An audiophile acquaintance recently emailed me to comment on a music review I had recently written and to let me know he liked the Bill Toms release I also enjoyed. Another question he asked took me somewhat by surprise. His question was if I had a list of favorite music I could share with him?
That the whole audiophile process is about music is patently obvious and a favorite song list makes sense. In fact, they have been around for years. I can't say with certainty but I'm guessing that Harry Pearson (HP) was one of the first to publish an actual list of his own favorite music in The Absolute Sound. That list lives on and most recently in July of 2017, Jonathan Valin published an updated list in that same magazine.
Lists of favorite music are precisely that, typically very personal to someone and intently the discretionary province of a listeners taste in music. When I look over any of, quite surprisingly, several such "music lists," my first thought is either I do not, or would not, like most of the music listed. My tastes and musical proclivities probably will run differently.
Some lists of music are for different purposes. In my own "five star" list, as I call it, I have music that was selected to highlight a certain frequency range - like bass, for instance. Other songs display magnificent imaging. Some are superbly recorded, and probably surprisingly, some are poorly recorded - chosen as a balance for the ones that were. There are about five or so I consistently use to ensure my system is preforming as expected, and my knowledge of how they should sound on my system is absolute. More often than not, most of my "five star" songs made the grade simply and exclusively because I liked the song. When I hear a good foot tapping beat, or mostly anything that enlists some meaningful emotional connection, that alone qualifies it for the "five star" list. I even find myself going through my list from time to time and eliminating certain selections because I feel they no longer qualify.
Lists of music do accomplish a worthwhile task - they introduce any audiophile who reads them to new music. This is, perhaps, their greatest and best accomplishment. It is the same reason so much attention is given to the music part of our hobby. It is one way in which audiophiles may discover something new to play on their systems. Because let's face it, when spending untold dollars and investing so much time in the selection and procurement of an audio system, the payment for the effort is rewarding music reproduced to stunning effect. Its why we do what we do.
Because my friend asked me if I had a list of favorite music I could share with him, it got me thinking. Yes, I suppose I could have copied my "five star" songs and sent that to him. Rather than that, and in response to his email, I simply relayed my mostly favorite and listened to genres. I did so in the hopes that would suffice but in hindsight, it really doesn't. Is there, however, any certainty my list will make any meaningful difference to someone besides myself? Perhaps, perhaps not.
In looking over The Absolute Sound's Super List, I see a lot of music. Far more than is on my "five star" list. There are hundreds of selections and I imagine it would be a decidedly daunting task to hear them all. Still however, this list offers something valuable - a way to judge your own favorites against someone else's and maybe, hopefully, discover something new. I wonder if this is a concept upon which expansion might take place? Is a list of favorite music something more audiophiles should create and share?
Another consideration is the scope of genre. HP's list was mostly classical because that is clearly what he liked. Suppose you don't especially like classical? The 2017 list does break the selections down by some measure of classification and that is certainly helpful. Regardless it does not change the fact that a list of songs, however long, is manifestly useless to me if I don't like any of the genre's listed. It also calls into question whether or not I am interested in expanding my musical tastes, or would doing so really bring me any measure of contentment. I mean, seriously, compile a list of ten thousand rap songs and I still won't be interested nor will I spend any time trying to become so.
New music is the bread and butter of our hobby. It is the sonic verification of the assemblage of an audio system and the sole practice in its usage. Some find themselves pigeonholed in a particular genre or group of songs - too circumspect to look beyond the horizon. Others are more open minded to experimentation and have a willingness to try something new. How we spend our collective time and with what music in which we choose to invest is a personal endeavor - our own "five star" songs on our own audio system reproduced to stunning effect. Still, a look beyond the curtain is not entirely a bad thing. We all have our own barometer in choosing the music we enjoy. Maybe we share it with others, maybe we don't. Maybe we feel that others are not particularly interested in our own music and their own "five star" list will adequately suffice. Maybe we don't really care about the music others like and to which they regularly listen.
If that is actually the case, is it, perhaps, time we should?