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Positive Feedback ISSUE 10
october/november 2003


Beauty and the Gizmological Imperative: Positive-Feedback Online’s GIZMO Award
by Terry Cain


Terry Cain is President of Cain & Cain, a firm in Walla Walla, Washington that specializes in fine audio, furniture, art… quite a lot of wonderful things, actually! His website is

What do I know about Gizmo? I’m set to typecast myself by writing this. I can live with that. I’m a tenderfoot Gizmologist, so what? I was asked by David Robinson one day to write about Harvey Rosenberg, and why there should be an award named after him. I believe there should be. Many of you knew Harvey far longer and better than I, but it didn’t take me long to figure out what Harvey was about. Harvey followed his nose on a direct path to advanced musical bliss. Along the way, he annoyed and inspired perhaps more audiophiles than any writer could ever hope too.

I apologize in advance if my writing here is annoying or diffuse. I’m a builder, not a writer. One way or another, Harvey connected to audiophiles, I know he also connected with builders and artistic types.

He certainly did me.

In the movie "The Blues Brothers," the black suited pair of Ackroyd and Belushi visit "the Penguin," their parochial school Principal, from years before. The scene is one of authoritarian carnage wreaked upon the quite true to life personas of a couple yahoos undisciplined, and unworthy. Not that the Penguin was out of line, to be sure she was simply delivering discipline, deserved, required and quickly.

When I was in parochial school we had other names for our sisters of the cloth besides "Penguin." We hid our undisciplined nature in the presence of our teachers, officials of the school, et al. It was however a wonderful and rewarding time in life, one that I so luckily happened upon, in retrospect, in a similar fashion to the Blues Bro’s story.

Anyway, the higher cost of tuition at this school bought a nice audiovisual theater at a time when analog film was king. Watching Edison’s rotogravure machine record voices, played back on the same machine was one of many epic adventures on film caught or lodged in my brain while holding back my undisciplined nature during the 5-8th grades at this private school. Particularly the "Industry on Parade" series catalyzed my brain for gizmological imperatives. Mesmerized by "Kon-Tiki" and "Midsummer Nights Dream," the theater this school was blessed with was one of exquisite assembly. I was a Private First Class theater operator. I had access to all the lighting systems colored gel sheets that I jokingly stuck to other students in the hallway, and I could play my Animals or Tommy James records during lunch.

The Japanese culture films flowed from an all Altec solid state system with pyramid shaped speakers hung over the audience. Watching the Shokunin (Japanese shoji master carpenter) glide his plane down the log, tissue shavings unrolling like toilet paper, I was there. I had built things since I could reach things. What the "Penguins" did was provide an intense an orderly input of knowledge at the right time in a caring place, money back guarantee.

I’m not overly religious, but I sense a good deal of what some call being "guided by a spirit." Simply put, I look at what gets built around me and I understand that not only is there skill, patience, study, insight, rejection and a million other things involved, but there’s also a biological summation of DNA, a higher presence of existence that inspires, develops and succeeds in our sense of creative accomplishment. We are elevated to a sense of wonderment and joy in the presence of things built with a touch of this "spirit" guided quality. We see creations as "reflections" of someone, something; of ideas and of another’s will.

Things get built because we expand and divide our cell structures in our body. That’s jumping ahead a bit, but that’s the way it is. We build to live. Living amongst our collection of objects we begin to have a deeper intellectual meaning. Materialism is the distraction; buying is not creating. Satisfying the soul is why we yearn to create beauty. And bask in its universal glow of truth and simplicity.

This is a tribute as well as an award in honor of a man who understood this meaning better than most. Harvey Rosenberg, "the 7th Earl clan McTannoy", GIZMO, the vaudevillian villain of tubular crazy duct taped "gizmos." Gizmo the writer, the Bohemian brute of all things absurd, unnecessary and frivolously fun. Harvey was all these and more, so much more.

I really did not know Harvey but for a brief flurry of emails for a year or so; he died on July 16th, 2001, the day of my birth. I just signed his guest book one day at, and he started this conversation with me; he’s all worried about MY musical satisfaction. We chatted online about all things tubular and horny. I began to re-connect to music in ways I had forgotten as an adult. Communicating with Gizmo, I began to feel comfortable dancing around my stacks of plywood, naked, my undisciplined nature finding a sympathetic, as well as antagonistic soul. He communicated freely the darker and "undisciplined" nature of our being, and how it relates to what we see and build and hear, as well as what we simply appreciate. This darker and undisciplined side of us is also where creativity finds nourishment. Denying this darker and undisciplined side, I imagine the world with far more consistent surroundings, a common and repetitive place where the slide rule is the only rule.

Harvey was dogmatic in his endeavors to find beauty and satisfy his well-developed blue blood senses. His search was not limited to the earth. He found ways to reach out and "make good shit happen" beyond the limits most people are comfortable with. His journey was, in human terms, a marathon, an epic voyage of discovery. When it came to artistic appreciation and the quest for beauty, Harvey covered a lot of ground. I’m not qualified to say for sure, but I do think he’s quite responsible for expanding the triode movement on this continent. Guys like Herb Reichert, Joe Roberts, Loesch, Futterman and many, many others were the "first ashore" in contemporary post war hi-fi, and Harvey was their self appointed clown general.

I personally feel that his greatest contribution to humanity was how he either brought people together or separated them like so much salad dressing, so at least the rest of us could clearly see the "battle lines" of ideas. In the case of "audio arts" he fashioned bridges of cultural exchange and ideas flowed forth or stopped dead in their tracks. The baggage (or tools) of his decorum providing the comedic backdrop of truly noteworthy achievement, he could tirelessly engage in massaging ideas, or toss them aside like a child and vegetables. He simply wanted meat. Moreover, the beauty he would seek was artistically quite traditional, and armed with self-humility he blazed a path for others to get naked and dance. You know: intellectually, spiritually and creatively.

So along with Edison, the Penguins, Julian Hirsch, Akroyd and Bellushi, and a great many more, I find inspiration in Harvey Rosenburg. A man named Gizmo. I want others to be inspired as well. Not everyone; the world would be far too boring if everyone wore kilts and sashayed about like unkempt college students. No, the world needs far more beauty than even Harvey could contemplate.

But beauty only ever had one Harvey Rosenberg. And that’s why we are here, to honor beauty, in some way, somehow….

The Gizmo Awards

So if we are seeking inspiration and beauty and a better understanding we have to stop. And focus for a moment on what Harvey was looking for. Why did he become, as Clark Johnsen says, "relentless"? What drove him to drive his Harley Davidson leather-skinned ass to the edges of the planet seeking a higher metamusical expanded gizmological being?

Harvey was looking to warm, or rather burn, his soft college educated hands on the very flame of universal beauty, the kind of beauty in all of us if we can only let it out or find it. Universal beauty. Unchallenged unanimous beauty, the kind we worship and cleanse our senses in. Beauty that burns away the emotions of hate, fear and doubt. Beauty that knows no bounds and beauty created by the child within. The common beauty seen in a face or the light of a 1938 10y driver tube. This beauty is all around in hi-fi: it’s not common, but it’s there.

The Gizmo award is not about technical sophistication, or clever solutions. The Gizmo award recipient could well be chosen for far more meaningful contributions to the audio arts. Contributions such as affordable tubed hi-fi kits brought to market to fill a need, serves a huge gizmological imperative. Affordable state of the art playback systems, both analog and digital, deserve credit for connecting us to music, and inspiring they are. "Less is more," Harvey used to say; and it is in that context that we begin to connect with what we need, to reach that next meta-musical context. So we should not be confined just to "objects" of the audio arts. Certainly a "performance" could qualify. Objects that qualify will be our ticket to the musical beauty we hear in our own voices and the instruments we build.

Audio objects exist with unquestionable and exhaustive technical sophistication, which deliver a musical truth for the sake of truth. Truth is the carbohydrate of our mind. So it makes sense to me that beauty would be the protein. Both are needed to sustain us. The Gizmo Award is a prize meant to acknowledge the spirit of Harvey Rosenberg’s carnivorous, heavy meat diet of beauty found in truly beautiful musical gizmos.

The award recipient’s "object" or "performance" will expand our understanding of beauty in a new and meaningful way. And not necessarily Harvey’s way, either. I would think Harvey would agree that diversity rules, and that the world can always see beauty in a different light. Created only for pleasure, the Gizmo recipient casts light for our musical eyes to see. The finest execution and deliverance only begins to approach our need for expanded meta-gizmological musical understanding; the Gizmo Award recipient must also transport us to the next level.

So, as Harvey once inspired a great many, the Gizmo award inspires us.