A sound story

An iconic sound eqi­up­ment man­u­fac­turer has its tale told in lov­ing de­tail.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - Re­view by SUJESH PAVItHrAN star2@ thes­tar. com. my

YOU would ex­pect a book about Bang & Olufsen ( B& O) to be rad­i­cal in its pre­sen­ta­tion and not fol­low the con­ven­tion. You would even ex­pect it to be shaped ... not like a book. Af­ter all, the Dan­ish com­pany that was founded in 1925 in Struer is a de­sign icon of leg­endary pro­por­tions that is also ac­com­plished in the field of con­sumer au­dio. Big and un­wieldy has rarely been part of the B& O re­sume! Which, how­ever, this book is....

The au­thor, Alas­tair Philip Wiper, is a Bri­tish pho­tog­ra­pher and writer based in Copen­hagen whose spe­cial­i­ties are sci­ence, in­dus­try and ar­chi­tec­ture. Os­ten­si­bly, he pos­sesses a fas­ci­na­tion for all things B& O be­cause noth­ing else ex­plains the painstak­ing ef­fort that went into the mak­ing of this book.

This sub­stan­tial coffee- ta­ble tome lays bare in de­tail the phi­los­o­phy, peo­ple and prod­ucts that made B& O, with in­sights on the evo­lu­tion of the com­pany’s de­sign ap­proach. B& O prod­ucts are meant to evoke an emo­tional re­sponse in the user – the com­pany was far ahead of the de­sign curve even as far back as the 1950s.

Think B& O and you con­jure up im­ages of prod­ucts from some sci­ence fic­tion movie: sleek and sexy ma­chines, whose forms were as func­tional as they were fu­tur­is­tic. In fact, B& O de­signs still are a step ahead of those from many other au­dio equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers.

B& O’s founders recog­nised the need for their prod­ucts to con­nect emo­tion­ally with the user long be­fore Ap­ple did. This phi­los­o­phy, and the dogma that de­sign must al­ways have a pur­pose, typ­i­fies the Scan­di­na­vian thought process. Think Ikea.

Why this book?

Wiper says it is a “cul­mi­na­tion of my ex­pe­ri­ences ex­plor­ing the ins, outs, ups, downs, fronts and be­hinds of an ec­cen­tric and vi­sion­ary com­pany that has taken de­sign and tech­nol­ogy to un­par­al­leled heights.” He pitched the idea to the com­pany about three years ago, and B& O was sold on it, grant­ing him a large de­gree of free­dom to delve into its work­ings and the evo­lu­tion of its land­mark de­signs.

Through his lens ( with some as­sis­tance from the B& O in- house mu­seum) and words, we’re given an in­sight on how some iconic prod­ucts evolved from the draw­ing board to mock- ups, and the pro­to­types that ex­plored var­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties to the full pro­duc­tion model.

The at­ten­tion to de­sign de­tail is a B& O trade­mark, whether it was the hum­ble Be­olit 39 ra­dio back in 1938 ( the com­pany’s first foray away from wood and into Bake­lite ma­te­rial) or to­day’s flag­ship Beolab 90 speak­ers, or nu­mer­ous other prod­ucts through the decades, down to the hum­ble but es­sen­tial re­mote con­trol hand­set.

There’s a story re­counted here of Sony founder Akio Morita vis­it­ing the B& O stand at a World Ex­hi­bi­tion in Seville, back in 1992, and pick­ing up the Be­oLink 1000 re­mote con­trol. Asked if he needed help us­ing it, Morita replied, “Thank you, but I have one at home.”

It wasn’t just in the area of au­dio/ video equip­ment that B& O made its pres­ence felt – the com­pany also turned out mi­cro­phones, elec­tric shavers, res­pi­ra­tors and even a bot­tle opener in its early decades.

Wiper also ded­i­cates space to the com­pany’s de­sign­ers, the most iconic of them be­ing Ja­cob Jensen and David Lewis from the 1960s and 1970s ( both of whom are since no more). He also makes it clear how much of a “na­tional in­sti­tu­tion” B& O is for Den­mark, and how two or three gen­er­a­tions of the same fam­i­lies be­came em­ploy­ees of the com­pany.

To give an ex­am­ple of em­ployee loy­alty: there’s a por­trait wall in the can­teen in one of the fac­to­ries that fea­tures all B& O staff that have worked there for at least 25 years. There are some 1,200- plus of them, the first be­ing com­pany co­founder Peter Bang. Svend Olufsen died be­fore he reached that land­mark, sadly.

Wiperp delves deeplyp y into the work that goes be­hind the brand – the peo­ple, the fac­to­ries, the labs – and it might all seem too aca­demic to the gen­eral reader. For­tu­nately, the sheer vol­ume of stun­ning pho­tos makes this book eas­ier to browse through ... and that’s ex­actly what most read­ers will do.

De­tailed read­ing will ap­peal only to the diehard B& O fol­lower and those writ­ing a the­sis on this Dan­ish leg­end. And his­to­ri­ans spe­cial­is­ing in the au­dio in­dus­try.

As some­one who has vis­ited the B& O fa­cil­i­ties, I can tes­tify that Wiper does in­deed cap­ture the essence of the com­pany here. No mean feat.

is avail­able on­line through Ama­zon. com, Book De­pos­i­tory, Water­stones, and Foyles and spe­cial­ist re­tail­ers.

The Be­olit 39 the first Bang & Olufsen ra­dio to be m Bake­lite in­stead of wood, al­low­ing it to be any s — Pho­tos:

The fa­mous bot­tle opener from 1937. It has been pro­duced in greater num­bers than any other B& O prod­uct – and also stolen more than any other!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.