I have noted over the last three decades the continuation of the debate on the validity of blind testing. I am asserting that blind testing in its current form is a form of intellectual denial because it completely ignores this core question: how do we experience music?

Let me suggest the readers of Stereophile consider the following: Hearing is a more primitive form of cognition than thought, because the thinking/linguistic mind is only twenty thousands years old. Hearing is a total body experience that is inseparable from our glands; we hear with our ears, skin and nervous system. Every musical person knows how completely his body is involved in the listening process, which is why it is so common to experience "musical out of body experiences". Obviously as our biorhythms shift our hearing sensitivity shifts. Have you noticed how listening to music in darkness is a different experience than listening in bright light? Can you connect that experience to our need to survive during nights filled with predator saber tooth cats? (Try this hearing experiment: in some safe place where you wont get arrested, like the woods, at night, walk around naked and experience what happens to your hearing sensitivity. Be sure to use bug spray)

Aaron Copland, in Music and Imagination, makes the point that listening is a gift; a primitive one at that, and that not all people are equally endowed with this gift. I always marvel at the listening gifts of fine music instrument makers. And then there is the influence of culture on how we listen. Two examples make the point: my experience with Japanese audiomaniacs convinces me that they experience music very differently than Americans, and while living in the jungles of Nicauragua I was amazed at how the natives heard sounds that were completely unavailable to me.

How many different planes of musical reality are there? In the 1970s I was involved in clinical LSD experiments and I heard music that was indescribable, magical and from some "other" plane. And what about the music I hear in my dreams? And how is it possible for this to be a common occurrence; we are walking along and all of a sudden we hear music coming from "no where"?

I have also heard rumors that millions of rock and rollers are consuming billions of dollars of marijuana because it heightens and expands their perception of music. Could this be true John? Is that why these concerts stink from the aroma of burning carpet?

As for the relationship between context and experience, let us use the very simple example of romantic passion. What happens to it when you and the women you love are being observed? Or what happens to our eloquence and charm when we step up to the podium to deliver our well rehearsed speech? Gulp and twitch.

The point being; until we have a better "model" of how we experience music, then tests which inhibit rather support our hearing sensitivity prove nothing.

Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg

Guildmeister of The Triode Guild


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