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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for Sept. 26, 2001

After the horrific loss of life two weeks ago it may seem beside the point to honor two recently departed figures in music and audio who had no immediate connections to the tragedy. In our world of music and sound though, they were very important, and thus the following two items:

Violinist Isaac Stern Dead at 81

Isaac Stern, who died last Saturday, was one of the last great violinists of his generation and concertized throughout the world. Composer Virgil Thomson had dubbed him "one of the world's master fiddle players." Moreover, he was among the most-recorded classical performers in the history of recorded music. Stern was short and rotund with pudgy hands and his rich violin tone was put to the service of a wide variety of music from Bach to 20th century composers. He traveled the world and sponsored other younger performers in their careers, including Perlman and Zukerman. He is also the single person responsible for saving Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball by rallying fellow artists and benefactors to get legislation passed enabling New York City to acquire the building in l960.

Stern was a tireless support of Israel and refused to perform in only one country - Germany - until 1999 when he gave a teaching seminar, saying "It isn't very human not to give people a chance to change." While performing in Israel during the Gulf War his entire audience was wearing gas masks but Stern refused to wear one. At his peak of activity Stern performed more than 200 concerts a year, played in films, and was the subject of a documentary a decade ago about his tutoring in China following the Cultural Revolution.

Harvey Rosenberg, RIP

On July 19, 2001 Harvey Rosenberg left this planet.... That's how my eulogy always begins. Many rough drafts later I find I really cannot do justice---the subject is simply too large. How does one encapsulate the most prolific audio writer of the past decade?

One might complain that much of Harvey's "spiel" was repetitive, that it was obscure or "over the top," but that would miss the fact that he was just as often virtuosic in his wordplay.

A visionary thinker in Jester's garb, Harvey spent the last phase of his audio life pushing a program of reform in the high-end. And he did it in full public view. Harvey was a very post-modern guy.

At his best, Harvey was a persuasive (if not entirely concise) proponent of an alternative point of view. One might be tempted to say: the "female POV," since all of Harvey's trademark male stereotype posturing was clearly meant to clue us in on how ignorant we males are of the female POV.

But Harvey's program did more than just incorporate the female POV. Harvey's program was about learning to use our hi-fi systems to inspire ourselves; to move ourselves; to generate ecstatic states of mind. Harvey's work was a blueprint for manifesting these goals. For Harvey, a hi-fi system is the essential enabling tool of human life.

Such, in any case, is my POV re: Harvey Rosenberg. But perhaps the best way to "explain" Harvey's POV is to let Harvey himself do it. I quote from Harvey's final chapter [of his book], his "review of arguments":

Argument No. 1:

"Creating a state-of-the-art sound system is a typical male "monumental" activity, which is oftentimes perplexing, painful, and filled with the drama that is typical of archetypal heroic journeys of self-discovery."

Argument no. 2:

"The goal of this activity is ecstatic union with music, which is one of the most effective and reliable forms of spiritual renewal a man can pursue."

Argument no. 9:

"Contemplate your own death. Have the courage to tremble with your mortality. The only thing between you and musical ecstasy is the ON switch."

And finally, the real point of it all (think big, REALLY big):

The Design Goal:

"Why not have as a goal...are you ready for this...the authentic reproduction of THE VOICE OF GOD in our living rooms?"


--From The Search for Musical Ecstasy, 1993, www.meta-gizmo com/

- Scott Frankland


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