The Warmth of Tubes

 Photo: CK

Photo: CK

What is it about those Christmas Specials from decades ago, with new music each time, that created so many hits that we still know and sing today? Even going back and listening to a sketch and duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie that I had never heard before--because it was composed and shared in that time--I find myself open to it, enchanted by it.

A disarmed place allows for originality. Otherwise, we get stuck in graphs and tables of integered possibility. The digital topography vs the warmth and possibility of tube; a wave vs Morse code.

I heard my Mesa Boogie Single Rectifier for the first time in ten years (it's a big tube-based guitar amp), and oh man it was like Christmas! What a beautiful, emotional creation of sound, so satisfying, nothing of want remained. It wasn't just about testosterone, or adrenaline or loudness; this sound was moving me. It was actually very surprising.

How many of us operate on transistors or settle on digital approximation these days, vs the natural warmth of tubes? Yes, tubes are much more fragile, take maintenance, cost more, need to warm up before sound is produced and usually requires that the amplifier be much heavier compared to digital or transistor devices. Many in the industry still "settle" for digital sound. But, if you listen with your soul, anything less than the warmth and vulnerability of a tube leaves you lacking something.

Possibility, tiny undulations, imperfection that becomes natural beauty, that perhaps even allows for gravity's subtle mark to be left on it, vs a set of instructions designed to only mimic nature, acoustics, algorithms that try to fool us. There remains dissonance! We somehow know that something is not quite flowing, there is a subtle friction, a minuscule violence that does not let us melt into sound.

There are no straight lines in nature or reality. There are always magnetic forces of stars, and curvature of the orbits of electrons that prevent the alignment of a ruler to be always touching something. A straight line is a human creation and concept and one that exists only as a figment of our imaginations. Whenever we believe there is a straight line, it is due to our definition of it arbitrarily dropping off beyond visibility or function.

 Photo: CK

Photo: CK

I'll be clear, that yes, we can have digital sound, we can have concepts that have no grounding in reality and exist only in binary representation. It's not to say we can't. Our mind is pretty marvelous in that way, to both create and decode such things. But, what if, because it doesn't actually exist, our very hearts ignore it? It would be like a cold frying pan trying to emit radio waves. There is nothing to hear.

It's interesting to consider that as we lose the ability and yearning to be spontaneous, open, vulnerable and imperfect, that it may mean we are phasing out of life and reality itself. We lose frequencies, very much like it occurs through hearing damage from loud volumes or age. Only, we have the capacity for an eternal youth, a fountain of frequency. I posit that much of the world has run dry or exists in but a trickle. As the pathways become fewer and fewer, and in our failing to notice the ones that fall away, we can see how societal behavior and thinking becomes ever more limited by a prescribed set of acceptable options. Box 1 or box 2. Maybe even boxes 3 to 72.

 Photo: CK

Photo: CK

Choice in itself is a limitation. If you have a choice your options are finite. True freedom is the ability to decide outside of options. If someone is angry, we can observe this anger without our being triggered by it. After all, the reasons for our own anger in response have nothing to do with someone else's. We get angry so the body can protect itself. We get angry because we suddenly feel we have permission to do so, and if we have been holding back for hours or decades, well, our anger will be unproportional to the situation. It is a very intriguing thing to see anger as one would the moon. The moon in its moon-ness, and anger in its anger-ness. Both are equally allowed to just be, in their time. Witnessing anger can feel like Eden, and be a reminder that you never actually left the Garden.

By allowing things to be, as they are, without a need for protection or self-preservation (which could also be called self-creation), there is the warmth of tubes, an ever-flowing adaptation, dynamic, dancing, and, we glow and emit warmth. Christmas can be anytime. It only takes a flick of a switch or two and then, patience, waiting to hear the sound...

 Photo: CK

Photo: CK