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No. 160 September 2017

WE ARE AUDIOPHILES AND ARE PROUND OF IT
or an audiophile in a reading room: record covers

his is probably a coincident, but the previous article of this type, the one about books enriching our audio knowledge, was published exactly three years ago, on September the 1st, 2014 (No. 124, see HERE). I wrote about the The Absolute Sound's Illustrated History of High-End Audio. Volume One: Loudspeakers edited by Robert Harley (Nextscreen, Austin 2014), a fantastic journey through the vinyl records collections titled Dust & Grooves. Adventures in Record Collecting by Eilon Paz (Dust & Grooves, New York, 2014), but also about new book by Marek Karewicz. Bartosz Pacuła (MusicToThePeople.pl) wrote about Pink Floyd's biography and the autobiographies of Johnny Cash and Tomasz Stańko. Let's add that in January 2013 we wrote about audio magazines (No. 104, see HERE).

It might seem that reading books about music and audio components is not what every audiophile has to do, because after all this hobby is about listening to the music and having fun with the system that plays it for us. Not every "hobby" requires additional effort to gain more knowledge on the subject, one can simply learn by experience, right? Well, no - because being an audiophile is more than a hobby, it's a lifestyle. In the last issue of "Stereophile", Jason Victor Serinus reminded us of this in his article titled Enough with the Hobby Already:

“Allison, a longtime audio retailer who spent three decades as front singer for the Bourgeois Blues Band, summarizes the study's message thusly: "Music is an integral part of the good life, like good water and food. Raise your music-intake quality up to the level of the rest of your lifestyle and your whole life gets upgraded."
[…]
With a paradigm shift from hobby to life enhancement, our industry will soon discover new life in those old audiophile bones, and a new way to share the truth that better-quality music playback equals better-quality lives.

Jason Victor Serinus, Enough with the Hobby Already, „Stereophile”, Vol. 40, August 2017, No. 8, p. 3

Although over the years, what we do, the pursuit of the best, most accurate reproduction of a music recordings has been considered to be a fun for big boys, and - just - a hobby, it actually was just an attempt to push something that most people couldn't understand to the fringe area of human life. And what better way to get rid of something like that than to label it a hobby? If you think about it for a moment and realize how much effort, passion and time, and last but not least, also how much money we invest in this aspect of our lives, you will understand that Serinus is right that this is simply an integral part of who we are, and for many of us it is a very important part.

The more so, that music is not only what we listen to, but a lot of knowledge about it. As well as knowledge about different album releases. Thanks to that we can enter a whole new area of art: the so-called applied graphics. It's time to admit that I was inspired to write this editorial by the fantastic album titled: Art Record Covers about vinyl record covers. Before we move on to it, before I mention a few other equally interesting publications related to album covers, let me tell you about other book about audio components that in my opinion every audiophile should have in his/her collection.

LINN. THE LEARNING JOURNEY TO MAKE BETTER SOUND.
ed. Stereo Sound, Linn Products, Tokyo 2014

This is a monograph on the Scottish company Linn. It was released in Japan, in Japanese, by the Stereo Sound, one of the most important audio magazines in the world. For the great majority of us the written word will remain a mystery, unless you can speak, or rather read Japanese. However, it is worth to have this publication because of the included photographs – I've never seen most of them before. The book was published with a hard, monochrome cover featuring sort of color "obi". The book looks very elegant and will be a star of your collection.
linn.co.uk

Bill Philpot, Paul Messenger, Roy Gandy
A VIBRATION MEASURING MACHINE
Rega Research, Essex 2016

This is story of the Rega company told by three people - its founder, Roy Gandy, Paul Messenger, a longtime journalist (also chief editor) of the “Hi-Fi news”, “HiFi Choice” and now “HiFiCTRITIC”, and Bill Philphota. Three "tenors" divided the score between themselves in such a way that, in the section titled Book One: The Company, Bill describes the story of Rega, and in part Book Two: The Engineering Messenger, asking Gandy questions in this regard, describes technical aspects of this company's products, while at the same time sharing a lot of knowledge about the technique behind playing vinyl records.

The book features a hard cover, is quite thick (314 pages) and extremely interesting. The first part reads like a good thriller with sudden twists of action and the other one has to be read several times to understand exactly what it is about. There are many very interesting images, illustrations and drawings in there, which is another huge advantage of this publication. My only complaint was that I was missing some keynote in the iconography, i.e. some key to its choice. In addition to the many unique photos, also "basic" photos, for example of all turntable models in chronological order would be appreciated. There are also no factual indexes and names, which bothered me in the publication so rich with information. Maybe it can be fixed in the next edition.

Here and now it is a gold-mine of knowledge about the company and its products and the technology behind the LP playback. It's one of the most interesting publications of its kind, which should sit on a shelf alongside the Ken Kessler's monograph on QUAD, KEF and McIntosh. rega.co.uk

Francesco Spampinato, red. Julius Wiedemann
ART RECORD COVERS
Taschen, Köln 2017

The latest book about vinyl album covers has the size of the so-called "coffee table book", which means it is not suitable for holding it in one's hands. Its dimensions are identical to a LP cover, i.e. 12 x 12 inches, it is thick (448 pages) and quite heavy. The album was beautifully prepared by the German publisher Taschen, specializing in this type of books. The Art ... is divided into two parts - the first one where we find interviews with six artists, cover authors and the other one, where specific examples of artistic album covers are presented along with their brief description.

Unlike other books of this type, simply cataloging covers by title or artist, this one focuses on the so-called contemporary art taking into account its most important trends, which are reflected in the album artwork. On the front cover one finds the 1986 portrait of John Lennon by Andy Warhol, which could suggest rather easy, light reading – after all, the pop art has long been a part of the mainstream and we are familiar with it.

In fact, we are dealing with a much deeper and multidimensional content. We find there names known from contemporary art exhibitions, from museums of this type, and of those who are just at the beginning of their road... One can read about such artists as: Pablo Picasso (Francesco Geminiani etc.), Jeremy Blake (Back), Banksy (Blur), Noboyoshi Arami (Björk), and there is even a place for a Pole, Wilhelm Sasnal and his cover for Farewell to the world by 19 wiosen. The index of all surnames, names and titles occupies four pages! It is difficult reading, and one needs to spend rather long hours on it not just read it from time to time by short fragments. The selection and description of the material make it one of the most valuable publications of its kind. A must have!

CLASSIQUE. COVER ART FOR CLASSICAL MUSIC
red. Horst Scherg, Gestalten, Berlin 2008

This is not a recent publication, as it was released in 2008, but I could not resist presenting it to you. The great majority of albums and works related to the art of music album covers concern jazz and popular music, or the blues. The German publisher Gestalten has prepared an extremely elegant, well-printed monograph of the artwork from classical music records. The curator responsible for the selection was Dr. Horst Schreg, a collector and erudite.

As he wrote in the introduction, he wanted to document the most interesting, most inspirational covers of his international collection of classical music, half of which came from countries omitted by other authors. In addition to the "big" labels such as: Decca, EMI, RCA Victor, Capitol, Columbia, Mercury, Philips, Deutsche Grammophon etc. we can also find iconography from such labels as: Melodiya, Supraphon, Norsk Kulturfond as well as Polskie Nagrania "Muza". By the way, let me point out that the author uses the wrong name of this Polish label, calling it Muza.

The material was grouped by date of release - there are chapters devoted to the 1950s and first half of the 1960s - as well as by the cover themes. At the end there is a rich iconography and a description of the record labels. The artwork photos came from the author's private collection, so these are real depictions of these covers corrected in Photoshop. The author's idea was to present as many photos as possible, so their description was shortened to the absolute minimum.

Each two pages feature on average four to six covers. In the end, the author publishes an album index, a short bibliography, and addresses of some recommended web pages. I'd like to recommend the Classique. Cover Art For Classical Music mainly due to the big number of album covers that you won't find anywhere else.

ANTOLOGIA POLSKIEJ MUZYKI ELEKTRONICZNEJ
ed. Marek Horodniczy, Narodowe Centrum Kultury, Warszawa 2016

Finally, let me share a few words about a very nice music related publication – the Anthology of Polish Electronic Music edited by Marek Horodniczy (in Polish). On 192 pages he presents short biographies of composers of popular electronic music, a description of the synthesizers used by them, and a brief essay on the state of musicological knowledge about this phenomenon. The editorial staff made an informed choice, leaving for future publications the topic of electronic music associated with the classical and experimental music. In the Introduction it reads:

In the Anthology we took on a large collection of the so-called "el-music", as well as one originating from jazz, rock, and pop created or partially created using electronic instruments over the two decades (seventies and eighties of the 20th century).

Marek Horodniczy, Wstęp in: Antologia Polskiej Muzyki Elektronicznej, Narodowe Centrum Kultury, Warszawa 2016, p. 8

While there is still no in-depth analysis of the work of the Studio Eksperymentalne Polskiego Radia – or, which I find particularly odd, any compendium of knowledge of the Polish Jazz series – I really liked this particular one. Next to famous names such as Krzysztof Duda, Wladyslaw Komendarek and Mikołaj Hertel it also includes information on the electronic “face” of Grzegorz Ciechowski, Aya RL, Kapitan Nemo and even the Omni band.

The biographies are not long, they are written in a reader-friendly way, without complex scientific interruptions and reading them is real fun. People such as: Marek Wilczyński, owner of GAD Records, Michał Kirmuć, editor of “Teraz Rock”, and Bartek Chaciński, journalist (of eg "Trójka"), publicist, member of the Akademia Fonograficzna ZPAV are responsible for some names and bands mentioned in this book. Together with the book one receives two CDs with music created by the artists included in the book. Some of these recordings have never been released before, which, I guess, we owe to Marek Wilczyński.

The book printed on ecological paper contains only black and white photos. There are no reproduction of album covers – that are a physical emanation of music – nor the index. However, these minor defects do not affect the pleasure of reading it – highly recommended!

WOJCIECH PACUŁA
chief editor

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.

For years, "High Fidelity" has been cooperating with other audio magazines, including “Enjoy the Music.com” and “Positive-Feedback.com” in the U.S. and “HiFiStatement.net”  in Germany. Our reviews have also been published by “6moons.com”.

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