“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” Martin Mull, 1979.
“Writing about music is as illogical as singing about economics,” The New Republic, February 1918.
All of the other fine arts – painting, photography, poetry, prose, theater, sculpture and so on – can be described in logical terms so that someone unfamiliar with the work can get an idea of what the work is all about. Music is different. To an audience of one thousand people, a song may very well have 1,000 different interpretations. To a world-wide audience, a song has as many different meanings and emotional results as there are listeners. Art is subjective because it is personal and no other artform is as intimate as music. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, but the magic of art exists in our ears.
‘Of all art, music is the most indefinable and the most expressive, the most insubstantial and the most immediate, the most transitory and the most imperishable. Transformed to a dance of electrons along a wire, its ghost lives on. When KEF returns music to its rightful habituation, your ears and mind, they aim to do so in the most natural way they can – without drama, without exaggeration, without artifice.’ - Raymond Cooke OBE, Founder of KEF, and the father of modern loudspeaker design.
The entire home audio industry exists for one purpose – to capture a performance, store it and make it available for the rest of us to enjoy. For thousands of years, musical performances lasted for only a brief moment in time, to live on solely in the memory of those fortunate enough to hear the performance. We take recorded music for granted, but it truly is a magical thing. Whether a finely captured video performance of your favorite artist, or a song built painstakingly in a recording studio, with the right equipment we all have the opportunity to hear a song as the artist intended.
Music is a personal journey, one that begins the day you hear your first song and continues with you forever after. Music reminds us of who we are, where we come from, who we want to be, and what we want out of life. A sculpture captures a singular moment in time, a painting captures the essence of the artist’s imagination, a good novel carries us away temporarily. But a song does all of that and one other magical thing – it becomes a part of your emotions and memories. When you hear a passage from your favorite book your response is logical, but you don’t relive the story – you are not transported anywhere. Music is the noise of the Universe. Pick an emotion and you already have a song to cover it. Pick a feeling or a state of mind, and you have a personal library of go-to songs waiting to take you there. That playlist in your mind is yours and yours alone – it is as unique in the world as you are. Try that with a painting. And today, with high-resolution streaming and the amazing availability of high-quality music, we can have the true beauty and essence of music at the click of a mouse.
But why hi-fi?
Because we cheat ourselves when we deny our ears and minds the full beauty of music. When listening to music without all of the nuance and magic, the full story isn’t told. Music lives and breathes in air, it is designed to envelope us fully. When we don’t give our music the full chance to exist before us, we might as well throw the experience away. Music is not meant to be a mere background to life. That’s not to say you can’t get the same joy listening to the right song at the right time on a smart speaker – you can. But a steady diet of lo-fi makes the soul hunger for something it may not even be able to define. We know there is more to our music – and we crave it – but until we hear it in all its glory and beauty, we can’t know what we are missing. The beautiful thing is, once you hear music as it was meant to be heard it suddenly exists with all the beauty and majesty your mind hoped it would have.
That’s why hi-fi. Music is an essential part of life. It may be the soundtrack to our lives, but we cheat ourselves when we merely make it the background of our lives. Twenty minutes of great sounding music a day can solve more problems than pretty much anything else. When played back to its fullest potential music returns the magic to our lives.
And couldn’t we all use a little more magic in our lives?