This past month I have both updated my iPod (from it’s previous prehistoric version) & acquired a record player at the same time. To some this may seem odd, after all, why both?
Well, in today’s world the advancements in technology continue to astound me. In the span of just a few years, my phone has become geriatric. It is just a phone. It is not “smart.” It cannot connect to social media or the internet. So, unlike my transitions from Walkman to Discman to MP3 player, my iPod upgrade did not just give me more storage space for music. It also allows me to check emails, take photos and play scrabble.
As CD player and computer disc drives are being replaced with MP3 Docking Stations and USB ports, gone are the days of CD signings and rushing to A&B Sound or HMV on a Tuesday release day. It’s no wonder that Virgin Records turned HMV is now fading into oblivion.
Since digital technology has become so compact and easy to use, the transition to digital downloads makes sense. I don’t miss the days of carrying a 20 odd CDs along on my daily commute in order to have some musical variety. Now thousands of song options are right at my finger tips & believe me, I love it. In transit, over dinner, road trips or working out, MP3 players are amazing little machines.
So, where does my record player come in?
My very first vinyl purchase(s) included one of my favourite albums, The Head and the Heart. This self-titled debut album has been playing on shuffle, loop and repeat since I was first introduced to this band (Thank-you The Peak). The most apparent difference with music on vinyl, especially evident with a digital album I know so well, is the sound quality. Today’s sound systems and record players are light years beyond what they were before and as such they allow vinyl to produce the full flavoured sound they were always supposed to. There is a depth, texture and intimacy to the vinyl recording.
For me, vinyl re-creates the experience of a live performance in away that live digital recordings cannot even come close to matching. One of the reasons for this is that the sound waves are actually etched onto the disc and in doing so, the sound is faithfully reproduced as the exact same sound wave that was produced in the studio when creating the music.This can’t be copied digitally because on a CD or MP3, there are no such thing as waves- everything is either a zero or a one. Zeros and ones can approximately represent the original wave produced by a vibrating guitar string (for example) but not exactly. A record does, exactly. Records capture the subtleties and nuances that are otherwise lost in digital records, and for that reason, I love them.
CDs may be obsolete now (aside for merch tables at concerts), but their attraction to to me has never really diminished. I love holding a physical album in my hands & spending some time familiarizing myself with the album artwork and music notes provided by the musician(s). Obviously, the vast majority of fans do not share my love of album artwork- this is apparent by the immense popularity of iTunes and MP3 Players but collecting vinyl is a way in which I can continue to enjoy this aspect of music production. Having a tangible copy of the art form (the album) is important to me. It helps me slow down, stop and really appreciate the work, much more so than simply clicking on a file. And what better way to display artwork than on a 12×12?!
Records may not be the easiest thing to listen to- you can’t simply click and play but that’s a large part of their magic. Because they don’t play very long before you have to flip them over & you can’t easily skip between songs, it makes the listener more attentive to the music. Listening to records isn’t background music, it is listening to an album in it’s entirely, precisely the way that the artist intended for the tracks to be laid down. It’s pausing to appreciate the art form & really give it the attention it deserves, much the way you do at a live show. And besides, there is a certain romance to records. It’s sort of like my love of hand written letters over emails. While email obviously has its use and benefits there is nothing quite like a hand written letter. It’s special. Like a hand written letter, records are not for everyone in every situation, and I’m not giving up my iPod anytime soon but I have a deep deep love affair with my new record player. It’s allowing me to listen to music like never before. love. love. love.
With the expectation of new music from Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Pickwick and Head and the Heart in 2013, I’m holding my breath, hoping desperately that they decide to release their new material on vinyl.