Herb Reichert – Learning to Listen Page 3

Folks, the only good reason to spend audiophile money on a stereo is to gift yourself the opportunity of experiencing as much as you can of the art and sound of humans playing handcrafted musical instruments. So let us begin these exercises.

Track one, “Sandovsko Horo” begins with Milcho Leviev’s right hand tap dancing a Gershwin-Like rhythm on the far right upper registers of the piano.

Track two, “Minor’s Boogie” opens with Milcho’s left hand delivering a simple deliberate-sounding boogie rhythm, which soon enough is accompanied by a capricious boogie melody from the right hand.

Track three, “Beep Bop” begins with both hands in the middle of the piano.

Play these three improvisations several times listening only for a sense of the piano’s keyboard and soundboard. Can you sense their location and physicality? This can be subtle to discern, but once you start noticing it, its like steak and whisky, it makes your gut feel good and runs straight through your bloodstream.

Next find the spaced omnidirectional microphones – which seem to me to be about six feet high, about five feet apart, and about four feet behind Milcho.

Next, listen for the reverberating space between the notes. Can you sense the expansion of harmonic energies mapping the room boundaries? A sense of walls or floor? Try to decode the sounds you are hearing in a way that diagrams Milcho at the keyboard, the piano soundboard, the microphones, and the room boundaries.

Once you can sense these things, you have become a genuine sophisticated listener; but not yet a connoisseur of piano recordings; nor a reliable audio-critical listener. Those abilities will take time to develop.

Everything I am saying is based on a single concept: You can’t hear what you are not listening for. I am simply asking you to listen for the reality of a temporal event that was captured by two microphones and a digital recorder.

Notice that I am asking you to listen mindfully. Attempting only to notice the sound energies emitted by a single musical instrument vibrating in real time in a real space. I am not asking you assess the quality or quantity of this vibratory event. You can’t really listen if critical thinking is distracting you. Mindful listening is purely passive and objective. It is a radically different act than critical listening or listening mindlessly for dissociative reasons. But like I said earlier: mastery of these exercises is a 100 per cent necessary foundation for developing our abilities as critical or comparative listeners. And folks, what IS an audiophile if not a critical and comparative listener?

rt66indierock's picture

I prefer my musical art to come from things like Marshal amps.

If you're at RMAF I'll have my list of three consumer D/A converters that in my opinion have stood the test of time.

dleroy's picture

Probably the most useful single article I've ever read on an audio website. Thank you; it will be a lot to live up to.

fishstick's picture

more like a trip to the urologist than anything remotely pleasurable like listening to music. But if your intent was to induce empathy for the strain of writing about audio equipment, mission accomplished!

morrismrinak's picture

Thank you for a listening concept that can be passed on to my friends. Sound advice indeed.