Music, the Tubes


DIY PL519 SE Tube Amp. Done.

DIY PL519 SE Tube Amp. Done. (Photo credit: .tungl)

Tonight I decided to listen to music.  It had been quite some time since I had sat quietly and listened to an artist play sound against silence.  So, while Nicole got in the shower, I went down into the basement to get started.

Normally, I would place one of the green vinyl chairs in the sweet spot of the 70’s room.  But, for some reason, I sat in the back corner theater seat.  A few years back, we has purchased a set of three fold-down theater seats.  The backs of the chairs were made of curved pieces of laminated wood, while the folding bases were leather over padding and springs.  The veneer on the backs was badly chipped now, and the torn leather felt like old duct tape.  But, the seats held memories, and formed the backdrop for countless hours forgotten in a haze of time or drugs.

Almost haphazardly, I chose to sit in my old seat – the chair closest to the back corner of the room.  The controls for the electronics were within arm’s reach here.  This had always been a seat of power.  It felt good to sit there again, especially with the anticipation of good music.

The tubes in the amp were already hot, but the warm up usually didn’t take longer than a few minutes.  However, since I had turned the Dynaco on several hours earlier, the transformers were also hot.  I opened the CD tray and loaded a new, remastered Beatles album – Love.  I couldn’t recalled the name of the album at the time, but the orange cover art was already familiar after only a few plays.

I reclined in my chair and propped my feet up on an old black and white stool.  Nicole’s mother had given her the stool to carry around at work, a portable comfort for a long day.  We hauled the stool around in the trunk of the car for years.  In fact, the stool had only recently made the transition from trunk furniture to basement clutter.  During my graduation party, we scrambled to try to find enough furniture to accommodate all the various invitees.  I had no recollection of moving the stool to its present location at exactly foot length from the old Seat of Popwer.  It must have been Fate working through the mischievous hands of a two year-old beauty – Ayla.  I would never have considered the stool.

My attention was pulled from contemplation of an old stool bearing the name ‘Pat Clements’ to the miracle of thermionic emission by the remastered voice of Mt. Paul McCartney.  The insert in the album box told of some of the trick used to create this piece of art.  Some songs had been slowed, some hastened.  On one track, he chorus was even run in reverse.  Whatever the theatrics involved, the quality of the recording was impressive.  The sound stage was developed, each instrument had its location and presence.  I got up several times to adjust the volume on the sub.  I didn’t want an overpowering hump n the bass, but I wanted to fill out the lower frequencies.

Standing up and sitting down repeatedly lead me to question the acoustics of my seat of choice.  I sat in the center of the three seat to check.  Instantly, the sound changed.  The stage flattened, and I was listening to a vulgar attempt at music.  Nothing more.  I moved to the far seat and found another satellite of aural beauty.  Perfect.  Now there were two sweet spots for listening, one for me, and the other for Nicole.

Almost as if my thoughts had summoned her, I heard the shuffle-stomp of slippered feet descending the wooden basement stairs.  Nicole sat down in the far chair.  I smiled inwardly.  Although she left a space between us by choosing that spot, she had inadvertently guaranteed that both of us were going to enjoy the music fully.

I no longer wanted to hear the Beatles.  I couldn’t think of anything I did particularly want to hear.  While Robert Smith’s vocals and lyrics tore at my heart, the Cure seldom recorded an album with good sonic quality.

“What do you want to listen to?” I asked, bluntly.,  I did not want the burden of choice.  I also assumed that she had wanted to listen to something specific.

“The Beatles are fine.  Or Dave,”  She let back.  Maybe she hadn’t wanted to choose either.  The Beatles were already playing, and the quality of the album was apparent.  Dave Matthews as an obvious stand-in.  Dave Matthews was Nicole’s Cure.

“I’m tired of the Beatles.  What’s a good Dave album?”

“Before These Crowded Streets is good,” she said as I left my seat ot find the CD.  I slid my hand into the middle of the CD binder and flipped it open.  The words ‘Before These Crowded Streets’ jumped out at me from the first disc I saw.  Fate again.

I loaded the disc and made myself comfortable again.  The main light in the basement was on, so I closed my eyes to let the electronics melt away from my focus.

The album was genius.

I have always been impressed when an artists can break the space.  Dave set up the stage perfectly and the group obviously understands that silence and void are essential to beauty in music.  As I sat there with my eyes closed,, my head bobbed unconsciously with the rhythm of the bass, with the pauses in the horns.  I inclined my head, tilted it a little, as I pictured Dave singing, his head turned so that he could look back at the band and share.  I could heat the expression in his eyes as his vocal chords ground together at the end of each word.

I escaped into calm.


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