YOU ASKED FOR IT

Dr. Gizmo's 1984 Classic

UNDERSTANDING TUBE ELECTRONICS

On The New York Times Best Seller List

For 100 Weeks Not

 

I have received hundreds of requests for a copy of my first book, which both shocked and delighted me, because it proves, once again, the power of POTTY POWER…High IQ audio artisans love studying about their favorite passion.

Originally selling for $6.99 I sold over five thousand copies. This book was a first in the history of the audio arts because it was the first attempt to connect the art and science of creating audio gizmos.

In time I will try to reproduce the whole book..

What will you discover? NOTHING HAS CHANGED…my crusade is now entering its second decade. Revolutions take time.

 

IN 1983 I WAS A NERVOUS WRECK

 

MY MOTHER HAD DIED

I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A DIVORCE

REAGAN'S RECESSION WAS IN FULL BLOOM

I WAS GETTING BIG TIME SHIT FOR PREACHING THE PTL RELIGION

I WAS FRUSTRATED AND FED WITH THE AUDIO ORTHODOXY

So what did I do?

With the greatest fear and trepedation I decided to write a book about my struggle as an audio artist and why I was creating some (at the time) revolutionary "new" audio gizmos. I had never written a book before. This was before the PC. I was terrified that I would be laughed at.

Why was I so motivated, in spite of my fear and anxiety?

The notion that an audio review or a audio writer should have the responsibility for describing my artistic struggles and achievement was repugnant. I didn't struggle and endure such intense pain to have my soul be encapsulated in a boring four page audio review. That is why UTE was 142 pages.

Time has bestowed its rewards. Nothing is more satisfying than knowing that my first book inspired so many others to struggle on their path of artistic expression.

Notice…how little my spiel has changed.

 

NEW YORK AUDIO LABORATORIES, INC.

PREFACE

I was recently reading Easy Rider magazine, which is an outlaw motorcycle rag, devoted to Harley Davidsons, sex, drugs and violence. What was most peculiar about the magazine was that there was "biker poetry". What impressed me was that some biker had taken the pain and risked the vulnerability to compose a poem about the beauty he had experience riding his "Hawg" through the countryside. What was compelling about the experience was that I had the same experience on my motorcycle (a docile law-abiding Honda) but hadn't the courage to write such a poem. I then reflected that I had seen such poetry in sailing, mountain climbing, trout fishing magazines and in almost every other magazine devoted to pursuits that captures men's passions—but never in audio magazines. How is it that men who devote their energies to music are so hidden?

I examined this phenomenon more closely. Look at the persona of the man interested in audio. . .he must appear as a scientist and enmesh himself in the most sophisticated technical understanding of audio circuits. True enough that this is important and our own work reflects the importance of scientific investigation, but something is distorted in the persona of the audio industry. I have reached the conclusion that there is a pervading puritanical attitude that is responsible for the widespread mediocrity in audio technology. The value system is lopsided. Audio engineering may require mastering certain technical skills, but that is yeoman's work and has no relationship to the ultimate success of one's efforts. Audio engineering—all engineering—must serve aesthetics, and aesthetics is the disciplined expression of our most profound emotional needs.

The illusions we need to create in our lives, in fact, compels the direction of all engineering efforts. It is the glandular system and our reptilian brain that controls the computers and oscilloscopes and not vice-versa. Engineering efforts that have violated this truth have always been dismal failures.

This understanding came to me in the middle of writing this edition while before me lay a bunch of technical articles that would impress the reader, but there was not one shred of evidence—not one clue to the reality of our work. That reality is the intense emotionality we bring to this work and the passion we feel for music and our relationship to it. I, too, was embarking on the traditional puritanical course of writing technical articles and hiding all feelings, risking no vulnerability. Yet the truth is quite the opposite—not only for me but for the entire populace that we must call music lovers. It is a great paradox that the most emotional pastime is treated in such an antiseptic manner.

What follows, I hope, is a correction of that puritanical attitude. I have examined my own feelings about our company's work and our relationship to music, audio technology and how we would like to affect your life. It is exciting to be living at this time when men are having the courage to admit, live with, explore and expand their emotional and spiritual lives that are intertwined with music. As you will soon discover, the best that is man is experienced in his music. So let us begin the journey . . .

Harvey Rosenberg President

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Existence is beyond the power of words to define:

Terms may be used

But are none of them absolute.

In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words,

Words came out of the womb of matter:

And whether a man dispassionately

Sees to the core of life

Or passionately

Sees the surface,

The core and the surface

Are essentially the same,

Words making them seem different

Only to express appearance.

If name be needed, wonder names them both:

From wonder into wonder

Existence opens.

The Way of Life, according to Lao Tzu

 

FROM WOMEN IN LOVE BY D.H. LAWRENCE

Birkin, barely conscious, and yet perfectly direct in his motion, went out of the house and straight across the park, to the open country, to the hills. The brilliant day had become overcast, spots of rain were falling. He wandered on to a wild valleyside, where were thickets of hazel, many flowers, tufts of heather, and little clumps of young fir-trees, budding with soft paws. It was rather wet everywhere, there was a stream running down the bottom of the valley, which was gloomy, or seemed gloomy. He was aware that he could not regain his consciousness, that he was moving in a sort of darkness.

Yet he wanted something. He was happy in the wet hillside, that was overgrown and obscure with bushes and flowers. He wanted to touch them all, to saturate himself with the touch of them all. He took off his clothes, and sat down naked among the primroses, moving his feet softly among the primroses, his legs, his knees, his arms right up to the arm-pits, Iying down and letting them touch his belly, his breasts. It was such a fine, cool, subtle touch all over him, he seemed to saturate himself with their contact.

But they were too soft. He went through the long grass to a clump of young fir trees, that were no higher than a man. The soft sharp boughs beat upon him, as he moved in keen pangs against them, threw little cold showers of drops on his belly, and beat his loins with their clusters of soft-sharp needles. There was a thistle which pricked him vividly, but not too much, because all his movements were too discriminate and soft. To lie down and roll in the sticky, cool young hyacinths, to lie on one's belly and cover one's back with handfuls of fine wet grass, soft as a breath, soft and more delicate and more beautiful than the touch of any woman; and then to sting one's thigh against the living dark bristles of the fir-boughs; and then to feel the light whip of the hazel on one's shoulders, stinging, and then to

clasp the silvery birch-trunk against one's breast, its smoothness, its hardness, its vital knots and ridges—this was good, this was all very good, very satisfying. Nothing else would do, nothing else would satisfy, except this coolness and subtlety of vegetation travelling into one's blood. How fortunate he was, that there was this lovely, subtle, responsive vegetation, waiting for him, as he waited for it; how fulfilled he was, how happy!

Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence

 

AARON COPLAND

An imaginative mind is essential to the creation of art in any medium, but it is even more essential in music precisely because music provides the broadest possible vista for the imagination since it is the freest, the most abstract, the least fettered of all the arts; no story content, no pictorial representation, no regularity of meter, no strict limitation of frame need hamper the intuitive functioning of the imaginative mind. In saying this I am not forgetting that music has its disciplines: its strict forms and regular rhythms, and even in some cases its programmatic content . . .

Listening is a talent, and like any other talent or gift, we possess it in varying degrees. I have found among music-lovers a marked tendency to underestimate and mistrust this talent, rather than to overestimate it. The reason for these feelings of inferiority are difficult to determine. Since there is no reliable way of measuring the gift for listening, there is no reliable way of reassuring those who misjudge themselves. I should say that there are two principal requisites for talented listening: first, the ability to open oneself up to musical experiences; and secondly, the ability to evaluate critically that experience. Neither of these is possible without a certain native gift. Listening implies an inborn talent of some degree, which again like any other talent, can be trained and developed. This talent has a certain 'purity' about it. We exercise it, so to speak, for ourselves alone; there is nothing to be gained from it in a material sense. Listening is its own reward; there are no prizes to be won, no contests of creative listening. But I hold that person fortunate who has the gift, for there are few pleasures in art greater than the secure sense that one can recognize beauty when one comes upon it. When I speak of the gifted listener I am thinking of the non musician primarily, of the listener who intends to retain his amateur status. It is the thought of just such a listener that excites the composer in me. I know, or I think I know how the professional musician will react to music. But with the amateur it is different; one never can be sure how he will react. Nothing really tells him what he should be hearing, no treatize or chart or guide can ever sufficiently pull together the various strands of a complex piece of music, only the inrushing floodlight of one's own imagination can do that . . .

The amateur may be too reverent or too carried away; too much in love with the separate section or too limited in his enthusiasm for a single school or composer. Mere professionalism, however, is not at all a guarantee of intelligent listening. Executant ability, even of the highest order, is no guarantee of instinct in judgment. The sensitive amateur, just because he lacks the prejudices and preconceptions of the professional musician, is sometimes a surer guide to the true quality of a piece of music. The ideal listener, it seems to me, would combine the preparation of the trained professional with the innocence of the intuitive amateur. All musicians, creators and performers alike, think of the gifted listener as a key figure in the musical universe. . .

 

The ideal listener, above all else, possesses the ability to lend himself the power of music. The power of music to move us is something quite special as an artistic phenomenon. My intention is not to delve into its basis in physics—my scientific equipment is much too rudimentary—but rather to concentrate on its emotional overtones . . .

All this is of minor concern to the gifted listener—primarily intent, as he should be, on the enjoyment of music. Without theories and without preconceived notions of what music ought to be, he lends himself as a sentient human being to the power of music. What often surprises me is the basically primitive nature of this relationship. From self-observation and from observing audience reaction, I would be inclined to say that we all listen on an elementary plane of musical consciousness. I was startled to find this curious phrase in Santayana concerning music: "the most abstract of arts," he remarks, "serves the dumbest emotions." Yes, I like this idea that we respond to music from a primal and almost brutish level—dumbly, as it were, for on that level we are grounded.

That is fundamentally the way we all hear music—gifted and ungifted alike—and all the analytical, historical, textual material on or about the music heard, interesting though it may be, cannot—and I venture to say if not—alter that fundamental relationship. . .

I stress this point, not so much because the layman is likely to forget it, but because the professional musician tends to lose sight of it. This does not signify, by any means, that I do not believe in the possibility of the refinement of musical taste. Quite the contrary. I am convinced that the higher forms of music imply a listener whose musical taste has been cultivated either through listening or through training or both. On a more modest level, refinement in most musical taste begins with the ability to distinguish subtle nuances of feeling. Anyone can tell the difference between a sad piece and a joyous one. The talented listener recognizes not merely the joyous quality of a piece, but also the specific shade of joyousness—whether it be troubled joy, delicate joy, carefree joy, hysterical joy, and so forth. I add "and so forth'' advisedly, for it covers an infinitude of shadings that cannot be named, as I have named these few, because of music's incommensurability with language . .

What happens is that a masterwork awakens in us reactions of a spiritual order that are already in us, only waiting to be aroused. When Beethoven's music exhorts us to "be noble," ''be compassionate,'' "be strong," he awakens moral ideas that are already within us. His music cannot persuade: it makes evident. It does not shape conduct: it is itself the exemplification of a particular way of looking at life. A concert is not a sermon. It is a performance—a reincarnation of a series of ideas implicit in the work of art.

The dream of every musician who loves his art is to involve gifted listeners everywhere as an active force in the musical community. The attitude of each individual listener, especially the gifted listener, is the principal resource we have in bringing to fruition the immense musical potentialities of our own time . . .

Music and Imagination, Aaron Copland

 

 

SOME NOTES FROM A CAMPSITE

One of my favorite things is camping with a motorcycle. In fact, most of this book was written on a Brothers portable electronic typewriter at an assortment of campsites. The following passage was written at about 7:30 P.M. in the early summer of 1984. I was sitting at a table under a tree facing a small stream . . .

Riding around helped me connect a series of events that I had recently experienced. What impressed me about chanting with the Nicherins-Shoshu Buddhist sect was their conviction that the only way to bring about world peace was through chanting. I tried to think of the political force that would be necessary to achieve such an end—it seemed quite impossible. Yet these Buddhists believe that the power of chanting is stronger than any political force. Chanting—and its musical energy—is their form for changing the political process of the world. Chanting with them was a real mind zapper.

Nada Yoga is a form where music is the medium of transcendence. By sitting silently for many hours meditating on the sound of the sitar one can reach new levels of selflessness, awareness and inner peace—according to Roop Vermir, master Sitarist. Spending three days in silent meditation with Roops' sitar playing brings one to the threshold of understanding his teaching—when we strip away the ideas of our mind and transcend our physical being, at the center of our existence is music which is the pure force of the universe. We are music.

By accident I found the Sunray Meditation Society which is the junction pool where the wisdom of the Ani Gadoah Clan of the Tsalagi Cherokee Nations merges with the ancient wisdom from the East. It is here that you will find the renaissance of the Native American wisdom and "knowledge." Music and dance is the path to wisdom. It is the form for healing, loving, connecting to ancestral spirits, experiencing the bond between our hearts and the earth, a joyous celebration, and the best way to raise the quality of one's vibration. This was the first time that I clearly experienced the connection of all time and all things. It is ironic counter point that as a child I spent so much time playing cowboys and Indians—killing at least 10,000 Indians at the end of each school day.

The thread that weaves through these three experiences is quite obvious to me

In these cultures there is an obvious and out-front connection between music and spiritual well being—a sense of being one with it all. Music is accepted openly as the connection between man, earth and the universe. Music is the path of wisdom. Participating in any musical experience is affirming this unity of creation—that's why it feels so good. Musical sensations are the most vivid way of feeling the flowing of the life force from the earth through our hearts and into the spiritual cosmos During any musical event our hearts are bound together—that is why we glow after the event.

This is what the audiophile is seeking in his living room. Our passions for the highest level of musical reproduction is rooted in the compelling need—in the primal need—to experience the unique cosmic connection of music at an increasing level of clarity, realism and consciousness. Whether we use the Rolling Stones or Vivaldi —our home music system is the most available low impedance path to interconnecting our tribal humanity.

It is clear in me. It is clear in all of the people who I know share this passion. It is clear in millions of hearts all over the world.

As I am writing this passage the pink light of the new night is full on the hills, a mist is break-dancing on the river reeds. The swallows are flying about in airs filled with lilac and pine. Bach's French Suites is playing from my micromusic system and the background is the gurgling of the stream. I notice fireflies, and now it all becomes one, and it is the music. Everything is perfect . . .

YOU ARE MUSIC

It begins in the womb. It begins before we are awake or have an understanding of the impulse. Then we are a gelatinous glow of life close to our mother's hearts—a duet of nervous systems entwined. The beating of her heart is the first music we hear. This is why music is part of everyone's heart. It is your heart.

It begins megathousands of years ago before we can speak—surrounded by a storm of Nature's music—the sky, beasts and bugs and buffaloes, the winds—all about us a constant overpowering sensation of natural melodies. Huddled in cave darkness, what were the sounds in the night? What was that primitive cadence of cat and beast and bird and wind? Who picked up the first rock and stone to make noise to scare away those demons? Who was the first quartet to grunt by a fire to quell the terror that lay beyond the red rim of light? It is you.

It begins when we are just able to smile. Weighing no more than ten pounds of pudge, our face mirrors the joy of the constant nonsense melody from our parents hearts. What parent does not sing to his child expecting a beaming face? What child doesn't squeal with joy—some little beast in the forest—when first discovery that his pudgy body is capable of dancing? It is your pudgy body.

It begins in mid-life when pain and suffering brings humility and a frightening sense that our time is too short and all the power we have gained is a threadbare grasp of life. There is comfort in the opulent peace that music brings. It is your peace.

It begins in the final act of our lives when music shows us the light we shall rise to. It points the way to the eternal loving spirit that has brought us joy in every musical moment. Music points the way to grasping that this life is just the first movement of our continuing spiritual symphony. It is your light.

It doesn't matter whether it is Bach, Boogey, or Bee Bop—getting down with your bad musical self is the glue of the brotherhood of man.

Music is the definitive democracy. It shares its wealth equally with all that will listen. It is the highest form of expression of what is loving, joyous, profound and subtle in man. It is the force that binds us together and our togetherness to the earth and the stars. It is a source of human expansion.

 

SELL YOUR PICASSOS!

Is music in our homes important? There is nothing more important! But before you misunderstand me, let me state here there is an imperial force we must contend with and nothing—mind you nothing—can compare to the experience of live music. Our response to live music—the millions of neurological quirks, tremors and pulsations that cascade through our bodies—is nature's process of recharging our humanity. We have in the thousands of years of walking upright developed a species-specific response to music that is so primal in its intensity and so complex in its Gestalt that it is beyond your ability to measure. Being engrossed in music is a form of altered consciousness when our entire body (and I mean from our scalp to our tippy, tippy toes) is participating. It is the cathartic experience that revives us—cleans out the pollution—gets the rust out of our pipes—makes us feel magic—makes us cry—fall in love—enlarges the Yoni—puts our humanity in perspective—it does all of this with great ease because our bodies' entire electro/mechanical system is easily seduced into surrendering to the complete sensual juicy energy jive of music. Listening to a live music event is the best way to repair the damage from playing in life's traffic.

This is obviously the benefit or live music. What then is state of the art audio technology? It is very simple. If you are able to create in your living room the same Gestalt you achieve from a live music event you have a state of the art music system. I will now refer to this system as STATE OF THE HEART. You cannot create such a system by examining specifications or buying a 10,000 watt amplifier. We are now talking about sound systems that have the aptitudes of bringing a level of sensual reality into a room 10 x 15 so that you have the same primitive neurological responses that you would get by sitting 20 feet away from Mistlav Rostapovich playing in Carnegie Hall, preferably a piece of music by Shostakovich. We are talking about weeping with tenderness in your listening chair. We are talking about transforming you into another dimension of experience while your children are watching MTV in another room and while your wife is having a fight with her mother on the kitchen phone. That is the function' of a State of the Heart music system.

We are seeking to conjure up the musical demon that carries you back across generations to sit by Bach's side in a candlelit drawing room listening to woven magic melodies (I hope—the Goldberg Variations). We are talking about delivery to your living room of a universe of experience that no other art form can create. We are talking about the most subtle and profound experiences of your life (after you get off the 6:05 from metropolis).

Is there anything more important than this? Some would argue that love is more important—but think about this. The love between any two people or group is limited by the energy and experience of those finite lives—something that occurs in a millisecond of cosmic time. Music ~s love's shining intelligence. It is the hearth where love is galvanized; made durable against corrosion of time. It is the distillation of love's genius manifested in each composer, composition and musician that permits us the profound intimacy with our own capacity to love. Haven't you noticed what happens to your heart during that inspiring performance? Hasn't that enlarged your heart? Have you noticed how often you turn on the "music" before you make love?

 

A DEAR JOHN LETTER

This was, in a very slightly modified form, a letter to a reviewer of a leading underground magazine, who criticized me for my fanaticism over audio technology . . .

Dear John . . .

PIED BEAUTY

Glory be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckles (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise Him."

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918

I hope the above (which I have been re-reading for 27 years) will put my remarks about your article in perspective. It is understandable that you would call me "strange" for advocating an unmitigated commitment to the finest sound system. It appears that your response to my plea indicates that perhaps the incandescence of my words blinded you to the spirit in which they were used. It appears that a cooler hand is needed now, so I will be properly pedagogic.

For those of us who love all things musical—concerts, the smell of concert halls, rehearsals, programs, instruments, composers, and their biographies, sheet music, instrument makers, recordings, engineers, studios, tape recorders, microphones, amplifiers, speakers, pre-amps, cables, record-cleaning machines, and so on ad nauseum—the live concert is an essential experience. But it is certainly not the total music experience. It is foolish, and I dare say, intellectually Neanderthalic to spend one moment on arguing about whether or not the music system in our home can reproduce a live concert experience. It never could, nor is it intended to do so. It is a tautology to say that the only accurate reproduction of a live concert is a live. concert, and a vinyl disc is not a musical event.

I would rather posture to you, that the home music system is an art form, like a painting or a piece of sculpture. Its intention is not to imitate the ''real'', but rather to represent it, to symbolize it and, in the process, gain the great power that symbols and illusion possess. Music in our homes is the icon of live musical performance and, in many ways, more powerful than the real-life musical experience. Should I be judging a painting of a rose by asking the question, "Does it look real?" And languishing over a painting of a rose in no way diminishes the ecstasy of a rose garden.

For the music lover who needs more than live concerts, for those who have a need to study, for those whose passions liberate their intellectual energies, the home music system permits a level of musical experience that is one of the great aesthetic revolutions of the century. Audio technology has permitted me to "feel" music at I a level of intensity denied all previous generations. I have in my record collection the wealth of centuries and the wisdom of many cultures; I can dance to them, sing to them, all in my own private abandonment. Did Louis XIV have this treasure? I

How do you study the Goldberg variations? After reading Wanda Landowski's book on Bach, can you go to a concert to understand her phrasing? (Hardly, being she is in Heaven with Johann.) Have you an interest in music played on original I instruments? How many concerts offer such an experience? In a single evening, where can you go to listen to Tibetan chants, Turkish water-wheel music, Georgian chants, or Tchenko?

I would ask you to think about the following points, because with your considerable intellectual skills pointed in the right direction, they may lead you to some instructive insight. What are the appropriate aesthetic values of recording music and are they the same for a live concert? This is not a simple question. Have you noticed that different microphones have different tonal colorations? The recording engineer and producer are making significant aesthetic contributions to any record performance and modifying it to suit their own values. Shouldn't we be exploring the questions I that center on the art of musical reproduction and not "Is the vinyl disc a duplicate of a live event?" I do not think that we should be embarrassed or feel diminished in our pursuits of an "illusionists" art form. To be sure, there are limitations to all expressive forms—and as you have cogently pointed out, it may be that after the scope of chamber music, home sound systems fall apart.

On the other hand, I think that these limitations are important. In a recent trip I to Japan, it struck me that the Japanese value dynamic range above all other values, because large symphonic music is the musical epitome to them. This leads to the development of very sophisticated, refined speaker systems that are remarkable in their dynamic ability. They are obviously seeking a different illusion and think the speaker systems we prefer are anemic and unmusical. It seems obvious that aesthetics dictate engineering, and your magazine should be exploring this area more directly.

Why, then, am I so fascinated with sophisticated technology? The best technology represents someone's persistent effort to create a better illusion—a more sumptuous experience. It is culturally imperative that we bring musical illusions to a higher I state of refinement. I would like to think that the designers of audio equipment are no different than architects and sculptors. Whether or not you approve, human consciousness goes forward, and that movement forward is expressed heroically in our pursuit of technology. This pursuit of technology should be inextricably related to artistic values and serve our needs for increased levels of joyous enrichment.

Selling your Mercedes, hocking your wife's mink coat, auctioning off your Picasso, or giving your kid a good sound system in lieu of a college education is quite reasonable to me; in fact, it is eminently sensible.

These machines are my tools, my tackle that manifests the world's musical wealth in my living room. This is a miracle to me. This experience in no way diminishes me or any other facet of my love of "musica" and all things musical. I have devoted my creative energies to this art form; the technology is my paint brush.

Therefore, I would be clear about the audio designers intent. We cannot create a facsimile of a live musical event—just the appropriate illusion so our disbelief is transcended and our musical souls jump for joy.

Yours truly, H.R.

 

 


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