Big, Beautiful, Fluttering Hands
Oh dear, if this is the impression I've made, I've certainly done something wrong. But, wait: Jon Iverson tells me there is no "wrong." Jon Iverson says, "There is only better." So, I guess I could have done something better.
Clay White, aka Cheapskate, writes:
The ears no longer decide. The eyes have it.
Stephen M, whom I consider an admirable representative of his generation and certainly one well acquainted with high end sound offers support for that conclusion. He reported in his blog a recent visit with Mark Levinson where he was treated to lots of music played through a Burwen Bobcat and some impressive reference level equipment. He told us a lot about what he saw and virtually nothing about what he heard. He even shared photos of what he saw on the assumption, one might suppose, that seeing was of paramount importance to us too. The next blog entry a fairly long and well written one dealt largely with a movie he'd seen. The ears no longer decide.
Thank you, Clay, for this very well-written and thoughtful response. You've made me think about a few things, and have prompted me to dedicate even more space to something I wanted to finally leave alone. This, then, is my attempt at making things better:
We can't forget the other audience that I'm writing for. The other other audience. I'm not only writing for audiophiles who you must know, you really must know have absolutely heard this all before, in some other form, despite the fact that it seems there are some out there who so desperately want to believe that a $99 computer speaker playing music through an equalizer of sorts can really sound better than a six-figure system. Come on. Can that really be true?
Maybe. Maybe it can be true I'm as romantic and as hopeful as anyone but I'm also skeptical; it's part of my complicated nature.
I feel it's necessary to paint pictures of the people involved in this silly and wonderful hobby. If I can do this and show how someone like Mark Levinson, for instance somewhere behind his white curtains, fluttering hands, and methods of persuasion is, afterall, human and beautiful, then perhaps I've found a way of bringing music to people who have little or no interest in high-end audio. I gave out the best that I saw of Mark Levinson, albeit over a very short period of time, with the hope that everyone who read what I had to say would be so much more interested afterwards.
Interested, that is, in the person, and by extension, interested in his passions and products. The things that I wrote and the tone that I took were given to me by that time spent with Mark Levinson. At the time, I felt as though I could have written nothing more, and in no better way.
For the audiophile who wants to hear more about the music Burwen Bobcat makes, there will be some other writer. And that writer might even be me, but not today. And, besides, the audiophile who wants to hear the music that Burwen Bobcat makes will somehow find a way to hear a Burwen Bobcat. But what about the person who has never heard of Mark Levinson or Burwen Bobcat? That person, I believe, might be more interested in hearing about who Mark Levinson is where he and his passions live, surrounded, as they are, by tigers and women.
And so, I went way out of my way to discuss anything but the music. This was my choice. And when Mark Levinson made the point that I could have done more for the readers of Stereophile had I actually discussed the music But what else would Mark Levinson say? I went further out of my way to discuss anything but the music. And, yes, this is also part of my complicated nature I'm wildly independent and freakishly stubborn but it was my choice. My choice. My choice, not because I believe that seeing is more important than hearing (I don't), but because what I saw was, to me, really more beautiful and interesting than what I heard.
In one of his comments, Mark Levinson notes that we all seemed "amazed" by the music conveyed by Bobcat. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable for him to say that. And maybe it can be argued that I was somewhat deceitful in allowing him to believe that I was so impressed. (I didn't mean to.) However, one should also note that, among all that I did or did not say, I certainly never said anything about being amazed. To be perfectly clear now, I'll tell you this:
I was more impressed by the size of the space. I was more impressed by the furniture across the floors. I was more impressed by the paintings on the walls. I was more impressed by the delicious food, the interesting conversation, and other things that I'm still choosing to leave out.
Perhaps I should have told you that while we listened to music, Mark Levinson spent so much time making suggestions concerning what I should write. And to say that he was simply "making suggestions" is, again, my way of perhaps like the Bobcat itself obscuring truth for beauty. And when he wasn't making suggestions concerning what I should write, he was telling me what I shouldn't write.
Right there. That right there. Maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe that's why, as John Atkinson notes in his January "As We See It," the median age of our reader has increased from 38 to 48 over the past 19 years. And don't think that I haven't held tightly to that statistic from the moment I read it, wanting and hoping desperately to do something to change it. What young, enthusiastic, intelligent, vibrant person in his or her own right mind would want to simply be told what to think? Who would want to be used, manipulated, coerced, sucked dry? We are not so stupid, not so easily impressed. If this is about bringing digital music back to life, if this is about bringing the industry of high-end audio back to life, then we have to be moved to feel that there is a reason a true and beautiful reason to bring it all back to life.
And how do you think that made me feel? When Mark Levinson gave me suggestions as to what should be said how this whole thing should be presented to the high-end audio industry for the betterment of the entire world of technology, and for all the little girls and boys around the globe, too how do you suppose that made me feel?
Well, how would it make you feel? And what would you do about it? What would you write? Would you write about his big, beautiful, fluttering hands?
Because that's what I did.
This is no collaboration, Mark Levinson. You can have your own blog, if you want one. They come for free.
And one other thing: my name is Stephen. Not Steve. It says so right there on that business card I gave you:
Stephen Mejias, Assistant Editor