I began writing for a magazine called The Absolute Sound about five years ago. For those of you who haven’t heard of The Absolute Sound (hereafter referred to as TAS), it was founded in 1973. Primarily TAS focuses on audiophile stereo equipment; it also contains a music section, and I publish reviews, interviews and feature articles in that part of the magazine.
Writing about music is something I’ve always enjoyed, and from the beginning contributing to TAS was fun. Quickly, though, I grew to love it. Partly that’s due to a coincidence: I was a vinyl record lover even when records bordered on extinction, and shortly after I joined the magazine a vinyl resurgence began taking place. It turns out I was at the perfect place to celebrate that surprising bit of news. I doubt any magazine on the planet grumbled more about the fact that vinyl had become an endangered species; now we celebrate both analog and continually improving digital recordings.
That’s part of what I love about the magazine. Also, I chat a lot on the phone and email back and forth with people from around the world who are connected to the music industry in one way or another. As opposed to corporate behemoths, these folks selling music, stereos, record cleaners and other accessories work on a smaller scale, emphasizing quality over quantity. Often they’re testing unknown waters and taking risks, and they do so because they’re driven by a passion. Examples include the Rune Grammofon label, whose new deluxe 7-LP release by Norwegian musician Arve Henriksen epitomizes the labor of love record-making can involve. The Lithuanian label NoBusiness Records also come to mind; in a few years this new small label has put out dozens of avant-garde jazz records on vinyl. I’m also impressed by the Paris-based Sam Records, whose passion for reissuing killer jazz LPs includes recreating album covers from the original artwork. And there’s Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland, a record pressing plant that didn’t even exist a few years ago. People must have thought they were crazy to open a plant at that time; now they need two full-time shifts to keep up with demand.
Clearly that same passionate and devil-may-care spirit was embodied by William Ackerman when he founded Windham Hill Records in 1976. He didn’t foresee or plot to achieve massive success; he just wanted to release some good music. In fact, when the label got too large, he went the other way. Now Ackerman has started over. Before I interviewed him for TAS I had no idea that the result would be so provocative and inspiring. In a later email he compared our discussion to a tennis game, and I feel that when I read the interview. The Absolute Sound posted it online, and here’s a link to it: