Publisher Profile

Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith

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You may have heard me discuss Peter before in the pages of Dagogo in reference to his philanthropic involvement with Stolen Childhoods and his recording offshoot Direct Grace Recordings. You only need to spend a few minutes with Peter to understand a few important things about him. He possesses a very creative mind; he is an inventor par excellent, a designer extraordinaire, accomplished poet and a man with a heart and concern for humanity that is astonishing. I am privileged to say that I have great admiration and fondness for the man. Besides, he is a great story teller and someone you can easily spend a day just discussing life and philosophies good, bad but never indifferent.

In listening back to the tape during our conversation I was reminded that I picked everyone in this series for a specific reason: Mostly related to who they were in the industry and why they were unique. I made the comment to Peter that I did not think it was possible to talk about him in this series, or any other for that matter, without mentioning his incredible gift to Stolen Childhoods in the way of Direct Grace. If you want a clearer understanding of the man in relationship to this effort, visit www.Stolenchildhoods.org and www.Directgrace.org to see what he has thrown his entire being into in the way of support. I think you will agree with me that behind the engineer, the inventor, the craftsman and the poet lays the heart of one great humanitarian! One person I am proud to be associated with. Unfortunately I had to distill our discussion into a readable format and it barely does justice to Peter’s eloquence but you should be able to get a good feel for the type of person he is.

GL – How long have you been involved with HIFI on a serious level? What got you started?

PL – Since I was little I wanted to work in a research facility. A robin falling out of a tree, that I rescued and nursed to health oddly led to my meeting people who were able to help me get involved with the right people. I had three different labs filled with my inventions. While I did not finish my degree I was given a lot of respect in the area of invention and I think that in some ways not being overly schooled helped me in that respect. I have an essay on my website that gives the full story of how I got into audio. It really started with a small plastic radio that I got when I was a kid. I assembled it and grounded it to the radiator. I would listen in bed to the few radio stations I could get and be mystified about the fact that as long as they pushed out energy in the form of radio waves, this little radio would just play a thousand years or more.

I was always impressed by the process of inventing. You have to take the standpoint that 90% of the things you create have already been done. You cannot get down in the mouth and be disappointed that someone brilliant has already done that. I had a 78 wind up that I could barely drag across the floor, and at that very early age I intuitively understood the workings of Edison’s marvelous invention. This has driven me and my whole life to not get down in the mouth. There are many inventions out there waiting to be discovered. When you quiet yourself and open up to it they will simply whisper in your ear. I have been fortunate all my life to have a number of inventions that I was able to realize. That coupled with a deep love of music pointed me in the direction I have been travelling in this industry for many years now.

GL – At which point did you realize a desire to make it a profession?

PL – I can’t even remember a specific time. Seems I have been here my whole life.

GL – What is it that you like best about what you are doing now?

PL – Helping other people learn the skills involved in what I do, and helping them learn a profession. Also the whole effort behind Stolen Childhoods and Direct Grace. Unfortunately we have stalled out with the financial part of Direct Grace. I have put my lifesavings basically into it and have no more money I can invest. I am looking for someone to take it to the next level. It is ready to make the next move but we need additional financing and someone to run it all.

GL – Boxers / Briefs?

PL – Boxerbriefs.

GL – Who influenced you along the way to do what you are doing? Mentors?

PL – Richard Majestic of Lamm Audio who reminds me that he is still my mentor. I had the great pleasure to work directly with him. He may not be the best engineer designer in the world but he is the most clever and most elegant.

When I worked for Rudy Bozak designing speakers as director of engineering, I once told him that I wanted to get out of audio, to which he responded that I would never get out of audio because it was in my blood. Just before I left Bozak I asked Rudy to come and listen to a speaker I designed. He came in and listened to it. When I turned down the volume he stood up and looked at me and said, “When you design a speaker there are ten things you are going to want to do with the design. In reality you are only going to be able to do about three or four of them so you better picked the right things.” Then he turned around and walked out of the room. After an hour or so, I realized that what he just laid on me was a lifetime of insight and investigation. He was saying you are dealing with the laws of physics, that you are not going to be able to do everything you want; how well, how intuitively you approach a design are going to handle that. How you are going to decide the things that you can do is important. That applied not only to audio but also to life. If you don’t stick to first principles you are going to have an inferior product. He was a great influence on me because of that. (I should point out the Peter gives credit to many people and space does not allow me to include them all – GL)

GL – What is it about what you do that you most love.

PL – At the end of the day it is making and repairing cartridges. Mainly because it is so exacting and when you get it right it is really an amazing thing. Very few people would want to do it. It is harder than nerve graph surgery. That and cutting a lacquer dub and playing it directly with a Strain Gauge! Anything I can do to enrich other people’s lives I truly love. I love getting feedback from people whose cartridges I have redone and they express the gratitude and enjoyment they get from it. I just love that.

GL – Any regrets about the business along the way? If so, what?

PL – Not really. Not that I can easily think of anyway.

GL – What is your favorite item that you have designed?

PL – I think it is the Strain Gauge cartridge and phono amp. It has made us more visible on the landscape.

GL – Conservative / Liberal?

PL – Views about marriage, sex, personal and conscious sacrifice – personal values – I am conservative. On the other hand, you need to be liberal for people to feel the results of their actions. We share a collective karma. Pretty much a conservative liberal!

GL – What do you do better than most anyone you know?

PL – Aside from designing and inventing I think I do a fairly good job of teaching others at our place how to do what I do. I think people learn in different ways and not just in standard methodologies; I think I do a good job of explaining why people need to do something a certain way. When they understand the “why” they have a greater desire to understand the “how”! I teach young people with a vessel that they can put their knowledge in. I take them to the deep end of the pool and push them in.

GL – Is there something that someone else designed that you wish you had designed?

PL – I don’t get out much and don’t get exposed to as much as I should. Every once in a while I come across something that makes me say “Wow that is bloody fantastic. I wish I had thought of that.” Dick Sequerra’s full-range ribbon speakers. They are wonderful!

GL – If you were not doing this, what do you think you would be doing?

PL – Can’t quite imagine. This is in my blood!

GL – Favorite color? What does it emote for you?

PL – Probably green. Most of my poetry comes out of nature. So green is just the magic or the film of life on the planet. (Where does he get these beautiful quotes? They just flow out of him at every turn. During this discussion he told me that he has “received“ poetry since he was very young and simply writes it down. He is truly gifted in this respect – GL)

GL – Beatles or Stones?

PL – Beatles definitely! Never been a real Stones fan.

GL – What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

PL – Get with great mentors and listen to what they tell you.

GL – Words of wisdom for the masses?

PL –Do what you love and love what you do.

Below is an example of Peter’s poetry.

Fall not silent on the winter leaves
or fix your trust on fallen snows
but sing the love of spring believes
the hope that drifts in all that grows

rest vigilant on the stones of spring
that bubble up in broken fields
who frozen earth, remembering
erupts the seeds of forgone yields

for with each fern who turns a frond
and hides each elf whose tricks been played
reflects each sky on every pond
where salamanders’ tails have strayed

who drifts throughout the dreamy woods
no footsteps marred therein to make
but caresses leaves above our heads
with breezy breath who yawns daybreak

I so expect to turn a path
and see you safely wandering where
so much so I dare not go
but leave it to the creatures there

I hope you hear the woods I dream
I hope you drift in through the leaves
above my head where beauty seems
not at my feet where pity grieves.

Peter 3-4-09

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