The Fifth Element

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John Marks Posted: Jul 25, 2004 Published: Jul 01, 2004 0 comments
The other night I heard The Tallis Scholars—the world's foremost exponents of Renaissance polyphony—sing in the Chorus of Westerly's performance hall, in Rhode Island: an 1886-vintage former Roman Catholic church with nearly all of its original horsehair plaster intact (footnote 1). Even sitting back in the cheap seats, the sound was glorious. I have never heard a vocal ensemble sing with more finesse, pitch security, or blend of tone.
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John Marks Posted: May 22, 2004 Published: May 01, 2004 0 comments
The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
—Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road" (footnote 1)
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John Marks Posted: Mar 28, 2004 Published: Mar 01, 2004 0 comments
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Jeff Rowland's products. Going back to the Model 7 monoblock power amplifier and the Model 5 stereo amplifier of nearly 20 years ago, Rowland's designs always sounded essentially musical to me, and quite forgiving and non-fatiguing.
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John Marks Posted: Feb 01, 2004 Published: Jan 01, 2004 0 comments
To the great surprise of not that many people at all, at Home Entertainment 2003, as at the two immediately previous shows, the room featuring loudspeakers by Joseph Audio was voted by showgoer ballot "Best Sound of Show" (see September 2003, p.62). I'm not going to pick a fight over that. Not only was the sound very, very good; the entire vibe was confidently relaxed, while at the same time being purposeful in a manner businesslike yet friendly.
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John Marks Posted: Nov 23, 2003 Published: Nov 01, 2003 0 comments
Lera Auerbach is an important new classical composer.
John Marks Posted: Sep 28, 2003 1 comments
Let's start with some music—three discs I recently have been using to evaluate equipment as well as listen to for enjoyment. They are as contrasting in style as one could hope for, but all on an enviably high musical plane. (Space considerations compel brevity approaching that necessary to sell screenplays to producers at cocktail parties, footnote 1)
John Marks Posted: Jul 20, 2003 0 comments
The mind of man, when he gives the spur and bridle to his thoughts, doth never stop, but naturally sallies out into both extremes of high and low.—Jonathan Swift
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John Marks Posted: May 18, 2003 0 comments
Poetry, painting, and sculpture must lie, but they should lie with grandeur, charm, and splendor.—Napoléon I
John Marks Posted: Mar 23, 2003 0 comments
The lease said about my and my fathers trip from the Bureau of Manhattan to our new home the soonest mended. In some way ether I or he got balled up on the grand concorpse and next thing you know we was thretning to swoop down on Pittsfield.
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John Marks Posted: Jan 26, 2003 0 comments
The word chancellor derives, believe it or not, from the Italian word for wooden latticework, cancelli. In the church architecture of sixth-century Rome, a latticework screen demarcated an area near the altar where deacons or priests would stand, waiting to assist the principal celebrant as needed. In English, this area became known as the chancel. In consequence, a trusted assistant came to be known as a chancellor. In the High Middle Ages, that title was given to the cleric who would correspond on behalf of and maintain the archives for an important churchman, such as a bishop.
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John Marks Posted: Dec 29, 2002 0 comments
The custom of giving presents at Christmastime recalls the Magi, or wise men, of the Nativity story (Matthew 2:1-16), who were most likely not "kings" but astrologers. Paintings usually depict three wise men presenting gifts to a newborn in a stable. However, a persnickety reading of Matthew's text reveals that the precise number of Magi, although it must have been at least two, is not stated. The text specifically mentions a house rather than a stable, and implies that Jesus was a toddler. So much for the great Renaissance painters doing their research, or even reading carefully. The text, however, does specify three gifts, and it is that inventory—of gold, frankincense, and myrrh—which has given rise to the common (but not necessarily commonsense) inference that the number of wise men was three.
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John Marks Posted: Nov 08, 2002 0 comments
Aristotle, what a guy.
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John Marks Posted: Oct 20, 2002 0 comments
The subject was horses' fannies.
John Marks Posted: Aug 25, 2002 0 comments
The fundamental object of the invention is to provide...the listener a realistic impression that the intelligence is being communicated to him over two acoustic paths in the same manner as he experiences in listening to everyday acoustic intercourse....—Blumlein, et al, British Patent #394,325, issued June 14, 1933
John Marks Posted: Jul 20, 2002 0 comments
I don't know who originated the idea of "desert island" recordings. I do know that for many years there was a BBC radio program in the UK that asked celebrities to list their choices. While reading quite a few of those lists, I had the sneaking suspicion that the respondents either hadn't entered fully into the spirit of the task, or were tailoring their choices with a view to what the radio or reading audience would think. (Interior monologue: "I am an anorak-wearing viola da gamba player. Hmmm. Birth of the Cool had better be on my list. London Calling, too, just to be safe.")

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