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President's Message
January 2004

1.  With all publicity about the major record companies and retailer, the independent stores are also in trouble. The Boston Globe reviews the indie stores. Hard times cause by bootleggers, a harsh economic climate, and illegal and legal downloading is causing difficulties. To counter falling sales, managers are cutting staffs, pricing their CDs competitively, and expanding stock to include videos, DVDs and clothing. And practicing the art of specialization. "We certainly try to appeal to more the the lunatic fringe," says Pat McGrath, owner of Looney Tunes Records, which has survived the last 25 years selling used classical, jazz and rock records. "People who scarcely have a life are our ideal customers--someone who would eat dog food so they would have extra record money. I swear, some of them look like they're existing solely on Alpo. That's the clientele I cultivate. I'm a niche market." [The boom in DVDs is also a factor. I think after a while, people will get tired of watching movies, and the time it takes while excluding any other activity, and come back to music.] Boston Globe 19Nv03

2.  John Rockwell reviews a NAXOS recording of "The Eternal Road", Max Reinhardt's lavish pageant of Jewish biblical history, first staged in 1937. Noteworthy is that Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded the score in stereo (four years before Fantasia) and that recording, along with an amplified 16-piece live band mandated by the musicians' union, provided the accompaniment. The recording and most of the orchestrations are lost. NYT 5Oc03

3.  Ronald Miles, a professor of mechanical engineering, (Bio HERE) has received a $6.5 million grant from the NIH to develop a new type of directional hearing aid, designed to pick up what a companion across the table is saying without picking up ambient noise. The microphone is based on the ears of the fly Ormia ochracea. The female uses her fine hearing to pick out the sound of distant crickets, which serve as hosts on which she can deposit larvae. The larvae burrow into the crickets, then eat them as they mature.

The two membranes on the fly's hearing organ are close together and mechanically coupled by a hinge-like piece of tissue. In regular mikes the membrane that vibrates is clamped all around like a drumhead. But in his mike, made of silicon, the membrane works by rocking like a seesaw that is hinged on a central pivot. " a teeter-totter, only really small.' If sound arrives on both sides at the same time and amplitude, the mechanism doesn't move. Sound that arrives from the side causes it to move. He fits three on a chip and uses a laser interferometer to sense the movement, down to ten to the minus 14 meters of deflection, about the size of an atom. Signal processing gives more directionality than with one mike.

Some 20 million American have hearing loss, only 20 percent of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually try them. And only half of that 20 percent are satisfied. NYT 11De03

David Hadaway

President, Boston Audio Society



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updated 11/11/04