Strange Harvest
Architecture / Design / Art
StrangeHarvest is written and collated by Sam Jacob.

Perfect Sound Forever: The Secret Function of High End Stereos

If you want to, you can see pretty much any band that ever existed playing live, as long as they aren't too dead. You could see the Doors, with Ian Astbury from the Cult as Jim Morrison or perhaps Queen, without Freddie but with Paul Rodgers from Bad Company. It gets worse: Rick Buckler, the drummer from the Jam has joined a Jam tribute band called The Gift. The whole of rock and rolls back catalogue is on the road, fuelled on pure nostalgia, haunting motorways like zombie ghost ships.

It is as though time has collapsed and everything that every happened since Bill Haley is happening right now, somewhere not far from you, with extra nights added due to popular demand.

Stuff whose vitality was ephemeral has suddenly been granted longevity, seasoned with reverence. Often, acts will recreate a particular album or experience. The Who - what's left of them - played a replica of the set list of their seminal 'Live at Leeds' album at the very same venue. There is something for everyone: Roger Waters, Sparks, or perhaps Teenage Fanclub playing Bandwagonesque front-to-back. It's as nostalgic as those TimeLife compilations that are flogged on obscure shopping channels in the dead of night, but it also has a heightened sense of event whose subtext is the critical reappraisal of important artists.

The venues they play also confer a new sense of cultural value on the artists. London's Festival Hall has seen Brian Wilson, Morrissey, the New York Dolls and all kinds of other pop flim-flam stride (or more likely shuffle) across its stage. The seriousness of proper concert halls provides kudos like white space in coffee table catalogues. (They also provide comfy seating for rheumatic bones.)

A cynic might suggest that it is just the music industry maximising return on its back catalogue, rather than developing new artists (an expensive gamble risk that averse accountants who run the industry would rather avoid). Nevertheless, we invite all of this upon ourselves. Perhaps this is because the subtext is actually a personal issue. By ramping up the critical appraisal we acknowledge and mark significance of our teenage years. Some kind of validation conferring historical significance to those carefree moments, which slipped away, like tears in an ocean. It's not the band we want to see, but ourselves.

Baby Boomers might want great sound and comfortable seats - but they still want to feel that edgy thrill of their teenage years. Instead of seeking out new thrills with youthful abandon, they have instead refused to let go of that moment. They have remade the world in their own image. You can see it in the deathly serious music magazines, in coffee table books, in the re-masterings, re-issues, re-packaged formats. In McCartney and Jaggers knighthoods.

This same impulse finds physical form in the shape of high end Hi Fis. I'm in the South Moulton St branch of Bang & Olufsen where I'm endlessly opening and closing the sliding glass lid of the BeoSound 4 (1650 GBP) by waving my hand near a sensor. Next I'm pressing a brushed stainless steel button that activates the opening mechanism of the BeoCenter 2 (2850 GBP). The metallic crescent facia splits in two, an arm raises a glass disk revealing a depression for a CD. These exquisite pieces of engineering are fetish objects whose aesthetics and mechanics are hypnotic. 'Nice action' I find myself saying to the assistant in admiration of the supple robotics.

There is no irony in the listening to bootlegs like 'The Velvet Underground Live at Max's Kansas City' - which was taped on Brigid Polks Sony 124 cassette recorder as she sat at a table chatting to friends - through super-expensive high fidelity Danish systems with gold plated plugs. Don't laugh - it's not ridiculous, it's a forensic replay searching for some moment where we might find ourselves revealed - before we betrayed ourselves, before hollow emptiness consumed us, before we became hideous parodies of our beautiful youth. We use it to chase authenticity, to perfectly reconstruct a moment that has long passed. The BeoSound4 is a way of clutching at time as it washes past you, and quite as fruitless.

These B&O devices use design to amplify not just music but also sensation. In spite of their aesthetic minimalism, they turn a simple act into a complex exchange. The triangular relationship between you, the music and the mechanism that delivers the music leaks together into a single indistinguishable experience.

As we age, memories of youth become ever more significant in our own personal mythology. Two thousand pound stereos are a way of externalising that significance. Perhaps that's why these B&O machines look like the control panel on a particularly swish time machine. The lightness of touch by which you exert control means it feels almost like your desire is transmitted telepathically. The LED displays illuminate from behind black glass - a conceit which dematerialises the stereos components. It suggests that the machine operates with a different set of physics, that materials can behave in unexpected ways. Maybe it suggests that it can do the same to space time fabric: Rewind: lost loves; Pause: innocent utopian dreams; Play: the sensation of youthful sap rising through your limbs.

Posted by anothersam at August 31, 2006 12:25 PM.


Mark said:

The drummer from the Jam is actually called Rick Buckler. Not Butler.

And now, I didn't meet him down in the tube station at midnight.


sam jacob said:

Amazing how spellcheckers alter names isnt it? Perhaps all names should be vetted by the Microsoft dictionary before being comitted to a birth certificate. Ive edited above - Thanks

Leave a comment


More Scenes In Cartoon Deserta

Eiffel X-Rays

Beyond: Values and Symptoms

Sub Plan

Shenzhen: Window of the World

White Power

Generic Powerpoint Template: Delivering Bad News

Duplicate Array

The Best New Building In London

Book Review: The Infrastructural City

A Balloon in the Pantheon

Letters From The Pantheon

Henry Moore in Motion

On My Steel Horse I Ride

The Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition

Now Showing: John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt

Obscure Design Typologies: Life Guard Chairs

Osama bin Laden Cigarette Lighter: Novelty Products as Congealed Culture

Absurd Car Crashes: A Eulogy for J.G. Ballard

Candy Pistol

Now Showing: Dan Grahams 'Rock My Religion'

This Concrete 'O': On Serotonin, the M25, and the Motorik Picturesque

Church of the Literal Narrative

Philadelphias Floating Architecture

Now Viewing: Married To The Eiffel Tower

Le Corbusiers Image Hoard: Poeme Electronique

Giant American Signs: Original Learning from Las Vegas Footage

Giant Soviet Signs Cut Into Forests

Bricks Melted Into Icicles: Napalm Decorative

C-Labs 'Unfriendly Skies' & 'Bootleg' Volume

2 The Lighthouse: Self Storage & Architectural Hallucinations

Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe: Infrastructure as Architectural Subconcious.

Viva Sectional Cinematography!

Now Showing: The Installation of an Irreversible Axis on a Dynamic Timeline

Plug: Junk Jet

Sim Seasons Greetings! The Rise of Neo-Winter

Geography in Bad, Festive Drag.

The Ruins of the Future

High Tech As Steampunk ...

On The Retro Infrastructural

Simulations of Industry: High Tech Architecture and Thatcherism

David Greene: The Big Nothing

From The Factory to the Allotment: Tony Wilson, Urbanist

Koolhaas HouseLife / Gan Eden: The Revenge of Architectural Media

Ruburb-ric: The Ecologies of the Farnsworth House

The Architecture of Divorce

Flagrant Delit: The Movie

Landscape as Clothing

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham Redux

Acts of Un-Building: Timelapse Demolitions

Yard Filth: Next Years Hot Look

Stonehenge: A Black Hole At The Heart Of British Architecture

The Popemobile: Mechanised Robes & Motorised Architecture

Tarmac Adam, Tarmac Eden

The Secret Language of Surface

Some Housekeeping

Information Fields: Agriculture as Media

My Bloody Valentine: Sound as Substance

A Cubist Copse: Gehrys Serpentine Pavilion

Olympic Model Protest

Spouting Off: Some Thoughts On The Fountainhead

Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction & The Morality of Detail

Floating Homes

Vintage Tradeshow Surrealism: International Grune Woche

Moving Houses: Buildings In Motion

Desktop Study: The Strange World of Sports Studio Design

Married to the Eiffel Tower: More Objectum Sexuals

60 Years of The Crazy Horse Memorial

Married to the Berlin Wall: "The Best and Sexiest Wall Ever Existed!"

Inflatable Icebergs: Sublimated Guilt Has Never Been So Fun

The Cinderella Effect: Phantom Architectures of Illumination

Two Deaths and a Retirement: The Strange Shape of British Architecture

If London Were Like New York: Antique Schizo-Manhattanism

If London Were Like Venice: Antique Geo-Poetic Speculations and Hydro-Fantasy

41 Hours in an Elevator: The Movie

NASA: Mapping the Moon with Sport

Lemon Squeezy: Design Tendencies after the Juicy Salif

Stadium Seat Mosaics

The Nihilistic Beauty of Weapons Arranged in Patterns

Light Vessel Automata

Dogs: Britains Greatest Design Obsession

Madison Avenue Modern

Detroit Sucks: The Motor Shows Last Gasp

Mies' Grave: Cut Out Model

All You Can Eat

Valentine Machine

The Tools of Re-Geography

Floating in a New Town Sky

Authentic Replicas: Football and the Franchising of Place

Folk Football: Landscape, Space and Abstraction

Haystack House

A Wishing Well with a Fat Up Pipe

The Camoufluers and the Day-Glo Battleship

Pseudoccino: Instant Coffee Foam

Yesterdays Technology, Today

Blown Up: More Inflatable Military Stuff

On Christmas Trees, Folk Forests and Staples Office Supplies

Hampton Courts Shrouded Sculptures

Named Fabric: 20 Sponsored Pieces of Architecture at the New Museum

Form Follows Felony: The Secret Home of the Un-Dead Canoeist.

Architectural Magazines: Paranoid Beliefs, Public Autotheraphy - More on Clip/Stamp/Fold

Little Magazines Seen Today

James Bond Lives Next Door: Suburban Imagery as Industry

The Ghost of Christmas Futurism

Petrified War Machine

Military Deceptions

Chapters for an Imaginary Book About Architecture

Shrouded Plinth - Urban Striptease

In the Night Garden - Surreal Landscape of Nostalgia

Kim Jong II, The Great Architect

Pill Box Picturesque

Un Clear Monument

Place Faking: Instant Heritage for the Thames Gateway

The Marc Bolan Memorial Crash Barrier.

Warped Domesticity

The Nuclear Heritage Coast

Enjoy The Silence: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Story of O (2)

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham

X100: A Design Exercise

How to Plan A New Town

Carpet Bomber

In Search of Britains Vehicular History

Scenes in Cartoon Deserta

Scary Suburbanism: Why Horror is at Home in the Suburbs

Re-Make Re-Model

I Like Your Manifesto, Lets Put it to the Test-o

How to Become a Famous Architect

Northampton - Sci-fi Pop Planning Promotion

Advertising Central Milton Keynes

Baltic Exchanged

Festival of Nostalgia

The Clapham Trainwash

Airports as Music

Test Card Dummies

The Velvet Underground at the Glass House

Duplikate: Kate Moss on the Production Line of Individuality

The Museum that Ate Itself

Hollow Inside: Starbucks Foam and the Rise of Ambiguous Materials

Revisions to the Architecture of Hell

Crufts: Dogs, Design and Aesthetic Genetics

Eos Airlines: Executive Bubbles over the Atlantic

London's Ugliest Buildings

1.51 Miles Of String

Google Earths Vertiginous Mapping

Church of the Ascension and Descension

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

Replica Bombs

The Invisible Bungalow

House / Boat

Reading Lines: Skateboarding and Public Space

Mountain Sculpting

Sint Lucas in BD

Bat House Competition

Old Walton Bridge

Kiruna: The Town That Moved

Spray On Magnetic Defense

Chris Cornish: Prototyping History

The Jubilee Gestalt Vase

The Most Visited Location in the UK

Anything to Feel Weightless Again: The Cargo Lifter and the Tropical Island Resort

'Its beauty will know no season'

2000 Years of Non Stop Nostalgia. Or How Half Timbering Made Me Whole Again.

Inside-out Aldwych

Backpeddling into the Future: The Historical-Futurism of British Architecture

Miss Selfridges' Feeling for Fake Snow. The Oxford St. Lights and Why We Need Artificial Winter

Nelsons Cavern

Foam Gargoyle

New Tory Logo: A Hazy Shade of Politics

Jeff Koons, Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine

Souvenir Empire

Celebrity Scents: The Bittersweet Smell of Success

Imperfect Pitch - Football, Space and Landscape

Product Placement: Making the Impossible Possible

Suburban Growth: Matthew Moores Field of Dreams

Perfect Sound Forever: The Secret Function of High End Stereos

Picture of the Week 1

A Little Light Product Placement

Some Advice To A Young Designer

London and on and on

In the Gallery of Ice Creams

Useless Proclamations for a Beautiful City

Mini Mies Chair

Topsy Turvy VSBA: Inverted Heros of an Upside Down Avant Guard

Harvest III: Buried Things

The Harvest II

The Harvest I

Estuary Urbanism

The Royal Families Trees

Everything Flows: ideological cartography

How Geostationary Was My Valley?

The Psychotic Utopia of the Suburbs and the Suburbanisation of War.

LegoLand London Cluster

In a Lonely Place - Under Construction

Design Will Eat Itself

Mach 3 Nitro Gel - Design that's foaming at the mouth.

Marchitecture. Architectural things to do in London this March

Metallic Jet Powered Cloud

"When we got married I had no idea he would do something like this, he just said he was going to do some decorating."

The Electric Cenotaph

Russian Rok

Commitment ...

Dinner in the Iguanadon


What happens when you cross a pen with a car?

Leg Table Leg

Florentine Building Sites

Good Morning Britain

Football Pitch: Best of British

The Sad Photographer

The First Cut is the Cheapest - Blenheim Palace: pop architecture that goes for the jugular

Book Now For Christmas

Requiem for a Toilet Seat

Architecture that Destroys

TomTom Mobile 5 / GO 700

Winning Design

Another Croydon

Holiday Snap II : Giant Glowing French Balls

Holiday Snap: Canadian War Memorial, Vimy, France

Pecha Kucha London

Anatomy of an Architectural News Story

Big Bens

First Cut - Case Closed

The Texas Tower

Its All About the Big Benjamins

G8 Security Tower

White Cubed Blues

Poundbury, unexpectedly, in the rain

The Exploding Concrete Inevitable. Lou Reed and the Casa da Musica


Untitled (Plastic Sack and Timber)

Berlin 1945 - The Obscene Picturesque

Pizza Planet

Goal Sculptures

Interview: Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane

Previewing Cedric Price

The Mardas Touch

Building a Lionel Richie Head

Ornament is Grime 2

An Incredible Smell of Roasting Coffee

Flatpack Frenzy at New IKEA

Langlands & Bell - The House of Osama Bin Laden

Labour is kind of working

Happy Death Men

Build to Let

Architectural Criticism gets Sharp

Niagara Falls

Ornament is Grime

FA(ke) Cup

Q&A: Wouter Vanstiphout

X-treme urinals

Unigate Cowscape

Spray-on Snow

From the Baffler ...

One in a Taxi

The Queen Machine

The Knork

Venturi, Scott Brown and my love that dare not speak its name.

Polictical Placards

The Ketchup Conumdrum

Douglas Coupland: Design and Fiction

It's a Small World

Images de Parfums

Soft Carcass

Christopher Dresser at the V&A

Blow up Pub

Municipal Mummification

The Matt and Ron Show

Semi - detached

Half Timbered Van

Feltham Future

Favorite Things

Fugitives and Refugees' - Chuck Palahniuk

The Pop Vernacular

Design by Chefs

Just What is it That Makes Yesterdays Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Archigrams Pastoral Futurism

Sorry Mies

The Flaming Lips - Live.

Everything Counts - The Sound of Geography Collapsing.

Carlton Terrace Extension




Flip Flop Flyin'
Arts & Letters
Bldg Blog
City of Sound
Design Observer
Limited Language
Kieran Long
Arts Monitor
Loud Paper
Dwell Blog
David Barrie
Super Colossal
sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy
The Sesquipedalist
Architecture & Hygiene
Kazys Varnelis
Infranet Lab
Life Without Buildings
Landscape & Urbanism
HTC Experiments
Deputy Dog
The Dirt
Art Fag City
Triple Canopy
NL Blog