Walton, la musica gamelan, gli orologi musicali, la tromba, ecc. ecc. ecc.
Munrow nel 1976 aveva trasmesso ben 655 volte
... e trovò, nelle sue pazzesche giornate di 35 o 36 ore, anche il tempo di scrivere un BELLISSIMO libro dedicato agli strumenti della sua musica, con bellissime foto in B/N e didascalie, testi, incredibile per cura e bellezza editoriale!
Molte, molte parole dopo, chi di voi non conosceva Munrow spero proverà come me e molti altri, un senso di vuoto!
... è vero: c'è Clemencic ed il suo approccio zingaresco, ci sono Koopman, Leonhardt, c'erano Deller e Kees Otten, c'è Hopkinson Smith, ma nessuno, sin'ora ha raggiunto, IMHO, la leggerezza esecutiva, la profondità, la bellezza delle esecuzioni di David Munrow.
Ho scritto, negli anni, alla EMI, visitato il Royal College of Music, dietro la Royal Albert Hall, sono in contatto con la vedova... più scavo e più amo quest'uomo gentile.
Che altro dire? Grazie David... mi hai aperto mondi di inenarrabile bellezza... sto ascoltando la Sua musica proprio ora, e non piango perchè sono un motociclista

Cercate i Suoi dischi... solite fonti
Sono registrati benissimo (ricordate quando Bebo Moroni usava "la Musica delle Crociate" su Argo di Munrow? Bei tempi... Sandro Ruggieri dove sei??? Salvaci!
... ma, dicevo poco fa... la produzione è STERMINATA... direi di cercare l'ottimo triplo su EMI "The Art of David Munrow"... c'è tutto, booklet e note storiche e Musica eterna.
... ma un raro disco mi sta particolarmente a cuore: "The Medieval Sound" su Oryx... dove David commenta con la sua voce gentile e pacata i pezzi e gli strumenti usati... il vinile rende immortali?!?

http://www.davidmunrow.org/forum/index.php

http://www.a2a.org.uk/search/documentxsl.asp?com=1&i=0&nbKey=1&stylesheet=xsl\A2A_com.xsl&keyword=david%20munrow&properties=0601

Scusate la prolissità... ma era, è un "Complaint" dovuto...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Soon over Babaluma or the Power of Music: creating a New World?










This strange summer, lazy yet so busy, I'm grooving, deeply, lovingly & aurally grooving into so-called "Krautrock" more than ever... more these days than when in my teens wasn't only "cool" listening to this Cosmik Music from Germany, but "natural".

Popol Vuh, Amon Duul, Can, Faust, Tangerine Dream, Neu!, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, LA Dusseldorf, Moebius & Plank , Walter Wegmuller, Sergius Golowin, Witthuser & Westrupp... many of these I was listening about 35 years ago, some have been a recent discovery, thanks to Julian Cope and his Krautrock Sampler essay on Kosmische Musik... I'll be always in debt with Julian...

I'm right now listening to the Zappa-esque "Soon over Babaluma" by Can... the music is complex, yet easy... the wonderful technique the top musicians use is so music friendly you can't think they're playing virtuoso solos on their instruments... they build a mood, a new world like few others... like Capt. Beefheart and his Magick Band in Trouth Mask Replica, Lick my decals Off, Baby et al.

... they let you feel world isn't a place of tracks, but of layers, infinite layers where you could take a shower of red water looking at a green sky and you can whistle Penderecki and Cage's music, eat a blue steak in the morning and have a yellow cappucino for dinner, loving and hating with same intensity and trueness, where an hour is an eternity... and no dope involved.

First Incredible String Band's records where like this, like Tim Buckley's, or the recently found Patrick Kilroy alone or with his mate Susan Graubard's "New Age"... BUT people from Germany found the core for a direct link with pure spirit, the essence of ideas, new and old mixed to a completely new degree of consciousness in creativeness... no wannabes, covers, market laws, records selling...

I just listened to Witthuser & Westrupp "Trips & Traume"... in "Trippo Nova" and "Orienta" I heard young minds blending together shamelessly to create a picture of a magic moment, end '60, last century, when people wanted changes, better life, enjoying their lives, peace...

... how, HOW can I be an audiophile if I love this imperfect music so much?

Who care "imaging" if I get my daily fix in emotions & lively music from my audio "time-machine" system?

... and what's, anyway, an audio system, by the way, if not a Magick Machine which makes you enter in contact with all those dead geniuses and heroes... how in the world would you otherwise listen to Nick Drake, Jim Morrison, John Fahey, Sandy Denny, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Florian Fricke, Tim Buckley, Robbie Basho and many more?

... that's it... simple, yet complex... in the meantime, buy the titles I quoted, Julian Cope's book and buy Can's "Ege Bamyasi" and also the humble "Soon over Babaluma"... not Can's best, not Can's most famous... BUT such a great music, pals... I'm in tears... it's sincere, pure, various, imperfect like Man is... I feel at home, having my "Soundtrack for the Moment".

Monday, June 2, 2008

Berlin Audio Nights 2008 - The (short) Story















... Berlin's siren-song worked again... its people, its energy, the sun, the trees, the bikes... the girls & the bikes;-)... the beer... all worked SO well I'm still, after some hours back home, deeply moved... I'm missing U-Bahn U2 and the great Kraftwerk's soundtrack to this great city... that "Vitamine" from Tour de France me and my friends so often played in our pilgrimage in audio and music lovers homes, 'til few hours ago.

The idea of these "audio nights" was quite simple: people opening their homes for friends coming from Switzerland, UK, USA, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy and Germany... chatting, enjoying dinner and brunches all together, listening to music, swapping ideas, hints, experiences, witty comments on what we grooved into for two well packed days of music and audio.

... as I wrote, this is a short story or, better yet... more a "Thanks" which can't be delayed from myself as an humble part of this crazy bunch... thanks to anyone for the warm welcome I received and for the SO interesting, nice chatting we had during these days, for learning a lot from everyone... thanks to Thomas Schick, Birgit, little Aaron and his Orangina - for friendship, hosting, brunch and Klangfilm sound, to Doug Eisemann and his kindness and knowledge - a true pleasure meeting you, Doug! - to Thomas Mayer and Hildegard - hoping to keep in touch and seeing soon, to Marc, Ralf and Bernd - my pilgrimage partners, to Michael Ulbrich for his good taste in music and kindness, to Peter for the nice beer pit-stop near his music-missing place, to Christoph for the superb music, good taste and great sound, to Frank "Dr. Sardonicus" Schroeder for witty approach, knowledge, truly superb sound and nice music - thanks for "Song for Drella", Frank... to Heiner Martion for great, GREAT sound, to Uwe and Zsolt and Ivan for being the beautiful personas they are... to Jonathan's witty, interesting Trans-Siberian's adventure et al.

... the above being not intended as an highlights list... only some sincere, random flashes... but, as Ivan told me at 2 A.M. after Nam Ngo's "Tube King Restaurant" dinner, while returning to our places in Prenzlauer Berg... "I enjoyed immensely"

... me too, Ivan...

(to be continued...)