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Monday, August 5, 2013

An #Acoustic Address by John von Daler


                  Let's get something straight: when you hear an "unplugged" guitar play on television, you are not hearing what it really sounds like. When you put on a cd with Casals playing unaccompanied Bach (please do!), you are not hearing his wonderful cello, despite your spiffy, 3 million watt, surround me here and there, I cain't give you nuthin' but vibes sound system. Acoustic music is what you hear when you hear the instrument or voice without enlargement, enhancement, magnification, or amplification. Acoustic means from ear to eternity.
                On Broadway in the nineteen fifties I saw West Side Story. Neither the singers nor the orchestra were amplified, and it sounded wonderful, even in the cheapy, third balcony seat I had. Broadway singers used to have a special quality to their voices: unlike singers who were recording specialists they could lift up a melody and lob it to you in the back row. And it still sounded magnificent.
                In Venice a few years ago I heard a young man play The Four Seasons in an elegant, high-ceilinged room close to the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge. He meant business. It was like hearing Mark Twain recite Huckleberry Finn on a steamboat in the Mississippi: This is my town, my music, my story, and my sound! Now sit down, shut up and enjoy it!
             His version of the piece was aggressive, probably too fast and extremely beautiful, almost painfully beautiful - and, of course, entirely without amplification.
                On returning to Copenhagen I rushed into our apartment and put on a CD with a highly touted version of Vivaldi's all-time hit. I had to turn it off. Too flat, too distant, too dead.
                I guess I am recommending getting back to basics. Listen to some real music once in a while. Take an acoustic "shower" and rinse your ears of all that noise. (Later you can turn on some Jimi, just to keep things in balance.)
                I wrote a pantomime with music in the beginning of this century. A little quartet played my score from a balcony above the audience - and without amplification. That is the best - and only - way to hear acoustic music. Do you read me loud and clear? 

               

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