Updated: Oct 13, 2021
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 hangout?
Wherever you are, music always has some type of roll 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 listening to at the moment.
I posed the question, what are three songs that you currently have on repeat at the moment and why?
A fairly 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 with his reasoning behind the selections. Being an engineer of 30+ years at Klipsch and now KLH I was expecting 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 great 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 nice tone and separation of instruments along with 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 as well as the instruments detail and separation.
Kerry’s song choices help to convey the wide perspective in which he views the musical arts; he chose five songs that were relaxed and articulate 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 dance-able and fun. From passion to unpredictable prog or laid back 1970’s 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… it 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.
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 were based upon a nostalgic listening style that many avid audio enthusiasts, including myself, all share at some point or another.
Copyright © Joseph Szabo, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
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 the security for the concert. Howard and some of his friends slept in the stadiums parking lot for two nights prior to 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 among them several of the 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 in his opinion 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 that I use when I am reviewing speakers or any other type of audio component. I have to 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). I feel like 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 that require a certain or consistent type of energy.
I figured it was only appropriate to share a song that speaks to each type of listening that I do.
For my evaluative listening, I chose History of Violence by Theory of a Deadman, this song has great 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.
My choice to represent contemplative listening was a much harder pick because there’s always that one song that triggers either nostalgia or some type of 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 that happened in my life.
Active listening was also a difficult choice because when I am in the gym and I am in beast mode I need something high energy to vibe with. I have to keep moving and keep pushing my limits, so I need the right music to meld my energy with. I chose POWER by Kanye West from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It feeds me a ton of energy to keep lifting and keep pushing. It’s an anthem for energy.
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 the music we choose goes deeper than just 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 also a mood enhancer for various situations.
Whatever the reason you have for listening, just know there are an almost infinite number of musical offerings to choose from.
Each month I am going to be asking more and more people in the industry, their choices and why and compiling their suggestions into a Tidal Playlist that will be readily available for you to discover new tunes and explore new sounds.