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19 Feb 2011: Manos Mpitsakakis

Mpitsakakis-Feb-2011-syst

By Tony Pothitos

When music is like a fine brush sliding on an oil canvas, or when a dance is so symmetrical and robust that you forget to breath, or even when the wooden cedar of the barrel leaves no bad taste to the palate of your mouth as it wets itself with the best of wines, it all comes down to one thing. You are defining art.

The French artist...

Art is mostly known by artist, but in some cases, as it is in ACA, we try to create art through the sublime and insatiable gift from the Greek Gods. Through music.
What we try to do is to bring back to life the instant, or moment a recording was made. We try again and again to make emotions run down our spine as we achieve our goal, and most of all, when we have the honor to share these moments with our fellow members we are at our best.

This is something that only an ACA member can feel when they are at a monthly meeting of another member.

If I was Shakespeare I could say more. But everything that was said for the love of women, can be said for the love of music. That I know for sure.

I write these words as a summary of just some of the gifts we receive when we arrive to someoneʼs home to listen to his quest for the sublime. This month was at the home of a member which is not one of the founding members of ACA, but a very powerful and honest French artist. His Monet was eloquent and simple.

Not over the top, or tiring. It was simply just RIGHT!
We went to Manosʼs home as early as we could. The GPS was not far from the truth, but we finally shut it down as we just opened the windows of the car and just listened to find his home.

The arrival...

Mpitsakakis-Feb-2011-pic-2I was driving with Kelly and with Tasso Syrigos, and as we finally got to our destination I was lucky enough to find parking directly in front of Manosʼs home. I say that, because the car lineup was rather long and we were late as it was.

Not much later, when the auditioning started, I found out that we would be listening to speakers smaller than my car woofers! And I am talking about the front door speaker of the car, forget the sub!! How in the world could a tiny Castle Eden fill a room with so many people I could not fathom.

I could not see a turntable, and a computer was sitting close to the stereo with an open monitor. I also saw a naked work in progress, a DIY DAC which I had heard during a test only a few months ago at Kyriakoʼs home, but it seemed it was more at home here.

The music, the listening...

Mpitsakakis-Feb-2011-pic-3For tonight the host decided thank God not to start with classical but rather with Miles Davis, “My prince will come”. I was for once thankful because I enjoyed the warm up of what was going to come, and even then some. The brush mentioned before on the oil canvas gave way to tones and color, much like any paint proving that man and machine can create art. The tumbling essence here was the speed and cohesion of notes, all played and respected individually. I would have never thought I would hear music from a speaker of this size or price. Not even close. So I closed my eyes and the trip began, and it was a beautiful trip down musical lane. The Sony transport not only did a great job with the DAC, but a wonderful one! I felt I needed some wine. But I donʼt drink. I felt I needed a cigar, but I donʼt smoke any more, and think about it. This was just the beginning of the nightʼs listening session.

Verdi was next, where classical was not classical at all but rather contemporary and bold. It was not just a voice, it was a manʼs soul giving us more than just a sound, but a heart. The drum rolled as the first notes fell, were so well timed and real that the Giuseppe Verdi would have had to look twice before realizing it was not live. The sense of depth was almost REAL and the chorus was so empowering peaceful and melodic that it accommodated the head vocals exactly as it should have. Even the normally harsh violins brought sweet air and serenity to the already passionate halo of sound.

And then I noticed something I had not noticed before.
There was so many people talking around me, but I could not hear them. I was totally tuned into the orchestration before my eyes. Normally, I am annoyed by othersʼ voices, but my adrenaline was so much in sync with my mind that nothing seemed to matter. And that my friends happens very few times to me. And it happened here, with music I would never have dreamt before of affecting me so deeply. The transients were like they were in clouds, high above, being blessed in heaven, while the staccato vocals adjusted my heart beat to go with the rhythm. Pure nature conceived between man and music. As it should be.
Like a sweet cold breeze on a summer night, and a blast to the senses is the best way to dare to write in words or recreate what I felt during this piece. The female vocals were like beluga caviar, the most powerful mouthful a normal man can taste, not only in his mouth, but his mind.

Jean luc Ponty. I closed my eyes here, not by choice but by force as I was taken to a place called nowhere. In this place called nowhere, there was no pain, no anger or injustice, but hair rising shivers coming from the otherwise blunt look computer connected to the stereo. Truth be told, I had never heard this piece before, but I was taken with it immediately. At times, simple, at others complex, yet not tiring to the ear as it fused with the auditory system of my body.

Enigmatic motion was simply executed divinely by Al Stewart, “on the border”, an old favorite of mine. But this time around it didnʼt sound old. It sounded like it was totally premastered, not in the digital way, but in the musical way, so that it made total sense today as it did when it was written. I could not hear the age of the music at all, and on the one hand

Mpitsakakis-Feb-2011-pic-4I hated the emotion but on the other hand I found it very stimulating and rather youthful and fresh. The Spanish guitar strings wove like waves of the Aegean giving rise to a smile I caught myself giving to the system setup! I was smiling at a machine! How crazy is that? I then laughed at my own sense of childish behavior, but then realized that was exactly the point of it all. To rejuvenate, and that it did.

Peter Gabriel was on next, a man I have seen live over and over again during my youth. I remember him on Lycabettus hill, and in the largest of stadiums worldwide. And when the whistles from the tiny Edenʼs reached my ear, I felt just like I did when I heard it live, even the sound of children in the background were there. Just that notion in my head took me back to the reality I had lived and had forgotten in my past. I thought I had forgotten the moment, but I was brought back to it again.

Up next on stage was Steely Dansʼ “Aja” . A piece for distinguished tastes, or even peculiar ones one might say. This was a man who wanted you to listen to history and not just read about it. If that makes any sense that is. The song was not my favorite but the 86db sensitive speakers, being pushed by a rather heavy 500 watt amp from Musical Fidelity was certainly giving us a show tonight. The 2004 Castle Edenʼs were performing for me, and me alone. And they did what they were made to do. Lift the listener as high as it can.

Salif Keita was then played and I noticed a rather unusual hormone release. I wanted more and more and more. I wanted it louder and faster and forever! A voice from Africa which shines light from the nations ability to bring music into the world. It was vibrant and clear, it wanted us to join their world, where the air was different, yet it welcomed us. It was a spectacle of emotions in the voice of a mans beliefs and his music. All you have to do, is allow the beat to take over your body, and the rest is magic.

Jennifer Warnes is unlike most female soloists for me. This persona brings music to a fluid state of consciousness. This in other words means, just be being around her music when played, you are forced to listen to what she has to say. It is like finding sunshine when it rains all day. Simply more meaningful than words, but more like a spirit comes to mind when I listen to her.

“Donʼt stop the dance” with Brian Ferry on the microphone was served right afterwards. I cannot write more than a reference to the song, since I simply by this time dropped my pen and paper and closed my eyes while I was dancing. In short though, the vocals were very much as I like them, not too harsh and yet smooth enough to listen to even at very loud pressure levels.

I then remember Elton John singing “Rocket man” somehow. I thought at that point that Sir John is gay, and beautiful. Something I have not said as I recall before. This song, as others by the same composer and singer is a longing for life, a reminder that music is solace as it is an art.

America and Robbie Williams were played in single file after Sir John.
“A horse with no name” and “me and my monkey” if I recall. But what is for sure, is that the channel separation on both of these pieces, the mids and the timing aforementioned were a trait of the system we heard tonight. Its unique English birth nation, made me forget about the wet and cold, and warmed me up to the lovemaking of the artisans of France. If the French ever made a complete musical system, I would swear it would sound like this. A French artist indeed. The English can make systems, but the French drink wine and make love, just like this system here tonight.

Thanks to...

Mpitsakakis-Feb-2011-pic-5I would like to thank on behalf of everyone , Manosʼs family, especially his wife who provided us with what I then and still call “my last supper”, as it seems it was the first time I ate a salad which tasted like the earth was beyond the sky and where her pot roast made people utter “sounds” unlikely to be printed here!!

I was happy to see that Manosʼs son and daughter were there, and both were part of the scenery as much as the host was. It was a delight to see to see since I never believed Manos was a day older than 27 years old!

A man is only what he leaves behind some say, and in Manosʼs case, he needs to leave nothing more.

Music Program Highlights

  • Jean Luc Ponty - Mirage
  • Al Stewart - On The Border
  • Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers
  • Steely Dan - Aja
  • Salif Keita - Sina
  • Jennifer Warnes - Famous Blue Raincoat
  • Brian Ferry - Don't Stop The Dance
  • Elton John - Rocket Man
  • America - A Horse With No Name
  • Robbie Williams - Me And My Monkey

System Description

  • Speakers: Castle Acoustics 'EDEN'
  • Preamplifier: Musical Fidelity A5CR pre
  • Power amplifier: Musical Fidelity A5CR pw
  • Digital source A: Vintage Sony CD - optical
  • Digital source B:Windows 7 laptop - foobar - silfex glass optical
  • DAC: DIY Crystal based D/A converter - Dual tranf's - five PSU's - National Op Amps Out
  • Wiring: DIY 5N silver

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Manos Mpitsakakis' Member Page

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