This Machine Has Soul.

This 1977 JVC (Japan Victor Company) amplifier receiver is next on my care list…. I was barely 6 when my late dad taught me about sound energy on his hi fi – tying a ping pong ball with a string and hanging it in front of the speakers. He had effectively explained that sound travelled as a wave – invisible but still exerting a force.

I learned about the different frequencies from the integrated equaliser interface (which at times doubled for a Star Trek navigational control ). I learned about DOLBY noise reduction on the accompanying tape player and recorder, and familiarised myself with the JVC ANRS or Automatic Noise Reduction System that reduced tape hiss (analog days!)

This hefty 10 kg of a thing just got out of storage, a little bit seasoned and worse for wear…. but on powering up – worked like a charm (JVC surely made them to last!) The volume and radio meter lights are off though so these will need replacing. I wonder if the local electronic repair shops can still get these old components.

I’m really doing the repairs for sentimental reasons, I think. I remember curling up near the JBL supplied speakers as a 7 year old – with music from Frank Sinatra, the James Last Orchestra, the London Symphonic Orchestra and countless others spinning on the turntable. I learned to discern the various instruments, blissfully transported to a different time and era that the music emanated from.

I remember we had an old Hari Raya (Eid) record with the Malaysian artists Sharifah Aini, DJ Dave, Hail Amir and others talking in a playful banter before proceeding with their festive songs (our first eid in the town of K.B in Brunei). Dad of course had his preferred music in his dynamic LP music collection. He would record LPs onto cassette tapes : there had been some demand for them from family and friends.

As I grew – the music and songs played became more diverse and contemporary. Yet you could always find me lying on the floor next to the speakers and the music cabinet. I sang Sheena Easton’s song in the 80’s – For Your Eyes Only from the James Bond movie – my voice yet to break and somewhat keeping up with her’s.

In a way, I suppose the spot on the floor next to the JVC and its special cabinet became my temporary childhood respite from the hectic world and later ….from changes in the structure of my family as my parents went their separate ways. With that spot – I could always curl up, tune in and zone out.

The JVC receiver, the turntable and tape decks went with my mom and me as we moved houses several times. Coming home from boarding school as a 14 year old – the sound system supplied the music as I practised on my saxophone. Dad’s LP collection that he had left behind were substantial: Misty, and themes from Love Story, Dr Zhivago ( Lara’s theme), Glen Miller’s Chattanooga Choo Choo, and many more.

In short – this 130 watt behemoth of a JVC machine – a conglomeration of diodes and semiconductors had soul and was one of my constants while growing up. It was something that you could always depend on to provide the music and songs. Right on que. Everytime.

Even as I write, I’m brought back to the memory of that boy lying on the floor via an old song that I’m listening to in the present – the french artist Sacha Distel’s hit from 1961 : Speak to me of love.

With its soothing flowing music intonated by Distel’s signature crooning vocals and interconnected by warm strings, piano and bass – it’s a testimony to yesteryear’s finesse in music making.

Yet at this midnight hour with the house quiet and the lights turned down low – I’m reminded on the strength of a good musical composition – slow but powerful enough to evoke the burried past, cutting through the fog of time so that past events can become clear again.

My son Daniel said last week that I have something called sensory memory with the ability to retain impressions of sensory information after the original stimuli have ended, using the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, which are retained accurately.

I think it’s the other way round though – I may have a subconscious system for storing long term memory using a complex combination of the five senses to access a particular place in time. Then once there – any further objects that I visualise such as furniture or faces would have links to other memories that I can then go into.

It’s a moment to treasure …. that clarity – courtesy of the that memory system: a snippete, a window to the past via this JVC and the music it is playing. Through it – I’m accessing old memories and travelling back in time.

…. even if it is just for a brief moment to see old faces and old places.



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