Thought plum

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Some puzzles are quick to solve while others take a lifetime. I like to think of the long-term puzzles as thought plums.

And, while I love plums, I am always sad to eat one because the longing for its pleasures is never as sweet as its fruit.

One such plum has been with me for as long as I have been aware of recorded sound. Live sound from mechanical means.

Just yesterday I sat in the quiet of the hotel lobby noodling on this problem. It was early morning, just after 6. I sipped hot coffee in the 100-year-old Benbow Inn with its disparate collection of furniture, windows and doors. It’s a large room with wooden floors and tall ceilings. In the far corner, ironically next to a beautiful grand piano, is mounted a pair of crappy speakers playing some attempt at classical mood music. As the recorded piano played in its muddled version of music—unable to leave the speakers—I imagined how that same music would have sounded in this room on the grand just below the speakers. It would have pierced the silence. It would have rung like a bell. It would have lifted itself out of the quiet and made itself known. Its notes would have lingered in the air, separate and apart from the room and the wooden box the strings were amplified by.

Those little speakers could never compete and I wondered if any speaker could. Yes! came the answer. Somehow we can make this happen. We are so tantalizingly close, yet miles from the grail.

I figured one test that might give us a clue. A step response. I don’t know if this yet exists but I want to create a low-level continuum and intersperse stepped volume bursts of increasing levels and record the results to see what is disturbed and what is maintained. I can see it in my head. Now we just have to figure out a means to make this happen. It’s what engineering is all about.

It excites me.

One part of me wants to figure this out.

The other relishes the plum and hopes I won’t.