A Plea for Sanity….

by Nick Seiflow

A funny little industry, the Hi-Fi business. Perhaps uniquely, it manages to straddle two positions simultaneously, two positions that should never be confused with one another. In the words of the estimable A. Salvatore, a well-known writer and critic “Music is art; reproduction is science”.

A simple enough statement, and would that it were reality!

In my little universe I have to daily contend with a mixture of art and science; a toxic brew that should never be administered to anyone who likes to keep at least one foot on the ground. Wikipedia, which tries hard to keep itself on the side of the angels of Truth, will cry foul whenever a submission strays from the narrow pathway of truth. When a writer confuses fact with wishful thinking, when a writer tries to persuade without proof, the criticism is “weasel wording”.

I’m sorry to admit that I think our industry is choking with weasel words. What, for example is ‘warm’? What might ‘analytical’ be when it’s at home? ‘Air’? “Pace, rhythm and timing’? And one of my favourites; would someone please explain what ‘following the tune’ might actually mean?

And yet these terms, all of which sound like they might mean something really quite special, are used continuously in the ‘critical’ descriptions of the science of music reproduction.

I give in.

It’s my failing. I just don’t get the point.

Until I go back to school to re-learn the lessons I must have missed I will carry on believing that all the music we’ve ever heard consists of frequency and amplitude (with a little phase thrown in). This terminology is more than enough to explain just about everything. Every aural anomaly can be described with this minimal vocabulary, and there’s no need to obscure the message.

But we live in a commercial world, one governed by advertisers and their familiars. So when it comes to extracting our funds, Truth may be one of the inevitable casualties.

One day, maybe, there will be less of these strange and obscurantist terms. But I think it will be a long time a’coming….

In the meantime, air will be what I breathe. Timing, following tunes, and rhythm will be the jobs of the musicians I love. I will continue to be analytical in a world full of wooden nickels.

And my heart will stay warm whenever I see a turntable…..I see a turntable…..