Boyhood and Classical

When I was a boy, my mother used to sing in a choir. She would go to evening practices and perform classical pieces such as Handel’s ‘Messiah’. At the time it was not so obvious what the appeal was. I could see how the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones had an effect, but the slower and more formal music seemed all too stuffy, dull and boring. My friend and I were once dragged to a concert which we filmed, adding a tagline to the video which read “Party Time” sarcastically. We were bored boys.

Nowadays I am just beginning to understand the appeal of classical music. It can be magnificient. Uplifting. Lush.

One thing it requires is patience. If you can turn on a piece of classical music and just sit still and listen, before you know it you are loving the feelings, emotions, harmonies. Like a painting laid out infront of you it becomes the only thing that you have in your head. Sometimes it takes away the rest of the world. These moments are just lovely and unique to the genre for me.

I have just found Spotify’s Classical section and highly recommend the following playlist:

Dining Room (a study)

This wasn’t always a dining room. In fact, like a pimply-faced teenager this room is not quite sure of what it is yet. The dinner table gives some structure and purpose, but there are also bedside tables in the corners, a bean bag at one end, and what was designed to be an office cabinet along the wall. My fish in his tank greets me each morning for food. I assume he is a he, and not a she. More confusion in an adolescent room.

The light in here is lovely in the mornings. While the air is still cool, the sun pours in to light up the dining table for breakfast time. Strangely we never take advantage of this as we are generally in too much of a rush to sit down and eat in the morning.

There is also a door in one of the walls, next to the bean bag. This leads straight onto a flight of stairs and is remarkable for not having a landing. Instead one has to step up into the open door at a different level to the room. Perhaps not the best design, and apparently illegal for health and safety reasons. Oh well. The teenager stumbles through life until it figures out what it wants to be.

When we first moved in, this was my music room. My favorite room at the time, I filled it with jazz, rock, blues. There were movies and computer games. Speakers and amplifiers. A turntable and cds littered the floor. These days my beautiful children turn it into something different every day. Sometimes it is a race track for scooters, sometimes a camp site, a beach, a mountain top for epic adventures. Sometimes we even eat at the table. I’m just glad my amps and speakers are not in here.

Waste, tension, and music

The garden waste piles up each week in the corner of the property. Each time the gardener cuts the grass, sweeps up the leaves, or cuts down a branch he puts the waste into bags, and these bags pile up until a truck is organized to cart it off for composting. As the owner of the property this system can stress me out. Watching the relentless growing piles of waste sometimes feels like one of those awkward “white lie” situations – you know the one – you’ve told a little lie or made a transgression which is never confessed. The lie gets bigger and bigger, worse and worse until there is inevitably a release. Either you and your lie are found out, or you tell the truth. The pickup truck taking the waste away feels like eventually telling the truth.

Great music is just like my home’s waste management system. When a song is well written, a tension builds for the listener. The verse builds up to the chorus. The verse places bags of musical notes and dead ends in the corner of the listener’s head. Repeated phrases and hooks. A story in need of some resolution. Eventually the tension is too great and a switch to the chorus is like a clearing out of all the accumulated rubbish. The verse is the lie and the chorus is the truth.

This is most obvious for me in blues music. Think of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man”. The verse is simple and repetitive to the point of ridicule. The harmonica’s five notes over and over moaning and groaning that Something huge is coming. Trust me he’s coming. Gypsy woman told my momma. Muddy is coming. Just now……Wait for it. It’s almost unbearable until Muddy grants us sweet relief with “But you know I’m here!” The chorus plays and all the rubbish in our mind is cleared away. Then the cycle starts again with verse 2. What a song.

Inputs and outputs

I set up my third (I know!) Amplifier today in the man cave. It is the only Grade A amp I own and it is now doing the LP player duties. This means my streaming amp has been relegated to an “Input AUX” on the class A amp. Audio talk, but it got me thinking about priorities.

If you have many responsibilities in your life, and you are struggling to handle all the input signals and get all the outputs you want – then maybe you need to focus on the quality / important inputs and relegate the other stuff. Sort out the important things first and only then look to do anything else.

At the moment, my life is a list of important things and little time for recreation. Being conscientious and organised about priorities is perhaps one of the hardest things for me, but when I do it, it reaps instant rewards.

In the audio analogy, I sorted out the wheat from the chaff, the high res from the low bitrate, the analogue from the digital, the good from the crap – and this means I am now experiencing the best audio source (LP’s) through the best amplifier, and the others are taking a back seat for another day.

It’s not much of an analogy, but the bigger point is that life is about options and sacrifice. You have to choose your sacrifice. Choose it wisely and complete the plan. Then reassess.

That’s the plan.

Happy Thursday chimps.

New Years purge

We are purging our cupboards on the first day of the year. Although it wasn’t planned for this exact day, the timing feels extremely cathartic and right.

We will send our old clothes to one of the multitude of needy causes nearby. Africa does not struggle when it comes to charities and needy folk, unfortunately.

The purge is also spreading to my man cave/office which is chock full of my stuff….this includes all the coolest stuff (posters, guitars, Hifi amps and speakers) and all the junk I have collected over the years (old battery chargers anyone?)

If you are looking for something to do to start the new year right, I’d highly recommend a purge.

Happy New Years chimps!

Hifi Inventory 1 – Amplifiers

1. Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amp. A beautiful addition to your desktop. It suits the Apple aesthetic and it will crank any headphones you can throw at it. Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA.

2. Onkyo TX8270 Stereo amp / network receiver. This is what powers our TV setup. It is a bit of an overkill at the moment considering the majority of our TV watching these days consists of “Pippa Pig”, “Puffin Rock” and “Llama Llama”. But I digress – this thing will give you any music you can think of, from Spotify Connect to Tidal to TuneIn radio, it will stream from the net. Then there is the DSD option, Bluetooth…basically anything you can think of. And it’s powerful enough for most speakers. Onkyo | TX-8270

3. Denon DM41 mini Hifi. This is a beauty for bookshelf or desktop in a small room. CDs and other inputs and Bluetooth make it very flexible – it sounds amazing too. Highly recommended. Denon D-M41DAB review | What Hi-Fi?

4. HRT MicroStreamer. This thing is a portable Amp and DAC to improve the sound from your laptop or cellphone. It certainly sounds good hooked up to the Asgard, but I am not sure if it is any better than the laptop’s internal system. Either way. Hifi marketing works on me. HRT microStreamer review | What Hi-Fi?

5. Musical Fidelity A1 stereo Amp – this one I got second hand from a wheeler dealer who sold me on the sound by hooking it up to an insane set of speakers. I couldn’t afford the speakers but the old map was doable. It’s (supposedly) a Class A amp which means a better build and sound. I need to get some speakers to really test it. Musical Fidelity A1 › Introduction

Hifi Inventory

Hifi equipment seems to grow in the corners of my house like a sort of ‘metal and wires’ fungus. It drives my wife crazy, but I can’t get enough of it. You see, setting up Hifi systems is strangely soothing to my mind. It gives me an escape from the jungle of life, and of course it gives me music.

To keep track of this (expensive) habit, I am starting a new section under the menu and widgets section (top right of the chimpwithcans.com webpage). “Hifi Inventory” will keep track of what I have and what I lust after. Maybe it will help me keep track of spending too!

What do you collect? Is it creating more of a jungle in your life? Or is it somehow helping you escape?

Designers on Instagram

Good design can help you escape your own personal jungle. These are some of the cool people I follow on Instagram for design stuff:

Studio Dylan Thomaz: @studio.dylan.thomaz – interior design in Cape Town SA with a focus on happiness through design.

Tone Alexander Design Studio: @tonealexander – Interiors and gardens designed locally here in Cape Town.

Fern & Roby: @fernandroby – Industrial design and Audio (speakers and turntables mainly) and beautiful furniture made in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

Happy Tuesday Chimps.