Usually, when friends become book authors, you tend to fawn a little too much over their golden meanderings. In my case, the opposite unwittingly happened when I tacked a short mention onto a recent Aural Robert that did not begin to do justice to Stereophile Contributing Editor Robert Levine’s Weep, Shudder, Die, A Guide To Loving Opera (It!/Harper Collins, 2011)
And I used to think our annual "Records To Die For" issue was difficult. Whew! When it came down to choosing the 40 most influential rock/pop, jazz, and classical records of the past 40 years, during which this magazine has been the most honest and enjoyable source of high-end audio journalism, my initial list contained more than 200 choices. A painful paring-down process ensued, with input from every member of the Stereophile staff.
For as long as I live, like it or not, I'll remember 10:28 am 9/11/06 like it was yesterday. I remember the roar and the sight of the giant radio antenna on the last of two towers standing disappearing into the massive clouds of gray smoke. I remember the emergency room personnel at St. Vincent's out in the street waiting for survivors that never came and the clouds of gritty smoke and 8 x 11 sheets of paper blowing up the streets of Brooklyn. And then I remember the jumpers, those who'd rather jump than burn.
It is perhaps the most cherished tale from hi-fi's primordial past: In 1951when music was first being recorded on magnetic tape, when the use of much-improved microphones became a mix of science and art, and when Stereophile's founder, J. Gordon Holt, was still a little nipper, years away from his first martini (though I wouldn't swear to that)the team of Robert (Bob) and Wilma Cozart Fine began to build a legendary catalog of recordings of classical music. It eventually included the work of conductors Rafael Kubelik, Antal Doráti, and Frederick Fennell; the Chicago and Minneapolis symphony orchestras; the pianists Byron Janis and Gina Bachauer; and the cellists Mstislav Rostropovich and János Starkerall released with often wildly colorful covers under the still-evocative title of Mercury Living Presence.
Except for Al Sharpton's shameless hogging of the spotlight, James Brown's funeral was quite a production. Televised live on NY1 (New York One), the local cable news channel, this extravaganza was held in the James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia.
As I sit down to write a year's-end musical retrospective, I feel that the old column-writing joke between Stereophile editor John Atkinson and myself about first needing a subject and, second, needing it to make sense, will not be a problem this time out. For me, the music and almost everything else about 2001 have been dwarfed in importance by the mayhem wreaked on New York on September 11.