January 13, 2016
I am listening to Music From Big Pink by The Band today because David Bowie died. The connection is not as convoluted as it might seem. David Bowie’s musical language is not one I understand. There is just too much great music in the world for the amount of time we have and his doesn’t connect with me. But I have a very close friend who is mourning the loss of one of his favorite musicians today and so, in sympathy for him, that connects me directly with similar loss in my musical world.
The Band consisted of five members, three of whom sang, and, man, did they sing! Those three are dead. The other two are alive. I mourned each passing, first Manuel, the shocker, in 1986; then Danko in late 1999, which I heard on the radio as I was driving my new minivan to a job site in the early years of Ultra Fidelis. And, finally, Levon in 2012, mere weeks after my girlfriend and I had seen him perform at Northern Lights, obviously running on empty, but still pouring out emotion, both with his drum kit and his faltering voice. We knew seeing him that it was a matter of time, and not much at that, and we felt we got to go out gently with him in a way. But it still hurt a lot as the last great voice of this group was gone.
Saturday I parted with my personal AudioQuest Diamond USB cable for a customer who wanted one on the spot. I brought home a demo Carbon, lesser, version to hold me over until my replacement arrives tomorrow. But I also brought home the demo 3 meter Diamond “just in case.” Turns out that was a good move because I need it. Today, I need to get really close to the music, and voices, of The Band. And Carbon doesn’t cut it. As good as it is, and as easy as it is for many to be skeptical about what the contribution of a USB cable could possibly be to the emotional impact of music, it doesn’t work today.
Some may say this makes me an audio snob, a HI-FI geek, one who misses the forest for the trees. I think it’s exactly the opposite. This is what makes great music reproduction systems a necessity, not a luxury, for many of us. Doing everything we can to make the equipment disappear and the music makers reappear in our rooms, our heads, lets every stinging or joyful moment unfold in full measure and immeasurably enriches the experience.
I need everything Diamond elicits from these recordings that are so meaningful to me. I am listening to The Band, but, even more, I am communing with my friend who misses David Bowie as I miss The Band, and I must have every last drop of their expression. Today, when it comes to music in my home, everything matters.