Surround Sound

Growing up there wasn’t much music in the house. My parents had a low-end phonograph that was never used except to occasionally play Sing Along With Mitch or the Irish Rovers’ Unicorn album. Still, as the 70s progressed the lure of album-oriented rock eventually consumed my brother and me, and we both turned to the forlorn phonograph player in the corner of our family room for musical solace.

Like countless other kids, we decided the best way to listen was to put the speakers facing each other in the middle of the floor and then lie between them. We called it the Cone of Sound, after the “cone of silence” on the Get Smart TV show. It was my first experience with immersive audio, and the closest I would come to headphones until I got a Walkman in the early 80s.

One of the first records I bought at the local drug store was Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s Pictures At An Exhibition. I already loved the Fragile album by Yes, and someone must have told me that ELP was the next logical step. I took it home and put it on the turntable and lay between the speakers, and my impressionable young mind was permanently blown. Despite the phonograph’s low fidelity, for decades afterwards that Cone of Sound represented the pinnacle of musical listening for me: the sound was immediate and enveloping, but without the claustrophobic closeness I sometimes feel with headphones. I didn’t realize it then, but those hours of listening would set the stage, many years later, for my current obsession with surround sound audio.

In the years between then and now I became a musician, sound designer, and audio engineer. I worked in top studios, with drool-worthy equipment, spoiled by the best audio gear money could buy (Studer, SSL, Neve, Westlake, Neumann, etc. etc.). When, after 10 years in music, I left that field in order to follow my true calling of writing, my interest in high-fidelity audio waned, and like most people I adopted compressed, poor quality MP3 files as an acceptable (and convenient) listening format.

That all changed in late 2014. I saw a post somewhere that Steven Wilson (whose work with Porcupine Tree I greatly admired) had remixed Yes’ Close to the Edge album–an album that was, and still remains for me, the greatest single musical achievement of the rock era. In my opinion Yes did something during their peak years (and espcially on CTTE) that is unequaled in rock history: they not only took all the lessons and innovations of the Beatles great masterpieces like “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day in the Life,” but actually transcended, expanded, and improved upon them. (I realize those might be fighting words but again, that’s just my opinion).

What especially interested me about the Wilson remix–above and beyond the fact that I might be able to hear even more detail in those frantic opening passages, or ethereal “I Get Up, I Get Down” midsection–was the included 5.1 remix. At the time my audio system consisted of a cheap 2.1 multimedia speaker set that I plugged into my laptop. Since I had a few extra bucks in the bank at the time, I bought the blu-ray version of Close to the Edge and invested in an inexpensive Vizio 5.1 system so I could hear it properly. I joked to my wife that it was the most expensive CD I’d ever bought–I justified it by thinking that, at the very least, our movie nights would benefit from the beefed-up audio the Vizio would provide.

What happened next was the most profound musical listening experience I’d had since those innocent childhood days lying on the family room rug with “The Great Gates of Kiev” bathing my impressionable ears. Once again, something clicked deep inside my head that this was the way music was meant to be heard.

Since then, my offhand impulse to investigate a classic album in a new way has grown into a full-time hobby and obsession. Over the past 18 months I’ve bought about 75 high-resolution multichannel discs in different formats: SACD, DVD-Audio and Blu-Ray. I quickly outgrew the Vizio and started building a proper system (and more about that another time). I find myself reading white papers on the effects of hypersonic frequencies on certain brain waves, or flame wars about the superiority of one format over another. PCM or DSD? If you have an opinion on the matter, congratulations–you’re a true audio nerd like me.

I’m at the point now where all this excitement and newfound knowledge has to go somewhere, so I thought I would occasionally chime in on my experiences here. I’ll probably use this as a forum to discuss individual surround sound discs, as well as new technologies or interesting equipment. If you happen to stumble upon this page because you’ve been searching for surround sound information, welcome to the club. You might as well make yourself comfortable, because if surround sound affects you like it did me, you won’t be going anywhere for a while.

Noir at the Bar NYC 1/17/16

I’m thrilled to be a part of the amazing NOIR AT THE BAR reading series again, this coming January 17th at Shade Bar in NYC. This will be my third time appearing at N@tB; this time I’ll be doing a tag team reading with S.A. Solomon, my collaborator on an upcoming story for the CANNIBAL COOKBOOK ANTHOLOGY, edited by Dana C. Kabel. Our story, #MalthusianHarvesting, is a 21st-century noir that features a postmodern Brooklyn private eye and his lovely lady, who team up to solve a crime before one (or both) of them winds up the main course at a psycho’s banquet.

It’s a fantastic night of free entertainment–as an added bonus this episode will feature heavy hitters like Dennis Tafoya, Jason Pinter, and Dana Cameron, and more!

6pm.

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Chasing The Codex

51TVoaLEA5L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’m excited to be part of my first group mystery–co-written with 23 or so other Cozy Cat Press authors. Half the proceeds are going to a wonderful charity (Pets for the Elderly). The print version is available as of today, and the Kindle and other ebook versions are coming any day. More info at Amazon or Cozy Cat Press website.

Cozy Fan

Always nice to see a new cozy site.

CozyFan.com

Blog Talk Radio w/ Amy Beth Arkawy

Amy kindly invited me on her radio show. We discuss literature in the age of self-publishing, promotion, and the genesis of Bert Shambles and the Bert Shambles Mysteries.

https://player.cinchcast.com/?show_id=8020147&assettype=single&version=2.0&version=2.0&platformId=1

Check Out Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Amy Beth Arkawy on BlogTalkRadio with The Amy Beth Arkawy Show on BlogTalkRadio

Deadly Ink Conference

I’ll be appearing at Deadly Ink 2015 on Saturday, August 8th, as part of the “Pros Vs. Amateurs” panel. I’ll be talking about Bert Shambles and why I love the amateur sleuth genre so much.

The conference once again will be here:

Hyatt Regency New Brunswick
Two Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ

I had a really nice time last year and am looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

Quantity Is Quality

My first post for the Cozy Cat Chronicles.

The Cozy Cat Chronicles

SIMENON, Georges, 1963,  Ecrivain (F)                                     © ERLING MANDELMANN © SIMENON, Georges, 1963, Ecrivain (F) © ERLING MANDELMANN ©

Recently I made the mistake of reading about Georges Simenon. He’s one of my favorite writers, but I didn’t know much about his life until recently. I’ve been in something of a funk ever since.

It’s always tricky reading about other writers; biographies leave so much out that we’re inevitably left with the romantic sheen that hides the unsavory parts of a person. Look behind the myths of Hemingway, Bukowski, Kerouac, Highsmith and others, and the romance quickly dissipates in a haze of alcoholism, pettiness, prejudice and violence. As I like to say, we writers are only semi-human, after all.

But I was talking about Simenon (wasn’t I?)—oh yes. Simenon had his faults too—for example he bragged that he had bedded 10,000 women, in addition to the 2 or 3 he married—but those flaws don’t concern me right now. What I’m…

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MWA at BEA

I’ll be at the Mystery Writers of America booth (#2657) all day tomorrow, Friday, May 29th, and signing from 1-1:30pm. Drop by and say hello!

“My Musing” —Dru on TIE DIED

This was a very good read that had me rooting for Bert Shambles in this entertaining whodunit.

Read the rest here.

A Day in the Life With Aria Tortura

Anthony Award-nominated Dru’s Book Musing has a guest post by Aria Tortura. Also a giveaway for a lucky commenter!

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