Over a recent weekend I was in Nashville, TN to attend the wedding of the daughter of some very good friends. With a 6:00 PM wedding and subsequent reception, guests found themselves with an entire Saturday left basically to their own devices.
Myself and a few friends decided we’d leave the women behind to do what ever they were going to do to for the day and have a guy’s excursion to downtown Nashville. Leaving the environs of the Brentwood Hilton, we headed towards the center of Music City, something that typically proves interesting. We talked about maybe stopping by for some live music at Robert’s or maybe Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge – the place where performers like Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline had some of their earliest public performances.
Our main mission was to find some shameless tourist restaurant for lunch and while heading south on 8th Street, I saw an intriguing sign: “Grimey’s Records.” We found a restaurant that was purportedly famous for their chicken but actually turned out to be an adequate but desperately overpriced meal. Tourist we wanted, tourist we got. While gnawing through “Brick Top Chicken”, I looked up Grimey’s Records online and discovered it got five stars in Nashville for record stores. I told everyone where we were going next.
My friend Doug was looking through the Jazz section when he suddenly exclaimed “I don’t believe it.” I turned to see what he found and saw that he had this blank look on his face. Holding a sealed copy of Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert By The Sea, he explained this was his Dad’s favorite record. Doug also explained that when he was a kid, the two of them would listen to it repeatedly. Doug lost his Dad some twenty years ago and he had occasionally been keeping his eyes open for this album over the last few years.
He had been tempted to simply purchase the CD from an online store but that just didn’t seem right. They both enjoyed this work as an LP and that’s the way Doug wanted to honor the time spent with his Dad – and a CD just wouldn’t evoke the proper memory. It wasn’t so much that he enjoyed the album in it’s own right, which he certainly did. Rather, his enjoyment of the artist’s work was from an historical point of view – that point of view being the memory of the simple act of listening to music with his Dad.
Music has the unique ability to evoke a strong memory. At the wedding reception the bridal party held the traditional “Father-Daughter Dance” and also the first dance by the newly married couple. Both songs used for each dance were choices that had a special meaning – a meaning primarily known to a bride and her Father, and also a bride and her new husband. Ask most anyone who listens to music and they can likely describe a memory or some event attached to a specific song. Music and memories are very often inexplicably anchored together whether the memory is one of pure joy or, worse, a sorrowful remembrance. Think back to the funeral of Princess Diana, and the profound sorrow, when Elton John played a revised version of “Candle In the Wind” in the form of “Goodbye England’s Rose.”
Music also has the unique ability to render an emotional connection. How different would any of the suspenseful scenes from the movie Jaws be without the incomparable score from John Williams? Think it would have been quite so terrifying if there was just dead air waiting for the shark to appear as opposed to the same scene with music? Audiophiles have the fortunate circumstance to experience all types of emotional connections with each listening session. If you have ever heard a song played on your system and sat in stunned silence at what you just heard, then you have experienced one aspect of what high performance is intended to accomplish – an emotional connection to music.
Music has the further unique ability to be pleasing to the listener for no real, apparent reason. Maybe the song has a catchy tune, or the lyrics rhythmically rhyme and are easy to remember. Perhaps its been a long time, but if you have ever played the air guitar or sung into the handle of a hair brush, then the music is making you happy for no other reason than you just like the song. Needless to say, this level of enjoyment is not exclusively reserved for audiophiles. Music can create a meaningful experience regardless of the level of playback system. From an Mp3 to a world class audio system, what music does to a listener is universal to any type of playback medium.
For those looking to a higher plane, I tend to think that all of the connections to music is a primary motivator and one reason why audiophiles seek high performance audio – whether that condition is realized and understood or not. Audiophiles look to be amazed by the music in and of itself. We usually find this amazement while in the singular and exclusive practice of listening to a song. We can debate about the physical and design elements of a component. We can debate about any of the other subjects about which audiophiles debate. In the final result, we all are essentially searching for some portion of the same outcome – to have music with a personal meaning, complete with all its attached memories and associations, move us in ways little else can. Perhaps not the only method to do so, but high performance audio’s magic lies in the emotional connections made by the system to the listener. Whether such connections are a memory from times past, or instantly created, making musical memories is something all audiophiles seek to accomplish. Which, quite possibly, is the whole point.