By Avis Cardella
Listening to W’s story makes me think of Robert Fludd’s Memory Palace.
Memory Palaces, also known as Methods of Loci, are used to remember things by associating them with walks through a building, for example. Fludd’s most famous, often referred to as the Memory Palace of Music, summarizes the basics of music theory, as they were known in the early seventeenth century.
So, when W gets a faraway look in his eyes as he recalls the spark that ignited his love of Iistening, I can’t help but feel that we’re about to embark on a journey into his own musical memory palace.
I’m not mistaken.
The story begins with his parents—“born in 1919, and 1923, married late, then started a family.” A sister, Dagmar, was born, followed by W.
His father was an engineer, and when W was “maybe six or seven years old” the family relocated to Egypt. W would come to live in several countries throughout the Middle East, but it was there, in “the gift of the Nile”, that he first encountered the wonders of the radio.
When a friend “constructed a radio of diodes, wire, and coil” W was mesmerized with the circuitry and what it could do. “That was my first experience choosing to listen,” he explains. “I could turn the radio on and off, and on again.”
“Persian music was different,” he continues, “with different instruments and different sounds, and I found that I liked this exotic music.”
By the age of twelve, W and his family were living in Iran, and the pre-adolescent W, was hearing news about new records and “bands like Led Zeppelin.” It was upon returning to Germany that he discovered record shops; the LP’s he’d only heard about before were now at his fingertips.
Not only that, but he also discovered that Germans were busy unloading their tube amplifiers. Suddenly the trash bins were riddled with “all these discarded Siemens, and Telefunkens.”
What would any young man worth his two good ears do in this situation?
“I picked up the trashed speakers, rebuilt them, and made my first loudspeakers,” W proudly proclaims.
Today, W builds speakers, which is not at all surprising, and he continues to enjoy listening to music—all music—including the Persian and African melodies that first found their way to him via that handcrafted radio.
It might be said that the confluence of events in his young life became the cornerstones of his memory palace. The foundation upon which all those rooms—and speakers—could be built.
In the end, this has lead W to this simple equation: “The main goal was always to listen to music. I listen to music because it’s fun.”