STRAWBERRY SOUND BRENDON DAVIES-PATRICK WELL, THAT’S IT. THE FIRST DECADE OF THE SECOND MILLENNIUM AD IS almost at an end. We’ve seen markets rise and fall, banks and finance companies disappear, corporate bailouts, erratic temperatures, volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes and floods, terrorist attacks and civil unrest, consumer despair, house prices peak and slide, half a billion people sign up to have their privacy tampered with and the All Blacks fail to obtain the World Cup - twice. A cynic could argue the only glimmers of hope were Obama, the All Whites, and a royal wedding to look forward to next year. Really? I’m not so sure. While it’s true the world is more populated, resources are becoming more scarce and almost a third of the world still live in absolute poverty, the fact is that we in little ol’ Noo Zillun have it pretty sweet. How sweet? Well, we rank third on the United Nation’s Human Development Index, behind Norway and Australia but in front of the USA, Germany and Switzerland. The HDI combines three dimensions of a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. And considering those things - and that you’re reading this magazine and I’m writing in it - I reckon we must be doing ok. Which is why I so love and appreciate music. I’m not sure why music seems to be such an integral part of our existence, and why there isn’t a single culture in the world that doesn’t use music for one reason or another, but I do think we’d all be a lot worse off without it. It exists as a universal language above and beyond religious, ethnic and cultural boundaries and communicates that which painting, poetry and passionate discourse cannot. It cares not whether you’re a first-worlder or a third-worlder, of ethnic or native extraction, speak one language or five or whether you were responsible for leading investors to believe their money would see a return but if not then at least you got that boat and a newly-renovated kitchen out of it before you appeared in the paper. Music is for everyone. Which is why people like me make a big deal about hi-fi systems. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, talking about the wealth and poverty of nations as a segue into talking about stereo systems may seem a little... gauche. But fundamentally, I find it an incredible privilege that whether it be Adele, Autechre, Abba, Anthrax or Arvo Pärt, I can enjoy their respective brilliance all in the comfort of my living room time and time again. And the truth is I’ve found there’s a correlation between the quality of the reproduction and my appreciation of the music. Don’t get me wrong; a great tune can be enjoyed without needing to be played through thousands of dollars worth of electronics, and it is possible to build an impressive system and be utterly tone deaf - the point is that music must be played via a medium, and not all components are created equal.
The World Belongs to the Dissatisfied
So how do you go about selecting a system that works for you? Firstly, work out how important music is to you. Downloading or still buying CD’s or vinyl? Listen to music more than you would watch TV? Catch live music on a semi-regular occasion? Then you’re possibly a music-lover and as such, it seems plausibly justifiable to consider something other than the three-in-one you’ve had for the last twenty years. Be honest and upfront about your expectations and budget and ask questions no matter how dumb they may seem. Bring your own music and be prepared to spend a couple of sessions just listening just by yourself and your significant other - preferably without the kids and without a dog perspiring out in the car. And go with your gut. One of the most commons things I’ve heard people say is “I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.” There may be some instances that will be true, but my experience is that people hear the difference in the first couple of seconds, and then spend the rest of the time trying to rationalize what they’ve heard. You may not have the lexicon to articulate what you’ve heard, but your brain processes sounds faster than any of the other senses and if you hear something and don’t like it then no amount of “it must be better because...” should make a difference. Auditioning a stereo system shouldn’t be too dissimilar to attending a wine tasting. A music appreciation system (after all, that’s what it is) should be something you enjoy. If you sit down, and aren’t engaged in what you’re hearing then ask to listen to something else. And be realistic. If you listen to Dubstep and live in a reconverted warehouse then expect to spend more than what you would on a pair of computer speakers from the chain store at the mall. My own system is pretty modest. But it’s been assembled in an attempt to cut to the core of the emotional intention of the artists, composers and musicians who make the music I’ve come to love. I doubt I’ll ever cease to choke up in hearing Johnny Cash husk his way through “Hurt”, or marvel at the genius that is Beethoven’s Ninth, or shake my assets to The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business singing “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”. And I consider myself extremely fortunate that I get to enjoy them on a simple but engaging system. While no-one’s pretending the trials and tribulations of the world don’t exist, and indeed, won’t end tomorrow, no-one need not enjoy the privilege and simple pleasure of listening to the craft and art-form that is music. And should you choose to listen to music on a system of higher quality than that which emanates from the speakers on your laptop, then I’ll be the last to judge you. (BRENDON DAVIES-PATRICK) PN STRAWBERRY SOUND, 23 Williamson Avenue T: 09 376 0266 www.strawberrysound.co.nz
DEADLINE – 20TH OF THE MONTH December 2010 PONSONBY NEWS+
Christmas issue - covering December and January - news/views and all that is happening in and around Ponsonby