As a longtime record collector (first because it was before CDs were invented) and a budding audiophile (because vinyl does sound better than digital, have at me in the comments if you must), I appreciate a good story about the search for perfect sound. But Takeo Morita takes it to a new level.
In the Wall Street Journal story above, we learn that the 82-year-old has installed a 42-foot utility pole next to his house. Why? To get that clean electricity to his system, not that shared, filthy electricity from a common-as-muck utility pole. Electricity is like blood, he explains, and the cleaner the blood, the better for the system.
Now this reminds me, while we’re here, to tell you about a show I once saw on Japanese TV and which I one day hope to see on YouTube. A news show profiled Japan’s number one Bob Dylan collector, who had every vinyl release of the musician, even to redundancy. At one point he pulled out an album still in its shrink wrap that was no different from the one next to it. “This has a green sticker on it,” he said, pointing to the right hand corner. “But that’s just a sticker,” said the host. Blank stare. Pause. “But this has a green sticker on it.”
That’s the spirit, I thought.
Also: Never catch that spirit, I thought.
This article at residentadvisor.net explores the world of Tokyo’s audiophile underground, which is both a logical outcome for those into hearing the best music systems and something quintessentially Japanese. I can’t imagine an audiophile bar opening up in the States anytime soon. But the listening venue has a long history in Japan:
It can be traced back to the rise of jazz kissa (jazz cafés) and meikyoku kissa (classical music cafés) in the years following World War II, a time when imported records were prohibitively expensive. This meant that, for many people, the kissaten were the only places to hear good music from abroad. The focus at these cafés was on deep, concentrated listening.
As the article mentions, there are as many mini clubs in Tokyo as there are genres, from classical to drone/glitch. And it comes down to the idea, started by American sociologist Ray Oldenburg, of “The Third Place,” the place that is neither home, nor work:
As civilization has advanced, going to work and back home has become our routine as humans," Ariizumi says. "The third place is not quite home, and it's not work, but a community where everyone can be welcomed and relax, with a nice atmosphere. I heard about the term 'third place' for the first time just when we opened Bridge, and I remember thinking, 'This is exactly what I want to create.' That's what I want to do, create a third space. People can come here and talk about their jobs or their love life, or they can come here and dance. It's a place between work and home. People need that.
Question is, dear reader: do you have a third space?
How Good Are Your Headphones? This 150-Song Playlist, Featuring Steely Dan, Pink Floyd & More, Will Test Them Out
The Distortion of Sound: A Short Film on How We’ve Created “a McDonald’s Generation of Music Consumers”
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.