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Are Conductors audiophiles?

Audiolab 6000A Amplifier

soundbuff

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Dec 26, 2015
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Hi,
Just some idle thoughts on a Sunday afternoon when I have far more important things to attend to:D

I recently came across a Utube video called the 'Art of Conducting' which takes us through the star studded galaxy of great conductors in the history of the Symphonic form. It's a lovely film about 40 minutes long. One of the thoughts that came to me when watching it was that conductors seem to have a lot of interest in the sound the orchestra is producing, and some take great pride in producing a particular type or kind of sound. Thus we find something called the 'Stokowski sound' which is different from the 'Furtwangler sound'. As a long term audiophile I am used to being told frequently that the music is secondary to me, and that it is the reproduction of the sound that is what I really hanker after. TBH I can't deny it, I do listen to sound and its presentation in as much as I listen to the music. But what about these conductors, surely no one can be condescending to them and say what a friend or significant other can say to me. They are after all at the pinnacle of music-making, then why do they strive towards producing a particular kind of sound?

It seems that conductors have varied involvement with technology, some are very interested in the recording process and other's may care little how its done. All however are keenly interested in what comes out. If the dynamics of a recording is unsatisfactory then they will let it be known. They will look at the balance and presentation of different parts of the orchestra, and so on. However even if we go past the recording process, the great conductors are looking to produce particular tonalities, and effects in the perfromance itself. "Play with warmth", 'with more feeling and intensity", " more impact" " are words they often throw at their orchestras. At the level of a great orchestra, they are expecting far more than competent technique! It is the realm of the subjective and interpretive that marks out one conductor from another. Is this not the same kind of language we encounter in discussion on audio equipment once the devotee has gone beyond the basics of competent entry level equipment.


So my friends, take heart, I am putting forward a flattering little thesis for your consideration (flattering that is to our fraternity), namely that in a sense WE AUDIOPHILES are all Conductors:) The process by which an audiophile evolves in choosing and matching kit, balancing priorities in terms of aiming for certain kinds of effects over others, attempting to controlling the room, choosing certain kinds of music and performances over others are in a broad sense an aesthetic pursuit that is partly intuitive an partly intentional, in no way different from the concerns of a great conductor. So, the next time round when you switch on the system and drop the needle on that Brahms, do so with the Baton in your hand;)

Happy Listening
 

Orko

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Mar 20, 2014
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That's a terrific insight. Enjoyed this immensely, thanks for sharing. I'm not one for Brahms but I imagine it would apply equally to any musician deeply involved in the presentation of the music.
 

vivek_r

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Apr 24, 2014
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Given that western classical music is about themes rather than melodies per se, and the textural and dynamic colours thus portrayed are really important to the final music, I can't imagine a conductor not being concerned about the recording.

Whether he is an audiophile or not is another matter though! E.g. changing cables, connectors, mods of players, moving the speaker by 10 degrees...come on, you all know!

I had an opportunity to speak to some members of an international (British) orchestra when they visited Mumbai - listening to music at home was accomplished by very basic set ups, but the fuss they make about the instruments is something else. They keep changing instruments to get that perfect sound (read Vikram Seth's "An Equal Music"!).


A nice example is here:

Wilson Audio: Videos

Vivek
 
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