Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Search for Musical Ecstasy cont.

For most of my adult life, I, like millions of others, have been intensely concerned with the quality of music in my life. By now, owning, building and the contemplation of high-quality audio equipment had become an obsession that got out of control. The intensity of my search for musical ecstasy demanded a complete and total life commitment.
I became part of an expanding community of men who had made a similar commitment. I, like those millions of others, was living witness to the profound effect the music was having on the world. While I was deeply immersed in my love of audio equipment and the painful efforts to create the illusion of live music in my home, there was a nagging feeling that something was wrong, the conventional wisdom that surrounded this strange electro-mechanical art form (we call this audi technology) was either inaccurate, obsolete, dysfunctional, or myopic. Something was, and still is, very schizophrenic about the audio industry. The public image created in advertising, the public persona of audio designers, the description of the gear and the vernacular with which the audio arts is described is at great variance with reality. It bacame obvious to me that a long time ago, probably at the dawn of audio industry, when a Victorian model of human existence still reigned, a "model" which described the music lover's relationship to his audio gear was developed. It appeared that this model had not changed in eight decades in spite of the vast changes in culture and our understanding of the complexity of human experience.

So now is the time to explore this eight-decade old original model, this conventional orthodoxy which has been accepted by all segments of the audio inteligentsia. This conventional home listening context is made of three forces: the music lover, the audio gear, and the desire to create the illusion of a live musical event at home. Let me illustrate this ortodoxy with the interplay of the dynamic forces which occur in the conventional context of listening to music in the home by taking you through the diagram which illustrates this context.

As you can see, we have the serious music lower sitting comfortably in his favorite chair attempting to create the illusion of live musical event in his living room. The reason he buys the best-quality equipment he can effort is: better equipment = better music illusion = more pleasure. The music lover's motivation here is musical hedonism. The greatest musical pleasure possible is the goal. It therefore follows that the best, and usually the most expensive equipment creates the highest quality musicla illusion and therefore offers the greatest opportunity for the music lover to experience the ultimate thrill.

Who can argue with this model? The nagging problem has been that this conventional wisdom only describes a single facet of an obviously multi-faceted, multi-dimensional reality, one that can be best described as a matrix of intersecting contradictions, conundrums and paradoxes...just like every other significant artistic pursuit. Perhaps I was crazy to believe that something more profound was operating than the search for musical pleasure. Was I a fool to believe that the creation of a home audio system was a mythological task, an expression of formidable unconscious drive in men for spiritual transcendence? Was in possible that audio gizmos were totems of archaic cultural impulse unique to men? Was it possible that the home music experience was the best way to recapture the original, archaic multi-dimensional ecstatic reality?

So began an intense exploration of this subject. Then something happened that released a new enthusiasm for this exploration. Bill Moyers popularized and made accessible the work of both Joseph Cambel and Robert Bly. These brought to mainstream what anthropologists and psychologists have been asserting for decades: man lives by and is created by myth. We are myth makers. All of our pursuits are mythological. The glue of families, communities and countries are myths, and when these myth lose their power, social and personal chaos begins.
Robert Bly went on to claim, that men have their own unique myths to guide them in their own unique masculine development. Bly brilliantly illuminated how the wisdom of male development in archaic myth is still true. He spoke of importance of initiations, of creating modern totems, of creating one's own sacred space, of getting beyond the "normal" and toxic model of manhood, and most importantly the need to discover the "true self".

The select group of men who are fully committed to creating musical ecstasy in the home are sharing a common spiritual bond. We are bound together by our polytheism, where we are worshipers of many great spirits, all of which are music. This is a tribal form of bonding where the central totem is the audio gizmo which is the conduit between us and the music, the spirits.

This is why I affectionately call members of this electro-mechanical totem worshipping tribal music culture audio-ecstasist. We are not talking about audiophiles, because this group of novices just love their audio and music. This is a group of lovable young hedonists. An audio-ecstasist is what you get when an audiophile reaches a higher stage in his spiritual development where he fully accepts the rich multi-dimensional nature of his search for the ultimate relationship to music in the home: ecstasy.

by Harvey Rosemberg