The Impenetrable Wisdom of Al Marcy

I've mentioned my problem with sleep. It's not that I can't fall asleep. I'm usually so tired that I'm completely gone before my head meets pillow. I could go to bed at 7pm and fall asleep, no problem. I'm half-asleep right now.

But I just can't seem to stay asleep. Me and sleep don't get along very well. We touch but never hold. I'm convinced that I'm simply "a light sleeper," the various sounds of Jersey City night—symphonies of smashed beer bottles, choruses of high school children, sirens of all sorts—rising up from the tireless street below and invading my precious rest. My body's just not getting the REM-sleep it so desperately needs. I almost never dream.

Funny thing: I think there's some part of me that enjoys not sleeping. In being awake, I can more fully appreciate how wonderful it is to be in bed: I'm asleep. I begin to wake. I slowly come to realize that I'm not entirely asleep. I become aware of all the comfort that, while asleep, I had been taking for granted. O, sweet bed. O, dear pillows. O, gentle sheets!

This is serious. Next thing I know it's time to go to work.

Anyway, this all came to mind last night, as music played. You wanna know why? Because I wasn't really listening to the music. I was actually listening TO THE GEAR! Ladies and gentlemen, I couldn't frigging believe it. I caught myself, on the edge of my seat, poor audiophile posture and all—hands folded, neck outstretched, eyes closed, ears pointed.

"Wow, that sounds good," I thought. "What good sounds!"

And, then, I snapped out of it. What sounds good, good sounds what? I was paying attention to the lonesome sound of Tom Brosseau's beautiful voice. There's a fine line between enjoying the music and enjoying the gear, and, last night, I was dancing all over it. I am ashamed to say.

But the experience provided this realization: Like being in bed, suffering from restlessness, enjoying the comfort of soft pillows and sheets (rather than actually sleeping), I sat at the edge of my couch, suffering from something else, enjoying the sound of components (rather than actually listening to music). Something is wrong. Something is in the way.

As I write this, I'm wondering if it has something to do with the electronics; I recently switched from the Exposure amp and CD player, which had been in the system for quite awhile, to the Musical Fidelity amp and CD player. And I recall thinking that, in comparison to other gear, specifically the Ayre equipment, the Musical Fidelity stuff had, what seemed to me to be, a more exciting sound. Perhaps the thing is that, with the Musical Fidelity gear, while I'm more likely to listen to sounds and stuff, I also tend to lose my grip on the music. I don't remember this happening with the Exposure equipment.

Mind you, I don't know for sure. I'm just saying. Either way, I still can't sleep. What I need to do is listen to what Al Marcy has been telling me for the last two years, and: Relax!

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Comments
Erik Bobeda's picture

When the gear gets in the way of the music, it's time for a change.

Monty's picture

Yeah, I know what you mean. You end up wanting what each component does best and realizing that it's hard to conclude one as better, but rather that they are simply different. When I have one of those moments, I usually end up running through several discs trying to quantify the differences to be filed in my memory for later use. Then, I start playing tracks that I think will play toward the strengths and weaknesses. After anywhere from several hours to several days, I get back to listening for enjoyment only. It's a disease.

Stephen Mejias's picture

>When I have one of those moments, I usually end up running through several discs trying to quantify the differences to be filed in my memory for later use. Then, I start playing tracks that I think will play toward the strengths and weaknesses. My goodness, you described it exactly. Luckily, last night, I found a disc I hadn't listened to in quite awhile - Nick Cave's The Lyre of Orpheus - which I love, and almost totally compelled me to simply relax and enjoy. Almost. It was still really great, though.

Clay White's picture

Erik said it. I would add only one qualifier: swap out the equipment only if it happens again. One session of listening to the gear is like one time missing your stop on the subway. Another one calls for changing your ways. Do what you can to prevent the disease - unless you're being paid handsomely to put up with it.

Al Marcy's picture

Everyone has those dumbshit audiophile nightmares ...

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