UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 21, 2009

WHY AREN'T MUSICIANS BIGGER SOUND FREAKS?

Steve Guttenberg, CNET - It seems like most musicians I meet are more into making music than listening to it. They don't care about how music sounds at home; many are satisfied with the sound they get from boom boxes or chintzy computer speakers. Some tell me they're more focused on the way the players play than the sound.

Sure, I've met a few musicians with ears for sound. That happened just recently when I struck up a conversation with jazz drummer and audiophile Billy Drummond.

He readily conceded my point: "Getting a good hi-fi isn't high on their list of priorities. Like everybody else, musicians listen to music while they're on the computer or sending e-mails. That's what music is now, a backdrop, so fidelity isn't important anymore."

Sad, but true, so what is music for? Drummond had a ready answer. "It's for people to enjoy," he said. "It can take you somewhere, you can dance to it, music conjures emotions. For musicians it's an expression, a way to challenge ourselves, and it can be inspiring.". . .

Drummond's saying all the right things, so I was a little embarrassed to ask about sound quality, does that matter? Drummond was getting excited. "Absolutely," he said, "especially when I'm listening to music in all its splendor over my system, it's second only to being in the concert hall. I'd rather do that than watch a movie.". . .

You can hear "the sound" on a car radio or a cheap boom box, so what does an expensive hi-fi bring to the party? Drummond doesn't miss a beat, "OK, if you bring a musician to your house and sit him down in front of your high-end system and play Miles, he will acknowledge the difference. Now, they can really hear his sound. That's what happens when I bring musicians over and let them hear that kind of thing. They get it, and say something like, 'Man, I need to get new speakers.'"

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