Burning Amps and Summer Ghosts: Summertime at PTA

The Outer Banks, NC
Sea oats dot the dunes along the National Seashore in Salve, NC

Summertime. Hot hazy humid days. But it’s more “wet” than anything else, this year. Still, it’s summer. Time for lolling about, also known as “resting and rejuvenation”. Time to not do chores. Time for memories. Ghosts.

“I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to do that.” The “that” in question was flames. About 4′ high. Coming out of the back of an amplifier. Amplifier flambé. Good times.

Summer Logo
There’s even a sweet summer logo

In retrospect, it was lucky I was in the room when the amp decided to start its 4th of July Spectacular in my basement. I could just as easily have been in the can, or rummaging about for something tasty, or answering the door, or doing any of a million things that would have had me out of the room at the precise moment that the casing around the power outlet got hot enough to catch fire. Could have been a bad end to a whole lot of things. Didn’t feel like it at the time, but I was lucky that day.

I remember other days that I wasn’t so lucky. Car accidents. Getting fired. Getting dumped. Firing someone. Walking away from a relationship. Being a jerk. Some of these events, I could have avoided, but did not. Chose not to. There’s some guilt and not a little shame around those events. These episodes visit me, a different kind of ghost. I think we all have ghosts like this. I wish we didn’t, because I think it says some really crappy things about us as a species that so many of us have so many.

Next week will be the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death. That date seems significant, but I don’t really count my mother as one of my ghosts. She died after a long illness, and in what may have been the only blessing there, I was able to spend some time with her toward her end. We talked. About her coming death. About what she wanted in her life, what she achieved, what she did not, and what she wanted for me. It wasn’t nice but it was good. I like to think that she said all she needed to say to me. Maybe not all she wanted to, but then, neither did I.

Sonus Faber Serafino Tradition
Coming Soon: Sonus Faber Serafino Tradition (website)

I’ve never met anyone that hates music. It’s almost weird to imagine. We ask each other “what do you like” kind of question all the time, in innumerable ways. Somewhere in the set of answers we reflexively give, we’re likely to say “I love music.” I love music. When I was younger, I probably said: “Music is my life”. I suspect many of us say that. If it was ever true, it’s not now. It’s not my life. But it is something that I can do that makes a given moment different. Joyous, glorious, transcendent; maudlin, gloomy, enervated.

“I have a soundtrack to my life” is more what I mean, these days. I have specific songs that remind me of specific people. My wife has a song (several, actually). There are songs attached to various other significant others. I had a song for work, for the commute to work, for leaving work. A different one for quitting a career. Another for starting a new career. A bunch about having kids. Others for each kid. Still more for each kid’s mood.

I don’t remember what was playing The Day The Amplifier Died. I hope it was something apocalyptic. Maybe Wagner. That would have been fitting.

I’m thinking of all this as I’m sitting here in front of a pair of GoldenEar Triton Reference loudspeakers. They’re making some rather huge music in my living room. Apocalyptically huge. Which is why the Wagner is now on. I’m grinning. And remembering amplifier flambé.

It’s been a not-particularly hard day, week, month, year for me. I’m still in school. I have work, here, on Part-Time Audiophile. I’m thinking about our year-end push, the next issue of The Occasional, the next season of The Occasional Podcastand the upcoming Fall season of audio shows. We have reviews coming on Luxman, GoldenEar, BorderPatrol, Sonus Faber, Gold Note, and some more stuff on “smart speakers.” Lucky you.

GoldenEar Triton Reference
Baxter the dog naps with GoldenEar Triton Reference speakers (website)

Part-Time Audiophile is, as always, evolving. And we are and will remain on the lookout for new voices, diverse perspectives, and fresh directions to sail our metaphorical yacht. The next year should prove interesting. Of course, isn’t “next year” always interesting? How sad, otherwise.

But right now, this moment (because it is summer), things are different. Slower. It’s what we do. I suppose you could say that we’ve set summer apart. Did you know that the word ‘holy’ means “set apart”? I think this is something we all ought to do a bit more of. Bracket some time and set it apart. Make it special. Different. Worthy of a collective breath. Time to pause, to sit, to think, to visit with ghosts. Pour them some iced tea and ask after their friends. Summertime is perfect for that. Holy. Maybe because it’s hot and moving slowly is just self-defense. But my kids are here all day and want to play. A bit of unlooked for grace, a blessing, and one that I know has a time-limited offer.

Next week, I’m headed to the Chautauqua Institute. I’ve been going there every summer for a decade now. It was my father-in-law’s favorite place, and we keep going there now to honor him. Perhaps oddly, around that lake is a graveyard where my people (some of them) have their memorials. I suppose that makes Chautauqua, in summer, my time and place to honor some of my honored ghosts. It’s not an accident that the music there at The Institute is astonishing (it’s part of the tradition) but it is a balm, a buoy, and a magnet for my soul. The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will be playing several nights. Sō Percussion will play one night; there will be an opera another night. And the Piano Guys finish out the week (I love those guys).

I still miss that old amp. The one that caught fire, that is. Sounded amazing, right up until it didn’t. Transient joys. Like music, children, and work. Like summer.

More is coming, and soon. In the meantime, I hope you can stay cool, stay dry and take a break. Drink some tea. And don’t forget to say hello. You know. To your ghosts.

About Scot Hull 1039 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.


  1. thanks for the introduction of The Piano Guys to me. A very creative sauce of schmaltz and Yanni, but for now in a good way. Need to listen to more.

  2. Not the typical article you would expect at this site but it makes you think and I can relate to the experiences, cheers to ghosts, enjoy what’s left of summer, how many more do we have left? 10? 20? 40 for some if we are lucky?

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