Attack of the Sonic People
The developers, inventors, creators and programmers found at NAMM (formerly the National Association of Music Merchants) are a fascinating bunch of people. Some are geniuses. Some are certifiable. Some are both. And we must face the fact that some are electronic device zealots with an expensive hobby instead of a 401(k).
The show began with a free breakfast at the Hilton, so right away I can say how much I admire and respect the goals of the entire NAMM organization. They are fine people, snappy dressers, and possessed of intense physical attractiveness.
Too much? Well, it was a good breakfast.
I didn’t even mind when they brought a potential Republican presidential candidate out on stage to open the event. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, is easily among the sanest and most progressive members of either party, and his current book, “From Hope to Higher Ground” may actually have been written by him. (One of his recommendations for a better life is to listen to more music and less talk radio, so you know the guy is pretty cool.)
The Halls Open
Loping from hall to hall in the million or so square feet of products, plug-ins, gadgets, gizmos, I was frequently blissfully overwhelmed. Software, amps, sequencers, pianos, guitars, drums, brass, harps, ukuleles, sheet music, mixers, microphones, and recording gear of every shape, size, and description. It can all lead to nirvana or nervous breakdown, depending on your mood.
The Fanatic Face
There is a certain look that you see on the face of too many of the people who are demonstrating their own products. It’s a wild-eyed mysticism intermingled with the determination of a bible salesman working on commission. “ThisIsTheGreatestProductEver,” they say to you, adding “You’llBeSorryIfYouDon’tBuy12Cases.”
The Blank Stare
Even funnier are the poor schmucks who have to conduct software demos that have damn poor programming. What follows is the nearly verbatim presentation from a well-meaning guy who works for one of the world’s largest music equipment corporations:
“We’ve made it much easier to edit and compose with your tracks this year. Let’s say you want to preview some effects for the keyboards on track six of your song. You just click here and. . . wait, that shouldn’t happen. . . Oh, no, the list was hiding back here. Ha-ha, it does that sometimes. Okay, you bring down the menu and you can quickly preview the sounds. Just place your cursor on one of them, right-click and . . . wait . . . Oh, right, you have to select Auto Preview first. . . ” And so on.
“Why is it called Auto Preview if it isn’t, you know, automatic?” someone asked him. I would tell you his answer, but it was about fifty-seven words long and it essentially meant “Well, that’s just what they call it.”
Yeah, I’ll be purchasing that piece of software sometime soon.
People are people wherever you go, which means you will always find both goodness as well as god-awful behavior. For example, there were the booth bozos with the fuzz-tone hyped-up guitar amps who made certain to cut loose with their moronic sound slop whenever one of their neighbors attempted to demonstrate the pristine clean tone of his equipment.
Notice that I’m not mentioning any names because I will never, ever, under any circumstances help them with any publicity, either good or bad. (I will, however, gladly point out to NAMM officials who they are in order to ban them from next year’s show.)
Bud Henriksen makes a guitar amp without tone controls. “They aren’t necessary if you want to reproduce the pure tone of your guitar,” Henriksen states. So his small but powerful amps feature a volume control and a 5-band graphic equalizer. Specs are available at www.jazzamp.com but just to intrigue you, consider that he claims faithful sonic reproduction plus delivery of sound pressure level of 111 decibels at 1khz. All I know is that it sounds great. So clear is the JazzAmp that the ultra-high-end guitar maker Benedetto had one in their booth. Benedetto guitars range in price from $5,000 to $26,250 so you know they’re going to be concerned with the quality of any amp they use.
The saga of Gary Kramer and the Van Halen-approved Kramer Guitars is a mixture of happy and sad tales. You can read about it at www.garykramerguitar.com but the latest chapter has resulted in two magnificent guitar designs. The first is the spectacular Delta Wing, with a one-piece sculpted mahogany body that appears to be flying even as you approach it.
The second is the Bondage, which has a conventional shape yet is arguably one of the most interesting guitars ever created. The neck and body are made up of flame or quilted maple, Honduran mahogany, Indian or Bolivian rosewood, and Italian handmade leather. Yes, you read that right. Leather. It’s positively kinky.
Both Henriksen and Kramer are visionaries. And so far, neither one has that dreaded fanatic face.
[tags]G Man, Scott G, Music Critics Must Die, NAMM[/tags]