[SoundStage!]Audio Hell
Back Issue Article

October 2001

Let the Music Play

I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say I’ve had a hard time sitting down and concentrating on the job at hand lately. My mind, like the rest of the world, seems to be consumed by bigger things. Everything has changed, not only for my country, but for the whole world. Everything suddenly seems so tenuous and clouded. It is not just our sense of security that has been wounded, but our sense of self. We begin to question our world, our country, our neighbors, and ourselves. Perhaps we begin to feel that this is the natural state of things. We let those things that were part of our "normal" lives slip from our routine for fear of seeming insensitive.

It was with this in mind that I quit listening to music for several days after the tragedy. Most of my free time was spent watching the news or discussing the events with friends on the phone. I was afraid to "get back to normal." I made some attempts. Thinking that it might soothe my mind a little, I put on some music and tried to relax. I guess I wasn’t ready and was overcome with a sense of guilt. After all, how dare I enjoy myself when so many were suffering? It didn’t feel natural, and this really bothered me. How could something that had been such an interwoven part of my life suddenly feel unnatural?

Then, while driving home from work a few days later, I heard a comment that got me thinking. I tuned the radio to my local NPR station and caught the middle of an interview. I’m not sure if the man was a psychologist, a behaviorist, or what. It was a statement that he made that caught my attention. He said that "Fear and anger are not the natural state of things." He said that when something like the recent tragedy occurs, we are so powerfully struck by raw emotion that it begins to feel natural. We feel uncomfortable going about our normal lives, yet to heal we must do exactly that.

For anyone reading this column, music is definitely part of your normal life. Music is part of your natural state of things. I think it’s one of the most natural things that mankind has created. Music heals. Music brings man together. Music is a form of beauty. Fear and anger remove beauty from the world. If ever we needed more beauty in the world, now would be the time. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to promote pacifism or take a stand on how the world should react politically. I’m not sure how I feel about those issues yet. I’m just saying we need music now more that ever. Music heals, and healing is a good thing. It gives us strength.

Last week I heard the most amazing story about the power of music. I went to hear storyteller Garrison Keillor speak at a local concert hall. He had just released his latest novel, Lake Wobegon Summer -- 1956, and was on tour to promote the book. The man is known for his humor, and I was curious as to how he was going to begin his show in light of the recent events. He told the story of a friend of his who lived in New York. The man was quite fond of classical music and played in a trumpet quintet. Living in the midst of all the suffering, the members of the band wanted to do something to help ease the pain. Apparently, right on the edge of ground zero, there stands a church. Against all odds, like a symbol of life in the midst of devastation, the church stands without a scratch. Members of the band gathered at the church and began to perform. Classical music being their love, they began playing a trumpet concerto by Corelli. Hearing the music from the street, people began to file in. Among the crowd stood those who had been working, day and night, against all odds, in an effort of rescue and recovery. Dusty, dirty, and exhausted both emotionally and physically, they took a moment to listen. And as they stood at the back of the church listening to the music, many began to weep. It was not that they loved Corelli so much, or even enjoyed classical music. It was that they had heard nothing but sounds of suffering and destruction for what seemed like an eternity. Hearing the sounds of beauty and humanity, they were touched. Music is beauty, and beauty is what we live for.

Let us heal. Let the music play.


On a more pragmatic note, the Audio Charity Auction makes me proud to be an audiophile. Audiogon and Audio Asylum, together with several others (including some solicitations from SoundStage!) have organized a charity auction, which can be found at www.audiogon.com. They are taking donations from manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and any individuals with items they are willing to contribute. All of the proceeds will be donated to several charities, including the NY Firefighter’s Fund and the National Disaster Relief Fund of the American Red Cross. Please contribute. An amp that has been sitting and collecting dust could be serving a much more noble purpose. Please bid. Never will the money you spend on audio equipment promote such righteous intention.

Next month my column will be "going to hell" once more. I am planning on exploring the agony of speaker placement. My back will be nice and sore from trying all of the golden formulas I can find and hauling those heavy boxes around my living room. If you have any formulas I may have missed (or cures for back pain), send them my way. I’m also looking at some software solutions. Until then….

...Bill Brooks


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