Joseph Tarradellas is a lover of sound, a high fidelity music enthusiast. He is the author of a book on this subject entitled The Swiss Sound: World Excellence.
Joseph Tarradellas, Honorary Professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), formerly Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology, is also passionate about music, a subject on which he has written a book entitled Le son suisse : a worldwide excellence Has. “The Swiss sound is known all over the world, but it’s less known in Switzerland,” Joseph Tarradellas tells RTS.
For the author, a good sound is above all a natural sound, an unadulterated sound in which there are not too many basses and not too many trebles. “A sound where the dynamics are right. It’s a simple, natural sound.”
A beautiful sound is a sound that carries everything.
Joseph Tarradellas has been passionate about sound since childhood. At the age of 16, he built his first hi-fi system for the love of music. “I don’t know if I could call it ‘high fidelity’ now, but at the time I thought it was,” he laughs. “It was a time when music magazines gave out charts, a bit like IKEA today.”
The Swiss sound tradition
To hear sound, we had to wait for the invention of the phonograph, the first legal device for recording sound, by American Thomas Edison in 1877. “The idea of recording sound crossed the minds of many people. The difference with Edison is that he was a bird of prey, a businessman. He noticed. He had it built by his mechanic, who came from Appenzeller,” explains Joseph Tarradellas. This is the beginning of a long Swiss tradition of sound. The Jura-based company Paillard, which made music boxes, started recording it. “It makes perfect sense. Technically, there isn’t much of a difference,” he says.
At the end of the 19th century, Sainte-Croix (VD) became a center for the production of sound recordings. Around fifteen workshops run by visionaries are entering the race with incomparable quality thanks to years of music box experience. Another Swiss invention, in the 1980s the Swiss Walter Schüpbach invented the Stereolith, a small pyramid-shaped speaker “perfect for home listening”, specifies Joseph Tarradellas.
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Today, many companies in Switzerland maintain this legacy of good sound. “So far I’ve counted thirty-eight, but some may have gone under the radar. Stenheim is one of the most important companies in what is called ultimate high-fidelity,” adds Joseph Tarradellas. But good sound has its price: to get started with Stenheim, you have to reckon with thirty thousand francs.
The subtle messages of sound
The Swiss Sound: World Excellence – Joseph Tarradellas. [Editions Savoir Suisse – epflpress.org]Listening to quality sound also and above all allows you to perceive certain subtleties that are sometimes misunderstood by those who do not know what quality sound is. Joseph Tarradellas recalls Stromae’s latest album “Multitude” on this subject: “In the extraordinary song called ‘L’enfer’ the recording is very subtle [Stromae] wants to suggest very sensitive things, the tendency towards suicide, and at one point, in the second stanza, there are a few bars where he changes his voice slightly. The idea is to give the impression of risk of schizophrenia. But it’s very subtle. If you don’t listen to it on a quality device, you won’t know.”
For Joseph Tarradellas, small headphones are fine for listening to music on the bus or train. On the other hand, in his opinion, you not only lose the sound quality if you don’t hear enough sound, but sometimes also the messages and the whole depth of exceptional artists.
Interview by Sarah Dirren
Web adaptation: Lara Donnet
“Swiss sound: worldwide excellence” by Joseph Tarradellas, published in the EPFL’s “Swiss knowledge” collection
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