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In the Forum: Audio News
In the Thread: Clark Johnsen.
Post Subject: Clark Johnsen - the man from IowaPosted by rickmcinnis on: 4/10/2020
Clark demanded that I, too, concentrate on Bruckner.
At first listen I thought it was lacking in that frenzied intelligence of Mahler - too simple. With time I see how idiotic that impression was and my listening to Mahler is almost nil where Bruckner must be listened to every week.
Clark was the only audio writer I ever wrote to - the only one who interested me with his great desire for all of us to connect the dots of perception. All of the senses are analogous and what we learn from one sense is applicable to the others. Learning how to use your brain ...
I was shocked when he wrote back and we continued a fractured correspondence for over a decade.
I would write an essay and Clark, the pedantic one, would make notes within my paragraphs. Never received a real letter from him - I think he figured the column was his long form and I was grateful for them.
I got the opportunity to visit Clark about nine years ago. He told me I was welcome to stay at his place which I appreciated since I am a Scot and therefore cheap; thrifty is a euphemism. I expected a guest bedroom but was directed towards the sofa in the listening room which had become more dedicated to his projection TV. I have never been in a house quite like Clark's. Disconcerting at first but after a few minutes one realized this is the only way Clark could live.
Clark was a man who had no desire for the bourgeois life but he never looked down on those who did A true libertarian he asked to be left alone and in return he wanted others to do as they thought best for themselves. We closely shared these beliefs though i must admit I could not live in quite the same circumstances!
Maybe it is common in Boston but in the mornings when Clark would come down from his bedroom he would light a burner on the gas stove and that provided the heat. Not that it was Winter yet but it was chilly. The one rule he gave me was no conversation in the morning, which was quite difficult since all I wanted to do was ask questions. He would not impose this for too long and the bantering would begin.
I know I disappointed him with not wanting to drink beer. He had some assortment ready for appraisal when I got there the first evening and I had to tell him I like beer but do not drink it since I think it aggravates my susceptibility to gout. So I would drink my Rye whisky and he would enjoy his beers. Not to infer that Clark drank LOTS of them. He was a man who knew his limits.
When I first brought up coming to visit, yes, I invited myself, I asked him if he knew Romy the Cat. He told me with a big smile on the phone, "I know them all!". To this point I had no idea they were actually friends. It makes me happy to know these two knew each other and were friends. Plus I was determined to hear the great system! In addition Clark took me to meet and hear the system of Dr. Gaw one of Clark's oldest audio friends. Dr. Gaw had been a customer of the LISTENING STUDIO. You just don't meet people like this often. Dr. Gaw's system remains the most elaborate I have ever seen and heard. From the pictures in the magazine he wrote for it looked like a big jumbled mess which it was anything but. I had thought that video and audio were best kept in separate rooms but this was the argument against that. He played the video of the BAND's LAST WALTZ a recording I had never been that fond of even though I think the BAND's first two records are among the best popular music ever made. Can't remember which songs were played but the totality of the thing brought tears to my eyes. It was emotionally overwhelming. I think Dr. Gaw could sell tickets for the experience. I hope he is well.
The next day we drove around the Massachusetts countryside going to Concord and Walden Pond as we slowly meandered our way to Romy's house in the country. He had recently moved. When Clark called Romy he was told him the system was not anywhere close to being set up. Clark relays this to me and I say well I still want to meet him. Romy, as you would expect, thought that was idiotic but said it was OK to bring me.
My first experience with Romy was responding to one of his posts on AUDIO ASYLUM when I was even dumber than I am now - defending my edgarhorns - I liken what Romy did to me to the last scene in O LUCKY MAN when Lindsay Anderson slaps Malcolm McDowell with the script. All of us need someone to care enough to tell us when we are stupid. I had also mistakenly attributed some cap recommendation to him and he thought I was trying to do something nefarious. I wanted to meet him and let him know that was not the case.
I knew I had to be prepared for this "brutal" man as the popular lore would have it, even though Bruce Edgar said Romy was a pussycat with true affection but you never can be sure ... He was initially perplexed in his actions towards me and I was quietly obeisant. Then he asked if it was OK to smoke a cigar and I said without hesitation - "it is your house you should do as you wish in it". I think it was from that point we were at ease with each other. though the system was incomplete one could hear, even in mono, what he had accomplished.
So one could be wondering - am I writing an encomium to Clark or to Romy? Ever since then they have been intertwined in my mind.
Clark and I continued to correspond to the almost end. I thought he had already died and that no one had bothered to notice.
On the internet yesterday afternoon at six-thirty I went to enjoythemusic which I never do, cannot remember the last time I did, and see he had posted moments before that Clark had died.
I guess it was in May of last year when he told us of his trip to the hospital? I thought he was going to outwit this thing. He did last longer than most which I have to attribute to the friends of his who took care of him. There was one fellow he told me who brought him dinner every evening. I cannot remember his name. I suspect he did not realize how long his kindness would be required!
I was so glad but not surprised that Romy would post about this fine fellow. I know Clark thought very highly of you, Romy. I sincerely think he was proud to know you and grateful that such a person would be close enough to be real friends. No matter how hard one might try there is no such thing as a long distance friendship. Dear acquaintanceship maybe but not making it to that far more rarefied place.
Please forgive my discombobulated post.
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