Bob Schwartz

Category: Music

Cambridge Soundworks Ensemble Speakers: Retiring Another Audio Component

Note: A while back I wrote about replacing an audio receiver after many years (The STR-AV1010 Is Dead ). It was a sentimental moment, since it played such a role in the soundtrack of our lives. This week another of the venerable audio components is retiring, significant not only to us but to the history of audio electronics.

Above is an ad from exactly thirty years ago, introducing the Cambridge Soundworks Ensemble Speakers. Developed by audio legend Henry Kloss, this was a breakthrough in the way quality speakers were marketed. It was relatively inexpensive compared to big-name brands, and it was being sold direct to consumers, without retail stores in the middle. These days, of course, most consumers buy speakers without hearing them first.

New York Times, February 19, 1989:

Now a new approach to speaker shopping is being promoted by a manufacturer who says, in effect: Buy my speaker by mail, sight unseen and sound unheard. If you don’t like it, send it back within 30 days, and we’ll refund your money.

One would tend to distrust such a proposition if it came from anyone less reputable than Henry Kloss, a hallowed name in audio history. During the 1950’s and 60’s – the gestation period of modern audio technology, Mr. Kloss advanced prevailing standards of speaker design with such classic innovations as the original Acoustic Research and Advent loudspeakers, which were among the first bookshelf speakers capable of wide-range sound.

Later he founded KLH, the first company to produce compact components and to make extensive use of transistorized circuits. It was partly Henry Kloss’s ideas from which, a few years later, the Japanese audio industry took its cue and rose to predominance.

I bought the speakers right away. I am not a listener with genius ears, but I appreciate good sound and good value. These speakers have been with us in all our houses, throughout the chapters of our lives. But just lately, I have heard the distortion symptom of one of the speakers failing. It is time for another set.

As with the passing of the receiver, sentiment is balanced with functionality, and so new speakers are on the way. The Ensemble will go back in the same box that arrived at our door those years ago and that they have been moved in again and again. I suspect they will be discarded someday, but not now.

Thunder and Lightning, Fire and Ice

The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down
You can’t let go and you can’t hold on
You can’t go back and you can’t stand still
If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will
Jerry Garcia, The Wheel

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Robert Frost, Fire and Ice

Music: Surf’s Up

It’s summer. Time for surf music. Not the Beach Boys, great as they are. Strictly instrumental, crazy guitar and crazier drums.

Listen. Put on your board shorts or bikini or both. Whether in the desert, where the ocean is just a crazy-from-the-heat mirage, or in your bedroom, dance like the fate of the world depended on it. Because it does. Surf’s up!

Marianne Williamson may not belong in the field of Democratic candidates, but she has a message and a point (Sowing the Seeds of Love edition)

Of the two dozen people running for the Democratic presidential nomination, a number have no prospect of being on the ticket, as president or vice-president. They are presumably running to advance their careers, to influence the direction of the party and/or to send a message.

Marianne Williamson is one who has no prospect, but does have a few messages. She voiced those messages in the debate—messages that were variously mocked or treated kindly, sometimes both.

In her closing statement, she said this:

This man [Trump] has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes. So, Mr. President — if you’re listening — I want you to hear me please: You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. So I, sir, I have a feeling you know what you’re doing. I’m going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field, and sir, love will win.

She is absolutely right, at least about the lack of and need for love in our politics. It may sound wholly New Age and non-pragmatic, but America is indeed suffering from spiritual dis-ease. How we contracted it is an interesting question for a later time, but right now it is clear that unless and until we start treating it, versions of the last two years are going to keep repeating themselves.

I presume that when Marianne Williamson talks about love, it is an umbrella expression for all the beneficent qualities featured in all of our religious traditions—compassion, empathy, selflessness, courage, care, etc. All the things that we now discover are missing from some high-level public leaders and from some members of the body politic.

So we owe Marianne Williamson a bit of thanks. And a song:

It’s a Beautiful Day

Beautiful Day
U2

The heart is a bloom, shoots up through stony ground
But there’s no room, no space to rent in this town
You’re out of luck and the reason that you had to care,
The traffic is stuck and you’re not moving anywhere.
You thought you’d found a friend to take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand in return for grace

It’s a beautiful day, the sky falls
And you feel like it’s a beautiful day
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away

You’re on the road but you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud, in the maze of her imagination
You love this town even if it doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over and it’s been all over you

It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away

Touch me, take me to that other place
Teach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colours came out
It was a beautiful day
A beautiful day
Don’t let it get away

Touch me, take me to that other place
Reach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case

What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
You don’t need it now, you don’t need it now

Passover: Let’s Get Lost

Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out
We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Taking that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
Talking Heads, Road to Nowhere


Let’s Get Lost

Passover
Americans are lost
Jews are lost
Jews are used to being lost

Wake up wandering in the wilderness
Wanting guidance assurances
That it will be all right
Promises will be kept
A land will be found

No assurances
No promises
No land
No turning back

Tell the story
Then like the afikomen
Broken and lost
Let’s get lost

©


The Clash: The Band That Still Matters

Spotify says that The Clash has 7,231,128 monthly listeners, making them the world’s 422nd most listened to artist on Spotify.

Glass half-empty, half-full, as there should be far more. The good news is that people are still listening in substantial numbers, and with about 2 million artists on Spotify, 422 is more than respectable.

From their first record in 1977 to their disbanding in 1986, they combined inspired, catchy and hard-driving pop music with aggressive messaging. During some dynamically difficult times, particularly in the UK, they called themselves “The Only Band That Matters.” They still do.

There is pop music today that actually is, or at least fashions itself to be, aggressive and transgressive, particularly on the hip-hop side. But it takes a peculiar brand of artistry to hit the sweet spot between mass popular appeal and in-your-face call for revolution. An iron fist in a somewhat velvet musical glove. That was The Clash. We could use some of that today.

 

Music: Wonderful World, Beautiful People/Many Rivers to Cross

Christmas music is inspiring and fun. In the midst of such strange and unsettling times, though, a change of pace was needed this morning.

Jimmy Cliff’s star never shone as brightly as that of Bob Marley. But some of his songs are just as uplifting, hopeful and right on. Like these two:

Wonderful World, Beautiful People

Take a look at the world
And the state that it’s in today
I am sure you’ll agree
We all could make it a better way
With our love, put together
Everybody learn to love each other

Instead of fussing and fighting
Cheating, backbiting
Scandalizing and hating
Baby we could have a
Wonderful world, beautiful people

Man and woman, girl and boy
Let us try to give a helping hand
This I know and I’m sure
That with love we all could understand
This is our world, can’t you see?
Everybody wants to live and be free

Many Rivers to Cross

Many rivers to cross
But I can’t seem to find my way over
Wandering I am lost as I travel along
The white cliffs of Dover
Many rivers to cross and it’s only my will
That keeps me alive
I’ve been licked, washed up for years and
I merely survive because of my pride

Backyard Politics

 

Backyard Politics

When asked the cactus
had no opinion on Trump
neither did the bougainvillea

Note:

Redwoods talk to me
Say it plain
The human name
Doesn’t mean shit to a tree
Jefferson Airplane, Eskimo Blue Day

My Spotify Listening 2018: WOW or WTF?

Spotify is telling listeners about all the songs they listened to during the past year.

As readers of the blog know, I love music, and Spotify is my streaming music library. I listen many ways, sometimes in focus, sometimes in background.

But seeing the statistics and the profile of the music I listened to gave me pause.

I listened to 8,733 minutes of music.

Spotify says: “Those are minutes you’ll never get back. But then again, why would you want to?”

I listened to 2,696 different songs:

Spotify says: “You listen to non-mainstream artists 50% more than the average Spotify listener—so here’s to being different.”

Too much? Too little? Just right?

A while ago, you would have found me dancing around the kitchen, with songs from Spotify as the soundtrack.

You know what David Crosby sang:

Everybody’s saying music is love
Everybody’s saying it’s love

Put on your colors and run come see
Everybody’s saying that music’s for free
Take off your clothes and lie in the sun
Everybody’s saying that music’s for fun