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Music Has a Lot to Say If You're Willing to Listen

What kind of headspace are you in when you are listening to music?

Are you working out?

Relaxing in your favorite chair, sipping a cocktail?

Driving down a lonely road deep in thought?

Or getting ready to dance the night away at your favorite club or hang out?

Wherever you are, music always has some role to play. As I write this, I have one of my go-to playlists working in the background because the ambient sound always helps me to get words on the page.

The reasoning behind this article is that I was stricken with curiosity. I want to know what some of my friends, colleagues, and HiFi Industry Professionals are currently listening to.

I posed the question, what are three songs that you currently have on repeat at the moment and why?

A reasonably general and mundane question at best; however, the responses I received were pleasantly surprising.

When I asked Kerry Geist, Chief Engineer at KLH, he responded with his three favorites and a couple of honorable mentions. His picks were accompanied by his reasoning behind the selections. Being an engineer of 30+ years at Klipsch and now KLH, I expected a technical listening style, and he didn't disappoint.

He began with Ever Again by Robyn from her album Honey. He suggested this track for its undercurrent of low bass extension that would really challenge a listener's sound system.

Geist followed with Birds, a song with excellent midrange, clarity, and overall sound by artist Dominique Fils-Aime' from her album Nameless.

His final pick was a selection from Melody Gardot's Sunset in the Blue album entitled, From Paris with Love. He praised the track for having a pleasant tone, separation of instruments, and clear vocals.

Kerry also included a couple of honorable mentions, starting with Alicia Keys' Underdog from her album Alicia. He feels the song has good instrument layering and bass detail. It is definitely catchy, to say the least.

His other honorable mention is The Staves' Good Woman from their album of the same name. He enjoyed this track for its pleasant midrange and the instrument's detail and separation.

Kerry's song choices help convey the broad perspective he views the musical arts. He chose five relaxed and articulate songs, and his opinions of the songs showed his experience as not only a dedicated listener of music but also as a driving force who designs the industry's latest loudspeakers (many of which have acted as a conduit between artists and their listeners).

I approached Steven Rochlin, Creative Director of the popular online publication Enjoy the Music. Steven, however, had a different approach to the question I presented him with. He began with the statement, "those who know me expect something… different."

He followed with, "I'm sure those who truly know me will understand I have no 'three faves' set on repeat. For me, music is a key 'ingredient' to set a mood; it can bring immense joy, sorrowful tears, or 'uncontrollable' enthusiastic air drumming. Music…. It could be a romantic love song to my Muse / Wife, Heather. It could be something danceable and fun. From passion to unpredictable prog or laid-back 1970s rock to Will.I.Am, Roger Waters to King Crimson…. For me, music inspires!"

"Music can be a type of time transporter bringing back magical memories, or enhance those special passionate moments, and highlight celebration! Music… wakes me up with energy, keeps my day flowing, and puts me to sleep with soft, gentle aural caressing. As weird as this may sound, which is par for the course within my life, music simply is. As a musician since 1974, for me music is a language of its' own. Trying to explain it (generally) reduces the full meaning. Simply stated, music is the expression of emotion via creation."

Steven's take on music resonated heavily with me because I feel the same way. Music is a way, for a small moment in time, to escape reality and enter another world altogether. The adventure lies with where the music takes you and what amazing things you can conjure up while in this meditative state.

Copyright © Joseph Szabo, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Lastly, I asked, Senior Writer at SoundStage! Network and an avid audiophile Howard Kneller what he was listening to at the moment. His choices were incredibly unique and based on a nostalgic listening style that many avid audiophiles, including myself, all share at some point.

Howard began with Sympathy for the Devil by the iconic Rolling Stones. He shared that during his high school days in 1978, he went to see the band live at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. The Hell's Angels provided security for the concert. Howard and some of his friends slept in the stadium's parking lot for two nights before the event as it was general admission, and he wanted to secure good seats.

The following summer, while on the boardwalk at Long Island's Jones Beach, Howard saw a large and colorful group of Hells Angels club members and recognized several individuals who had worked security at the Rolling Stones concert.

Howard mustered up the nerve to walk up to them, boom box in hand containing a cassette tape of Beggars Banquet. Before too long, Howard had spent the afternoon drinking beer with them on the boardwalk, then Sympathy for the Devil came on, and everyone burst into dance and started singing along with the words. An afternoon he claims he would never forget.

The next song Howard chose was Autumn Leaves by Beegie Adair, which is a calming version of the classic that puts him at ease. Howard also mentioned he never tires of the riff from M*A*S*H snuck in by the bassist.

Howard's final pick, he takes us all to the opera with Puccini's Tosca, conducted by Herbert Von Karajan and performed by, among many others, soprano Leontyne Price and the Vienna Philharmonic. He boasts that they provided "exquisite sound quality of a brilliant performance that rejuvenates my soul at a time when opera houses around the world are closed."

And to wrap things up are my three personal picks and a little background as to why I chose them.

First, I have three different listening habits:

Evaluative listening is a method I use when reviewing speakers or any other type of audio component. I must pay close attention to tones, soundstage, imaging, and overall performance. This is not an enjoyable method of listening; however, it's necessary when I am in review mode.

The second method is contemplative listening. When I am in this listening mode, I have my headphones over my ears and am in deep thought (sometimes even achieving a daydreaming or meditative state). My mind dances with the music and takes me to another world while I listen.

The final method is active listening, where I utilize upbeat music to work out or complete daily tasks requiring specific or consistent energy.

It was only appropriate to share songs that speak to my listening style.

I chose Everything in its Right Place by Radiohead for my evaluative listening. This song has excellent character. The vocals are incredible and blend very nicely with the melody. It allows me to push a pair of speakers to their limits and provide an accurate description of their true capabilities. With a fresh combination of electronic melodies, nice bass beats, and hypnotic vocals, something is wrong if this song DOESN'T sound good within your system. I encourage all reviewers to have this one handy in your arsenal of test songs.

My choice to represent contemplative listening was a much harder pick because there's always that one song that triggers nostalgia or deep thought. For me, it's Evolution Revolution Love by the artist Tricky from his Blowback album in 2001. This song was on repeat back in 2001-2002 and acted as a soundtrack for many events in my life.

Active listening was also difficult because I needed something high-energy to vibe with when I was in the gym in beast mode. I must keep moving and pushing my limits, so I need the right music to meld with my energy. I chose Champion by Three Days Grace from their album EXPLOSIONS. It feeds me a ton of energy to keep lifting and keep pushing. It's an anthem for energy. The vocals are on the sharp side, but the hook is so catchy and motivating that I can forgive the midrange.

My goal with this article was not only to provide some fresh new music to indulge in but to truly understand that we all don't have the same listening habits or reasoning behind our choices. The driving force behind our chosen music is beyond surface-level enjoyment of the instruments and vocals.

It's a passage to a different time.

It's a sedative after a long day at work.

It's therapy.

It's also a mood enhancer for various situations.

Whatever your reason for listening, know there are almost infinite musical offerings.

Each month I will ask more industry people about their choices and why. Compiling their suggestions into a Qobuz Playlist that will readily allow you to discover new tunes and explore new sounds.

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