I enjoy reading magazines about audio gear, largely because the multiple army of metaphors and absurdities used to describe sound in verbal terms is entertaining. Online, a wide variety of interested parties toe the line of science or subjectivity in an unquenchable thirst for what is generally identified as "the live experience," a battle of words where various forums endlessly debate whether brand x or brand y reaches closer to the "musical truth." It's a battle waged mostly by absolutists, all firmly convinced of the validity of their experience.

What is less common, however, is the use of visual aids in the description of musical experience. I recently found this 1952 McIntosh brochure at a site called Hifi Lit. It deploys a lot of common tropes (such as the idea of mapping our way to understanding) while promoting its own trademarks, e.g. the little guy in the kilt. Music is portrayed as a visceral experience:


I suppose that in the quest for sound, McIntosh is a descendent of Braveheart? Or, at the very least you can purchase a pure brave heart for your system to assist in your quest to recover experience, perhaps so you can get your kicks on route 66?


It's amazing to me the pervasiveness of these communicative metaphors. Remember that this is 1952, just after the Shannon-Weaver model of communication as messages down a conduit. Note that McIntosh wants to suggest that all sound (not just speech) contains messages. Such messages must be transmitted with purity. It makes me think of the launch code in Kubrick's 1964 Dr. Strangelove: POE, purity of essence, that wonderful twisting of peace on earth. We wouldn't want to have listener fatigue from our stereo systems, now would we? Not very peaceful, is it? Especially when the little kilted gnome gets just as addled as you do.

As the brochure continues, it anticipates William Ivins 1953 argument for visual syntax in Prints and Visual Communication. The urge to impose verbal constraints on non-verbal phenomena was in the air. In this case, sound gets mapped on the alphabet:


Pleasure, alarm, discomfort and then back to school with a bribe for the teacher: I love it.

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