About Fly Specks and Purple Prose

Howdy, Stephen!

Wanted to post a comment to your latest blog entry but ran up against the 1,024 character limit and didn't want to try breaking it up among multiple replies so I figured I'd just e-mail it to you.

I don't think it's in my soul, but I can learn.

Hmmm. Playing the pan pipe may not be in your soul either but you could learn that as well. Question is: why would you?

You say when you listen to music, you take it in the whole rather than examining individual parts. What's wrong with that? Nothing that I can see. That's how I listen too. And for me that's what it's ultimately all about. The whole. The experience. The gestalt.

You say listening this way isn't the best method for "hearing differences." Ok, let's just assume that's the case.

So what?

Why do you currently listen to music in the first place? Is it for your own personal pleasure and enjoyment? Or is it in order to try and hear differences in audio equipment? Or perhaps even to try and "fit in" with the "audiophile" community?

Let's say you do start listening for fly specks. And let's say you do start hearing some differences. Will you still be able to listen holistically again (or as Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg once put it, "wholistically")? And will you experience as much pleasure and enjoyment listening to music as you did previously? Or will those fly specks remain in the back of your mind nagging at you?

You know, sort of the same way the thought of germs started nagging at Howard Hughes.

I've a little saying: There are those for whom their audio equipment serves as a means for them to connect with the music and there are those for whom music serves as a means for them to connect with their audio equipment.

I hate to see anyone fall victim to the latter.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with your holistic approach to listening to music. It's the best approach in my opinion. Er, unless of course one is aspiring to become an equipment reviewer.

You don't have any such aspirations do you?

I recently started reading your blog and I really enjoy your writing. But I think the world already has too many equipment reviewers. Hell I don't even read reviews anymore. Well, I do, at least up to the "how it sounds" point. And only for those few writers (Art Dudley for example) who can keep me entertained up to that point.

Anyway, I say forget about the fly specks and forget about "hearing differences" between equipment. You're a holistic listener. That's your "soul." Just use that as your guide. How was your EXPERIENCE when using a particular pair of loudspeakers versus another, or a particular amplifier versus another? Better? Worse? The same? Once you've answered that question, what more do you really need to know?

I mean really, why should experiencing music with a given audio system be any different than say, experiencing sex with a given person? When you got the mojo goin', who gives a shit about fly specks and purple prose? What: instead of "soundstage," you're going to wax poetically about... "lubricity"?


Take my advice. Stay awake and don't go near the pods.

A. Reader

Monty's picture

All good points. However, understanding something often times allows for a greater enjoyment and appreciation. The trick is in learning how to turn it on and turn it off. You are a talented writer, but to know and not to do is to not yet know. I think you could be an awesome reviewer/writer...if you want to be. In fact," really ""wanting"" implies a willingness to sacrifice something in return. What you ultimately decide to do with your writing talents is nobody elses business but your own. It might be writing about audio or something entirely unknown. The good reviewers aren't the ones with ""dog ears"," they are the ones with writing chops"" as WP might say. You didn't think this was going to be t h a t easy did you? :P