The Audio Cynic

The Long Goodbye

Over the last few years of writing this column, I’ve had to write “RIP” in titles several times as friends and colleagues have passed away. Being a typical male, I’ve reacted the same way with each new loss.

I got angry. I mean, really, truly, deeply pissed.

Maybe things are different with more recent generations. I’ve certainly tried to raise my children to be more accepting of sadness and mourning, but for most post-big-war upper-Midwestern males like me, the way we were trained to deal with such feelings was, as Garry Trudeau once wrote in Watergate-era Doonesbury, “deny, deny, deny!”

And at least for me, the default setting for denial is anger.

I’ve spent a good part of the day today being deeply angry. Which really means I was deeply sad and upset, but somehow owning that is harder to accept than being irrationally angry.

Sound familiar?

Anyway, this time there’s not an actual, physical death involved—just a metaphorical one. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. In this case, a colleague in audio whom I’ve known for years, worked with in a variety of roles and in different situations, has simply said he can’t do it any more. He can’t take the acrimony and contentiousness and vituperative, anonymous venom that he’s experienced in this field. So a person whose talents and abilities I’ve marveled at, envied, tried to emulate—is dropping out of a field badly in need of far more mystical polymaths like him.

Poof. Gone.

Right now, I feel like the emotional equivalent of the laminated pastry of a croissant: the sadness and anger just keep folding over, layer after layer, until I can’t even begin to separate them and determine which is which.

I suspect this is not a healthy state of being.

It has always been a mystery to me how audio, supposedly based upon an appreciation of the wonder and joy of music, can unleash so much dogmatism and hostility. I can’t explain that. I suppose it’s possible that our community is just chock-full of poor souls who are emotionally repressed, just like me, unable to identify or express what they’re really feeling. And with them, just like me, the default setting is anger.

That’s pretty fucking pathetic.

In the weeks and months to come, as the absence of my friend becomes evident, the community will be just a little darker, a little less humane than before. While such losses come frequently and are frequently and quickly forgotten, they are still losses. And we are diminished by them.

Meanwhile: who shall replace him? Anyone?

Or will the response be like that of an aspiring audiophile who, upon reading exchanges on several online forums, asked me, “why is everyone so ANGRY?”

I had no answer then. And I have no answer now.

And that makes me angry.