Classical Music Gas

The term “classical music” can be very emotive. Many people will avoid anything that claims to be “classical music” like the plague! I am sad to admit that I was of this mind set myself. In my case however, I felt I had good cause. I never really minded the music and was exposed to quite a lot of it in my musical household. However, whilst taking violin lessons, I came across a pernicious snobbery amongst music professionals. As a genre it seemed to be one of the most polarising. People who were involved in classical music seemed to dismiss everything else. When I came to the end of my violin playing days, my teacher tried to keep me going and finally agreed that she would look at teaching me some folk music. I was listening to Fairport Convention at the time. I really liked the playing of Dave Swarbrick, who I considered to be the Jimi Hendrix of the fiddle. My classically institutionalised violin teacher however, completely missed the brief and decided to teach me Little Brown Jug! – As a grade 7 student, this did not go down well. Not only did I consider it to be more of a nursery rhyme, it had none of the skill I associated with folk fiddle playing! I gave up the violin on the spot and taught myself to play the guitar instead.

Today, I am much more eclectic in my tastes and have returned to listening to orchestral music. The “c” word is a complete misnomer I have learned. Can a contemporary piece of orchestral music be “classical”? – Not sure myself, so orchestral music is what I call it.

We are all exposed to lavish orchestral works a lot of the time. Many film soundtracks favour the use of a full orchestra and there are plenty of vocalists who use an orchestra in order to carry an emotive lyric and then there are computer game sound tracks too.

Balancing so many acoustic instruments is tricky. Composers spend a lot of time organising, arranging and testing before committing a piece of music to tape, vinyl or digits! Much of a finished orchestral piece is very subtle and a good system is imperative especially in a car. Dynamic range is particularly important as the composer will want listeners to be able to pick out even the quietest sounds that support a major theme. Contrary to popular belief, good strong bass and sub bass are also desirable. We have spoken many times of the association of bass with danger and its use for adding drama to a piece of music and this is as important in orchestral music as with genres more usually associated with “phat” bass! Having said this, acoustic music recorded in a live venue can contain many low sounds and effects that are not desirable, so just in case, it is a good idea to have some finger tip control of sub bass.

OK, The image above is probably not what you are looking for and in this day and age, is not necessary in order to reproduce strong bass. In my own car I have an Audison Prima APBX 8 DS This adds warmth and when necessary, just the right amount of thunder when listening to orchestral music. it also blends perfectly with the other Audison Prima speakers (AP 5’s and AP 1’s) in my car. Balanced frequency range is extremely important with smooth high frequencies and uncluttered mid range to aid the unpicking of layers of instruments. A good amplifier is very useful in this regard. Many poorly designed amplifiers will muddy the mid range and squish everything together. Keeping everything matching, my car employs the very excellent Audison Prima AP5.9 bit. The built in DSP allows me to have two settings which I have set for Acoustic and Electric/electronic. An Audison bit DRC controller adds the aforementioned fingertip control of sub level.

Whether I am listening to Radio 3 or music from my on board library that includes everything from “The Planet Suite” by Gustav Holst to the wonderfully bizarre “The Much Much How How and I” by Cosmo Sheldrake, I can be certain not to miss a beat, a squeak, a bowed or blown note. I am as engaged by orchestral music as I am by the rock music of my formative years and the textural musings of Tunng or my often visits to early prog.

In conclusion, I think a good system allows more engagement with sophisticated music where the devil is very much in the detail.

If your system fails to deliver to your satisfaction, it may be time to visit your local FOUR MASTER if only to experience what a car can sound like!