The Color of Sound

It is hard to start these thoughts without appreciating how we describe the results of our senses. Word combinations such as a ‘sweet sound’, or a ‘hard light’, or a ‘sharp taste’. I can say these words and your memory provides you with examples of each from your past. This all works because we have shared experiences to draw upon. When I say something sounds like an AM radio, you know what I mean because you have listened to an AM radio. If I say a speaker does great brass, that rings a bell (pun intended). We find ourselves at a loss when we hear something new, something in the sound that we don’t have words for yet.

The memories of our senses are vauge and somewhat meaningless until we have a word to descibe it. A feeling, perhaps a profound one, but still an almost etherial one, not yet explainable to other, it’s like trying to describe the taste of chocolate.

As our appreication of the audiophilism expands, as we have more experiances with new reprodution hardware and technics we frequenty run out of words to descibe them, we are reduced to only emotional feeling without intellectual guidepost to help is share what happened inside our heads.

An old friend of mine in Berkley, the now passed hero of hi-fi Dave Fletcher, used to comment on products that sounded ‘irregual’ as describeding them as sounding like ‘hammered shit’. Those words were always delivered with emotinal intensity. It took me years to understand that he was talking about the sound of a ‘splat’ in metalic percusive reproduction, pretty esoteric, but once I understood what he was saying I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Yes, it was an accurate assessment that in a funny way descibed the mechanics of the process that caused such sound and with some imagination, suggested how it occurred.

When we talk to each other about our listening expereicnes and try to explain what we heard we are forced into the domain of analogy with out other senses to begin to make inroads to transfereing those ideas, feelings, and impressions. It takes work to both say, and understand the truth of what we are feeling and saying.

Thus this is the hard part of the relationship we have with each other in the audiophile world. Telling someone else what you heard and felt becomes a kind of special poetry which only time and expereicne let us do well. How ephemeral these thoughts become as simply attempting to say them also changes them.

What fun, and how deep the essence of it all goes as we try to reach out of our skulls into the skull of others.