The inspiration for this project came from Stereophile's Gretchen Grogan and Erich Vollmer of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Music Festivals are perhaps the healthiest aspect of classical music making, allowing ad hoc ensembles to chart the farthest reaches of the repertoire, as well as retracing the familiar ground of the great works. Why not, they thought, capture a representative selection of works performed at the 1995 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival? This would not only document some of the great performances to be heard, but also allow music lovers everywhere to participate in what has increasingly been recognized as one of the US's best summer music festivals.
"He was a warrior...What he did was pry a chink out of the wall and let the light come through the hole. It's up to us to keep that hole open. We've got a world to save. This guy is going to kick our ass if we get up there and we haven't carried the torches." ---Ken Kesey, Funeral for Jerry Garcia, 8/11/95
Back in the spring of 1990, Stereophile introduced its first Test CD, featuring a mixture of test signals and musical tracks recorded by the magazine's editors and writers. Even as we were working on that first disc, however, we had plans to produce a second disc which would expand on the usefulness of the first and feature a more varied selection of music. The result was our Test CD 2, released in May 1992.
Wandering through Tower Records the other night, I was struck by the amazing diversity of music available to us. There's music from every part of the globe, for every taste and interest, from "show-me-the-good-parts" compilations of classical highlights to obscure releases by unknown artists. There's music for the ecstatic, music for the angry, music for the straight, the gay, the bent, and the twisted. The subcategories replicate like rabbits, as if in a demographer's nightmare. Genus spawn species, which quickly mutates into subspecies, race, tribe: cult begets subcult.
The Incredible String Band
Hannibal HNCD 4437 (CD only). TT: 45:15 The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion
Hannibal HNCD 4438 (CD only). TT: 50:06 The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
Hannibal HNCD 4421 (CD only). TT: 50:12 Wee Tam & the Big Huge
Hannibal HNCD 4802 (2 CDs only). TT: 87:49 Changing Horses
Hannibal HNCD 4439 (CD only). TT: 50:24 I Looked Up
Hannibal HNCD 4440 (CD only). TT: 41:30 All above: Joe Boyd, prod.; John Wood, eng. AAD.
For a while, I've been hearing rumors that the record-club editions of popular compact discs differ from the original versions produced by the record companies. I've met listeners who claim their club versions are compressed in dynamics, and some have reduced bass. Perhaps the clubs, in their infinite wisdom, think the typical member has a lower-class stereo system (in fact, the opposite may be true). Maybe these lower classes could benefit from some judicious dynamic compression, equalization, and digital remastering.
"What's that noise?" Bob Harley and I looked at each other in puzzlement. We thought we'd debugged the heck out of the recording setup, but there, audible in the headphones above the sound of Robert Silverman softly stroking the piano keys in the second Scherzo of Schumann's "Concerto Without Orchestra" sonata, was an intermittent crackling sound. It was almost as if the God of Vinyl was making sure there would be sufficient surface noise on our live recording to endow it with the Official Seal of Audiophile Approval. Bob tiptoed out of the vestry where we'd set up our temporary control room and peeked through a window into the church, where a rapt audience was sitting as appropriately quiet as church mice.
I sometimes do crazy things to experience live music. In my late teens I met a woman—a friend of a friend of my girlfriend—who was a flautist attending the Mannes School of Music in New York City. She was a classic New Yorker, from a classic New York family. Though apparently demure and retiring, she had fearlessly ridden the city subways since childhood, taking the Broadway line at any hour of day or night (her stop was Dyckman Street, above 200th). All of her parents' money and energy, such as it was, had gone into their daughter's musical career, and I was so inspired by this level of focus and devotion that I hitchhiked from Boston to New York and back in order to attend her first concert, a performance of the two Mozart flute concerti. My presence was remarked upon as the act of a true friend, but I was the beneficiary: It was a great concert, and a good start to a life of experiencing the "call" of live music.
"Like many audiophiles I have often sped home from a concert to fire up the audio system, and then, to the sore vexation of my wife and guests, spent the rest of the evening plunged in the morbid contemplation of what, exactly, was missing."
THE COMPLETE STAX/VOLT SINGLES, 1959-1968 (Footnote 1) 244 songs by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the MGs, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, The Bar-Kays, The Mar-Keys, and many, many others Atlantic 7-82218-2 (9 CDs only). Reissue producer: Steve Greenberg. AAD. TT: 10:52:07
In the Fall of 1989, Stereophile magazine released its first recording, of Gary Woodward and Brooks Smith playing flute sonatas by Prokofiev and Reinecke, and a work by American composer Griffes that gave the LP its title: Poem (footnote 1). The full story was published in the September 1989 issue (p.66). We wanted to offer our readers an LP of acoustic music made with the minimum of electronics and processing—the sounds of the instruments would be as true to reality as possible. The images of the instruments were also captured with a purist microphone technique so that, with even a halfway decent system, a true soundstage would be created between and behind the loudspeakers when the recording was played back.
The hidden theme of Elgar's Enigma Variations has been sufficiently investigated over the past 90 years to deter all but the most intrepid researcher from tackling the problem yet again. I would not venture to do so unless I were convinced that a well-argued attempt to solve the mystery once and for all had not been unfairly brushed aside, even ignored, a dozen or so years ago.