by Nshan Mkrtchyan
- Since as long as I can remember, sound has been my obsession. I don't even want to say that music has been my obsession all my life because music is the product of sound, just like how all of my other obsessions are a product of music.
- It is unfortunate that I cannot pin down my obsession to one tiny little thing, but maybe that is the point of what I am going to write about right now. I wish I could pin down at least one sound I obsess with. For example, really fuzzy guitars, but that wouldn't be honest. My soul continues to move from the sound of a cello, classical guitar, or a hammer hitting a nail into the wall to hang a painting nude woman to light up the living room. I wonder what sounds the artist heard in his head when he painted the nude woman.
- Classical music has always been around. It is the sound I am most familiar with. It is the sound of David Russell playing Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2 on the classical guitar or Itzhak Perlman playing Paganini’s 24 Caprices.
- It is the sound of the baroque era that really did it for me. Of course, Bach being the master he was, perfected the counterpoint, which centered me to worship the holy sounds he wrote down on pieces of paper. Dots and lines that created such beauty. I will jokingly say that Bach is God, but Bach is the reason why I believe in God. He wrote holy music for the holy man. The fact that Bach created this sound for the man above only proves that there is a man above. It is his music, which made me understand what love is.
- My parents noticed how I reacted to sound as a young child. They met a composer, maybe at an Armenian produce market, and asked if he would give me piano lessons. This was a mistake.
- As a seven year old, the first piece of music I learned on the piano was a small instructional piece written by Bach. Of course this brought joy to my young soul. The memory of the gentle melody of this piece still echoes in my mind. It was Bach’s Minuet in G major. It was a weird obsession with the sound of Bach’s music at age seven.
- A big influence on my obsession with sound was my Uncle. Hanging out at his place, I heard the sounds of the unholy trinity. I loved Sabbath and loved Deep Purple even more. Zeppelin wasn't much for me. The sound of my uncle playing the same one, four, five progression of the guitar trained my brain and ears to obsess over it as an adult.
- I was sitting in the living room of my Grandmother’s apartment in Los Feliz, and my Uncle walked in with a dvd that said G3. I saw the pictures and names of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Yngwie who? Yngwie fucking Malmsteen, that’s who. This is the earliest memory I have that I can say shaped the obsession of sound I have today. The moment Ynwgie Malmsteen was on the screen, my eyes and ears were wide open to worship this sound. It was Bach on steroids. This Swede was the real deal. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was all the same chord chord progressions of Bach with the lead guitar playing what sounded like Paganini. This truly was Bach and Paganini plugged in the countless stacks of Marshall heads and cabinets. This was my first true introduction to the sound of heavy metal.
- Sound became my first true friend. Nobody, at the young age I was, obsessed with sound like me. I wasn't a freak, I just didn't care much for toys and video games. Without even knowing how to play the guitar, I was a seven year old obsessed with its electric sound. I found every guitar magazine I could and asked my mom to buy them all for me. Not only was their sound a gem, butt they looked so beautiful. I obsessed with the Gibson Les Paul. One day in my fourth grade class, I sat at my desk going through images of electric guitars instead of doing the class work. My teacher walked up to me and asked who my favorite guitarist is. I replied with Yngwie Malmsteen. She had such a surprised expression on her face. She said Yngwie Malmsteen is her husband’s favorite guitarist. She loved Yngwie just as much as me. She walked towards the front of the class, and it was at this point I realized she didn't say anything to me about not doing my class work. A sharing obsession of sound just helped me get away with obsessing over sound. This obsession started a friendship that lasts until this day.
- Playing piano for so many years, I now realized it wasn't my true passion. It's not that I wasn't obsessed with the sound. I can listen to Chopin’s nocturnes all day. My fingers just craved to create sound with the guitar. Although I couldn't play, I hit nine, and needed to learn how to play the guitar. My Dad bought me a cheap black Strat. I asked my Uncle to teach me something. Of course it had to be the Smoke on the Water riff on the low E string. I played this riff a hundred times. It stuck to muscles. Unfortunately, I wouldn't touch the guitar for a few more years after this.
- My biggest obsession with sound is the minor scale. Most of the time, the harmonic minor scale. In basic terms, the major scale is the happy sounding scale, and the minor scale is the sad sounding scale. Being in a minor scale is the most healing thing, for the creator and the receiver. I've never seen incredible creations being made out of happiness. The greatest art, literature, poetry, and music has come from sorrow. It has derived from pain. Pain itself is the greatest form of art. Pain makes us actually think about our life. Pain is what keeps humans grounded. Pain is the romance of life. All of the greatest love songs have been in minor keys. All of the heaviest songs have been in minor keys.
- The word heavy has become a big word in my life. I’ve always thought to myself, what is heavy? Growing up into my very wise age of 22, heavy has had different meanings for me. From the beginning, I thought was all about sound. Since seven, I thought Yngwie Malmsteen was the heaviest guitarist there was. Then at about fourteen years old, I discovered thrash metal. A sound that mostly bores me today, but as an adolescent craving angst, it was the heaviest sound there was. The fast heavy riffs of Slayer and there satanic lyrics were the heaviest thing ever made. Time went on and I discovered the doom legends. The real heavy humans. Then came the heaviness of a man and his guitar.
- The heavy sound that pierced through my heart and soul was the sound of doom. Not only were the riffs so heavy, but the words they offer were so real. Pentagram says in Be Forwarned, “As I wake in the darkness, and I look around, there is no sound. It's so tranquil, it's so calm like you, but now I hear a noise. Is there anyway out of this nightmare? I'm alone now, and you're laughing at me, but I take life in a way that you could never see. So if you're leaving, you better let me know, because I've already started my plan, and I'm never going to let you go.” These words with this riff. This is the definition of beauty. This is what challenges life. This is what challenges pain. This is what challenges love. Words to capture your soul, and riffs that possess the mind.
- Saint Vitus is right next to Pentagram. Their words challenge the world. The song Born Too Late says, “Every time I walk the streets people laugh and point at me. They say my songs are much to slow, it they don't know the things I know.” A primitive riff with primitive words. Words that are real. The real power of this song is the voice of Wino. The sound of his voice connects with the human presence. It's a sound that nobody in the world has.
- Wino became the biggest influence on my obsession with sound. His voice has the sound that makes every lonely human being to never feel alone again. Wino’s voice has the sound of hope. His sound is known to be the beginning of the heavy doom metal. He also taught me that the heaviest music comes from one man, and one guitar. The obsession I've always had with his sound brought us together one day. Both our obsessions with sounds brought us together one day. We became friends and connected on a deeper understanding of what sound really is. He taught me newer sounds that I obsess over everyday. Although he is known for being the heaviest of heavy, getting to know him more and more helped me understand what makes him so human. That being human is heavy. Wino is heavy with love. His motto is, “If it ain't heavy, it ain't shit.”
- I am obsessed with The Obsessed.
- After years and years of being obsessed with sound, trying to sound, failing with new sounds, searching for new sounds…I found my sound. I belong to the classical guitar. I believe it is the purest sound my soul has ever felt. There is such a freedom of sound with the classical guitar. With one instrument I can play my favorite compositions by Bach and also play my favorite Spanish sounds. This instrument has the most romantic and intimate sound.
- The making of the classical guitar is an art in itself. Luthiers are the real masters of understanding what makes the best sound. Musicians just try to produce the best sound. What left me obsessed with the classical guitar was having the opportunity to play a 1929 Hermann Hauser. The purest, most sensual sound to come out of an instrument. Well worth the $150,000. I'm grateful that this one instrument allowed me to find my sound. The sound that I want to pursue for the rest of my life.
- I am obsessed with the sound of vinyl.
- I am thankful for the sounds of human laughter, thankful for Wino, thankful for the sounds of Bach, and thankful for Mozart’s Requiem. I will wake up to Bach in the morning.
Notation: I mentioned a lot of classical music such as Bach’s Minuet in G major. I also used lyrics of two songs. The first song is “Be Forewarned” by the band, Pentagram, and the second song is “Born Too Late” by Saint Vitus.