I got to thinking about beginnings when I read JA's "As We See It" last January. It seemed to me at the time that his concern over the future of the high-end audio industry centered on an issue that didn't get fully exposed. JA noted that "...younger people are not finding their way to what the high-end audio industry has to offer (my italics)in anything like enough numbers to replace those who leave." My personal hypothesis concerning this trend goes back to how I came to this pursuit in my younger days. I evolved from an intense enjoyment of live music (symphonic concert music, recitals, and dance music) to a desire to simulate analagous experiences at home. As I progressed through high school and college, I gradually became aware that all the money in the world couldn't get you anywhere NEAR an experience in the home analogous to the concert/dance-hall experience. Thus was born the itch. I have spent my entire life trying to scratch it. So I would like to post an informal and candid survey. How did each of YOU come to high-end audio?
I suspect that more and more of the younger music-lovers out there began with various sorts of "electronic" experiences and may not even be interested in attending live events. I could well be wrong. Did you all start live, or wired? Let me qualify this a bit more. I don't necessarily mean just music, but music AND sound. We all heard the top forty on AM radio, but that was music, merely a backdrop for dancing and/or making out (sigh...I'm so old I can remember doing BOTH at the same time, back when we called dances "belly rubs"). I played in the high school band, but that was music, not music AND sound. Can you remember an event (or series of events) that made you first aware of sound QUALITY, as well as of the music? Which is precisely "what the high-end audio industry has to offer." We are all music lovers, and you can't separate music from sound any more than you can "the dancer from the dance." BUT, sound is still important, or we wouldn't keep demanding better and better versions of it.
For me, it was two different occasions about a couple of years apart. When I was a senior at Cedar City High School (a jerkwater town in southern Utah, population about 9,000), Maestro Maurice Abravanel brought the Utah Symphony in for a one-night concert, en route to a more profitable gig in Las Vegas. They set up chairs on the basketball court and filled the entire field house. Abravanel could have dunked on one of the cellists without leaving the podium (I just read WP's recollection of a similar experience in his youth). The program included Rossini's "William Tell" overture and the Brahms 1st Symphony. I had never heard anything of either piece, except for when the Lone Ranger was in town at the local Roxy. It was an epiphany. I was seated dead-center, right where I had scrambled for the opening tip-off the night before. I had never heard anything so loud and so good. And the massed strings. THAT, unfortunately, was the siren call I took home with me, and it is still with me. I'll never forget a rich fraternity brother's home a few years later -- his parents had a custom-installed McIntosh/JBL system in their HUGE living room, easily 10 grand and the best that money could buy. My first question was, "How come the violins hurt my ears?". Two years later, I was at the University of Utah, with student discount tickets to the Mormon Tabernacle subscription season. Included was a visit by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. By this time, I was taking for granted the sweet sound of Abravanel. Epiphany #2. The Berlioz Requiem. 100+ in the chorus, brass all over the building, and those incredible Philadelphia strings. Buy, beg, steal, or all three, I remember thinking, I GOTTA have one of those in my living room -- someday, somehow. The next weekend, Abravanel did the Mahler 2nd. Weak-kneed and punchdrunk, I staggered home to my Pilot portable. At that point, I would have sold my soul to Old Nick just hear the Dies Irae one more time, even if it be in Hell.
So, 40+ years later, I finally have something that resembles my ideal memory of those massed violins I first heard in the gym, and the brass pierce and blat that almost blew me out of the Tabernacle a couple years later. We're still workin' on the bass. So, everybody out there, how did it start? Also, of course, your thoughts about the state-of-the-art as YOU see it, and whether you think live music is really all that important as a sonic ideal. Cheers, and thanks for listenin'. Clifton