26 June, 2011

Audiophiles in Illness - Music as Therapy

Editor's Note: Audiophiles in Illness - Music as Therapy
Why do we listen to music?

For Robin

When I recently came back from NYC, I called my friend Robin the Scot. We chatted about audio for a while, when he said "...by the way, I am in Queen Mary Hospital..."

Robin was besieged by what has only now been confirmed to be a serious illness. I'd not expound too much on that, what I want to examine is his response on that day, so typical of him. First, chatting with me as we used to, on unfinished business (in audio), then letting me know about the news, as a gentleman would do.

Before all this happened, he and his wife had just bought a dream house on a hill in Taipei. They are now in Taipei, taking care of that matter. Robin is also receiving treatment in Taipei, so we would not be seeing him for a while here. What I do want to report here is one of the first things Robin did over there - putting together an audio system. Robin wrote me:

"...just yesterday I finally got a second system up and running here in our Taiwan house. It consists of Usher S520 speakers + matching 330 stands (all bought new the other day), an Usher AU7500 integrated amp (ditto), my Nakamichi 600 cassette deck, your Scott FM radio, a Sony S370 Blu-ray player (which can also play SACDs etc), an LG hi-def TV set, and complete internet TV package from 中华电信. It can't compare to our HK audio setup, of course, but it makes really quite nice sounds and it's a lot of fun to play with. And I love being able to watch the performance in full HD while listening to the music through a half-decent sound system..."

Robin's email got my thoughts shooting off in all directions. Central to all this is that a music lover cannot live without music. But then, are audiophiles always music lovers? Why do we listen to music? Is there anything that makes audiophiles different in illness? Using the 2 short phrases of the title of this article, plus a few others, I did some Google searches.

Audiophiles in Illness Google search: Audiophiles in Illness not surprisingly turns out many articles about how sick we are as audiophiles, but nothing on how we behave in physical illness. I can only tell you what I do. If I don't feel too well, or just feeling down, I do listen to music, which usually makes me feel better. But when really seriously ill, like in fever, I tend not to, as listening to music does take effort and concentration. I think Robin's illness is fortunately not making him too sick physically, and his ability to enjoy music is intact. As for music as therapy, I am sure we all think so, hence no need to search on that.

Why do we listen to music? Google search: Why do we listen to music? turns out quite a few side-tracking but interesting articles which you may want to peruse. Most pertinent to audiophilia is this article on Why Do So Many Smart People Listen to Such Terrible Music? I have to say I enjoyed it much.

I often ask people if they would choose to watch a comedy or a sad movie when they feel sad. Most people opt for comedies, but I know when I am sad I prefer the latter. Here is an article on Why do we listen to sad music when we are sad, which uses the siege of Leningrad as an illustration.

Who is your friend in audio?
Like in many hobbies, we make many acquaintances in audio, but few real friends, On the audio internet, we see marauding squads engaged in all manners of slander and fighting, in the name of friendship; we see people leaving a forum en mass under the pretext of bondage; we even see people getting close to others only to make money off them. All these behaviors all have nothing to do with friendship, far from it.

You may have read my Yumcha Diaries. Let me tell you, although we may do some home visits afterwards, during the lunch we almost never talked about audio. To me, friends talk about the awful political climate that is choking us, debate on government policies and consult on personal difficulties etc. We do sometimes talk about the CDs we like, for the love of music. But audio, not that much.

An audio friend is one who you can learn from and rely on in matters of music and audio. While I may have led Robin towards his Yamaha speakers, Robin has done far more for me by restoring my Garrard and opening my ears to reel-to-reel. And we can really talk, about politics or classical music or whatever. One doesn't meet many friends like that on the audiophile path. We all need more friends like him, so Robin,
Get Well Soon!

If you wish to re-cap some of my time spent with Robin, just search for "Robin" in the right-hand column and those articles shall out.

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