Once again, a calendar year has passed almost like a ship in the night. Normally we only look at today, with a little at tomorrow. Life and especially lifetime is too precious to spoil it on things of the past. When you make sure to leave no loose ends, the past becomes the stable foundation of today. For us, this gives way to enjoy all the new things coming at us. Though not easy, trying to be as open to the world and its wonders as a child makes room for curiosity - curiosity for new insights, feelings and impressions that expand the already acquired. Following this are the opportunities of meeting people who are just as curious. Then an interaction starts between being and getting curious. Curious people often create products -- artworks for instance -- that trigger curiosity in others. This curiosity often comes from the unsettling nature of the product. It begs to be understood, taken care of. The word curious after all has its roots in the Latin cura for care.
From curiosity, it is a small step to a book by Albert Rothenberg, a psychiatrist who studied the mind of the creative person. In his book The Emerging Goddess, he describes how ideas emerge like a goddess in the minds of creative people. In Rothenberg's view, creative people are blessed with a "tolerance for ambiguity" or Janusian thinking. When using Janusian thinking, a person can actively experience two contradicting ideas, images or concepts. The old Roman god of guards, Janus, had two faces 180 degrees opposed. Rothenberg gives a few examples of this kind of open thinking. Albert Einstein saw in his mind an image of a man falling off a roof and at the same time throwing up a ball. He wondered how it was possible that there was motion -- the falling man -- and the ball apparently stationary and frozen in opposing motion. Another example is Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Here Rothenberg points to the smile of La Gioconda as being both innocent and seductive at the same time. These contradictions can also be called paradoxes.
When we return to audio, this being an audio-related site after all, we can in hindsight discover quite a few paradoxes in the subjects we reviewed this year. We also discovered that the so-called audio community at times is vehemently intolerant to new ideas and concepts being discussed. Here an open mind, let alone Janusian thinking, are alien concepts for those who base their opinion on past experience only to basically be stuck in time.
We started 2007 with a contribution about photon cannons. After the Japanese invention of the Nespa series of high-intensity light-emitting optical disk treatments, a different usage of the Intelligent Chip added further controversy. Using the Intelligent Chip without its orange casing and placing it inside the CDP's well changed its workings dramatically from zero impact to akin to the Nespa effect. Both treatments once again proved how music storage in digital form is beleaguered by plenty of analog -- mechanical -- factors. The article was good for plenty of wasted bytes on forums and in our personal junk filter. Then we topped the series with a review of the Intelligent Box, a spinoff of the Intelligent Chip now combining a bigger capacity of light emitters and a battery-fed light source in a box. It worked like a jiffy and many disks have been treated since, all with improved sound quality just like Nespa does.
Now getting more and more accepted even by rigid tube-only aficionados is the concept of Class D amplification. We were lucky to spend some time with Kharma's Matrix MP150 and found it so good as to mandate a Blue Moon Award. The cooperation between Kharma's Charles van Oosterum and design maverick Bruno Putzeys resulted in state-of-the-art proof that Class D can be as musical as tubes without any power constraints. Combining such a high-quality 150-watt amplifier with very high-sensitive loudspeakers created another paradox but made great music.
|Great music playback at home begs for room treatments. In this area, another heavily debated, ridiculed, trashed, threat-inducing and crap-raising product was on our list. We are talking about Franck Tchang's Acoustic System resonators. The minute metal bowls stirred up a lot of confusion among the a-priori skeptics mostly based on their size/price balance. Those who witnessed the outcome of a room treated with just one of these devices remained perhaps still somewhat reluctant but based on what they heard, were simultaneously convinced that 'it' works. What and how the 'it' goes about its business still remains a subject of study but so does gravity. One thing we know for sure - it has to do with air pressure. Resonators were installed both in Holland and in Cyprus for this project and the coverage of the process had to be penned in cooperation with 6moons' editor. The result was a massive article that only could be published in an online publication.|
|Another result of at least Janusian thinking are the Podium Sound loudspeakers we welcomed in our place. A large stiff panel is excited by a handful of drivers in such a way that a chaotic bending-wave pattern is induced. From this chaos, very life-like music emerges that at first challenges the cognitive senses. The diffuse image, the total lack of compression and the great dynamic range that these panels may call their features is in contrast with their visual appearance. It takes a while to switch the grey matter into correct gear to fully appreciate their different way of doing stereo. After hundreds of hours listening to them now, we call them the most organic speakers we've heard thus far.
|In the software area, we found so much great-sounding music that it is hard to pick just a few albums that stood out above the outstanding. Forced to name names, we come up with the probably best Rosenberg Trio recording ever, Roots. The trio has found a superb addition in clarinetist Bernard Berkhout and with him a much more intense and emotional way of playing. Though Stochelo is still a wizard on the strings, he now replaced physical exuberance with more spiritual content. Each note has its own diction and emotion and is no longer a mere start for the next. Another emotionally rich issue this year was Ojos de Brujo's Techari Live. As this CD comes with a complementary DVD with the concert performance, this album offers a chance to see the band at work. If one band can make a party on stage, it is Ojos. Even Neil Young issued a CD-with-DVD album this year. Chrome Dreams II is the partial reconstruction of the never officially released Chrome Dreams LP of 1977. Play this 2007 CD after you've played Harvest -- from LP if possible - and enter the time-warp. The DVD is crap with merely a slide show of paintings and the music is in DVD-V audio quality. 2007 also brought a load of classical music into our home from early music to modern classics like Part and Schnittke. We can blame the wonderful rendition of -- except for Schnittke's electric guitar addition -- acoustic music by the Podium Sound panels for this.
For next year, there are already a handful of results of out-of-the box paradoxical thinking knocking on our doors. We shall see, about hate mail, mind trips and wonderful surprises...