Monday, January 26, 2009

the gravy refrain

Tonight I am Batman.

Well, not really. But I am listening to the score from the most recent Batman movie: The Dark Knight.

I am not a Hans Zimmer fan, but he has put together an extremely good score for this film. For those of us who thought he was a Gladiator one-note (or one phrase) composer, I will offer my apologies. The score is more than program music; it can stand on its own.

I was actually running an experiment. In
#11 and #12 -- plates of grace, I lamented the fact that, when I move to Mexico, I will be forced to leave behind my sound system for DVDs and CDs. I feel no better after the experiment.

After listening to the score on my sound system, I played the same music on a lap top. I then tried a sample on a friend's iPod with external speakers. I received several suggestions that any MP3 player with external speakers would sound exactly like a big sound system.

Several years ago, I participated in Weight Watchers -- around Thanksgiving time. The group moderator pointed out that we could avoid falling off of the wagon with several tips. Her first tip was gravy. Her suggestion: make home-made for the family and buy a tin of canned fat-free gravy. Because it tastes exactly like the real thing. I did not hear any of her other tips. And it was my last meeting.

Somewhere along the line, we have lost our ability to discriminate between the good and the adequate. When I listen to scores, I want to hear bow strokes on strings and vibration on brass mouthpieces. The progression from vinyl to CDs to MP3 has resulted in a sound that is, at best, adequate.

I think I know why. My ear was trained to listen to live music --with all of its brilliance and aural warts. But live music is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Even where it should exist. Look in the orchestra pit of any theatrical production. And do not be surprised if there is an electronic keyboard where the strings should be. Some young adults have never heard live music.

But I have. That is what I want to hear when I listen to music. (Yes. Yes. Babs, I know. Sometimes, just listening is good enough.)

Maybe I will just need to accept the fact that if I want to be mobile, I cannot have a sound system that belongs in a theater. Just like Stilton and Cheddar cheese, it will be a fond memory.

But, I tell you, I am not eating any of that blasted canned fat-free gravy.


Nancy said...

Steve, Our solution was to bring our stereo that has an input jack for mp3 players. So we have much better sound than we would have with just external speakers.

Our computers have Bose speakers that are really very good.

I know there is some lessening of quality from the original record but it is pretty darn good. I think taking your iPod to the Best Buy or somewhere will really show you the options. Don't give up!

Babs said...

And WHY can't you bring your sound system?
The man who is renting my guest house is a composer and musician - I can ASSURE you, he brought his!

Charley said...

Warning: Off topic remark :

could you persuade Mexico Bob
to hire Eddie Willers of Veracruz
and keep Eddie and family from freezing to death in Canada?

I'd think any mfg. concern in Mexico would be thrilled to have
an employee with his "creds".

glorv1 said...

It really takes a lot of planning to move to Mexico. So far, you've met each step and I'm sure you'll come up with a way of being able to hear all your favorites full blast.:) Have a great week.

Steve Cotton said...

Nancy -- I am heading up to the Bose store later this week. That may be the solution. On this first portion of my journey, I can actually bring a few CDs -- that, in my opinion, have a better sound reproduction than MPs files. But I will try out several options. I am simply not going to be able to recreate 5-speaker THX sound from little speakers -- not even Bose speakers. On the other hand, I already make choices. After all, I do not hire the New York Philharmonic to come to my house each evening to perform.

Babs -- If I am going to be moving every 6 months, I do not want to put up with all of the equipment. Besides, it will not fit in my truck. Two suit cases, Jiggs and his stuff, and my laptop will give me a full load.

Charley -- Perhaps we should start an "Eddie Willers" write-in campaign. However, I have not been able to get "Eddie" to respond to our goings on from his perch in Canada.

Gloria -- Now that I am not selling the house, the move south should be a snap. More expensive than I had anticipated, due to the house issue. But it will all work out.

Beth said...

Steve - what about one of those Bose wave systems? Mom & Dad have one and it's sound quality is very good. The system is compact enough to not take up much space in your nomadic wanderings.

Steve Cotton said...

Beth -- I am going to look at the wave system this week, I hope. (When I buy new pants. But you know that already.) Kim, noted Boston financier, recommended the same solution.

Vanya said...

...Another thing is, once youre down here youre going to find that the accoustics are very different from what you've been used to. If you're used to drywall, or mostly wood construction you're going to have to readjust to solid brick/plaster walls. Its going to sound different no matter what. When we moved in October, we sacrificed things like clothes for our subwoofers, books for tweeters and it was worth it, but not what we expected. I think I sort of understand, now, why so many people in Mexico watch/listen to things with the volume turned up.
My 2 cents....

Steve Cotton said...

Vanya -- Great point. I never thought of the obvious; I did not listen to any music when I did my "test drive" of the Melaque house in July. I do recall, though, that my marble-floored house in Greece acted as a megaphone for everyone outside of the house, but I could barely hear it inside. I may be trying to attain the impossible.

Anonymous said...

Hola Steve,

As much as I like my iPod, it definitely has its limitations, and I never listen to it in the house. Note that MP3 is a compressed format. In fact it is "lossy" compression, which means that the compression algorithm throws out what it thinks you won't notice. Well, you do notice, especially over time and especially with classical or orchestral music.

As someone with audiophile tendencies, I am very sympathetic to your issue. (As an aside, if you ever get a chance, listen to some superaudio CDs on a good system. They make regular CDs sound like 78's in comparison. But I digress.)

One of the ways to overcome the iPod limitations is to always rip CDs at the maximum quality. They will take up more space, but the sound will be better. Or, you could lug around your CDs in one of those cases that holds just the cd, and not the liner notes or jewel box, and get a Wave Radio, as you appear to be preparing to investigate. In an acoustically bright Mexican house, you may find that the Wave Radio gives you lot more sound than anyone could have imagined.

And I'm with Babs. If it is something you really like, well, haul it with you. You'll be retired, and enjoying yourself will become job #1. Music is key to that. Further, it can't take more than an hour or so to set up your stereo system. And I also suspect that after a few moves, you will be ready to settle somewhere anywhere.

Anyway, I'm droning on. Best wishes for continued musical satisfaction.

Fond regards,

Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we fortunately have one of the top symphonies in the country, but oddly enough, no opera.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- I was under the impression that Edith Wharton single-handedly killed opera in Boston. Wadda gal!

For now, I will have enough room to take along DVDs and CDs. But, you are correct, when I get ready for the final move, I may drag along my ancient, but beloved, equipment.

Anonymous said...

Plz forgive me,I am doing the unforgivable but I know of no other way get help.

When I connect to "Staring at Strangers" I get "internet explorer script error" & my laptop freezes up and have to reboot.

Could someone help me.

I am very sorry Steve.I promise to never hijack again.


Steve Cotton said...

Corrine -- No problem about hijacking. I am just not certain anyone will see it opn this older post. As for me, I have no idea about the error message. However, I have seen the message as I surfed at sites during the last week.