A memoir of self-discovery via homage to the richness of sound.

The music of a poet’s life.

Hongo, a professor of arts and sciences at the University of Oregon, recounts his life through his evolving love of music and his obsession with the audio equipment he lusted after in order to get the precise sound he desired. Fifteen years ago, he recalls, when a CD player broke, he asked a friend’s advice about getting a replacement. With a newfound passion for opera, he was particularly interested in finding the best sound quality for that art form. What he discovered was a world of possibilities that honed his ear and his taste. He looked first for “romance and warmth,” then “refinement and tonal purity,” and, later—as he learned the esoteric jargon of audiophiles—“soundstaging, air, and bloom.” As the author notes, “stereo sound can be so compelling it displaces the real and captures your soul.” A Hawaii-born Japanese American, Hongo moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was 6 and grew up in a house surrounded with music. He began collecting LPs and 45s as a teenager, listening to folk, rock, and, in high school, rhythm and blues, introduced to him by his Black classmates. Music throbs in the background throughout this spirited memoir, as Hongo remembers his teenage friendships and crushes, experience of racial discrimination from his peers, love affairs, travel, and mentors—poet Cid Corman, for one, whom he met in Kyoto in 1973. The author pays tribute to his late father, who himself built, tested, and traded audio equipment, and his laconic teacher Charles Wright, whose records he listened to when he housesat. Hongo imbues the book with the “churning waves of new, confusing terminology” that he learned as he searched for equipment—technical terms that may be daunting to general readers. Along the way, the author offers a history of the invention of the vacuum tube, amplifiers, and the various permutations of the phonograph.A memoir of self-discovery via homage to the richness of sound.

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