The Power of Vinyl

January 3, 2011 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

Back in my childhood I used to share my father’s love for vinyl. He had a fabulous collection of records that spanned multiple genres, from classical music to Zorba the Greek. I remember waking up on the top floor of our two-storey house in Prince George on a Saturday morning and feeling the reverberations through the floor. I wasn’t always very happy at being woken up back then, but now it’s one of my fondest childhood memories. Some favourites included Bach classics played on a synthesizer, Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf, and a box set of Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach. Oh, I could listen to these for hours on end.

Having recently acquired a second-hand vinyl player, I’ve made use of the holidays to indulge in shopping for records. So far my collection includes Queen, Miles Davis, Gloria Gaynor, Santana, and the first record Weather Report ever produced. I can see this becoming a weekend ritual — a trip to my neighbourhood record store to flip through the 99c bin.

But as I indulge in my recently regained love of records, I also realize how different the experience of acquiring music has become today. Like most I use the internet as my main source of discovering new artists, songs and records. While I have discovered some truly amazing artists this way, I am also conscious that I listen differently to the music I download than to the few vinyl records I’ve acquired over the past few weeks. For one thing, buying over the internet is particularly geared towards buying per song rather than per album. I mean honestly, how many times have you bought a CD and discovered that really, there are only two or three songs that stand out. The internet solves that problem. The downside is that you miss out on some hidden gems that you may only grow to appreciate years later.

Sometimes the songs that appealed to you less when you were younger, start to take on new meaning when you reach a different point in your life. There’s a serendipity with a record that is missing in online downloads. With a record, one commits to listening to the songs that made you seek out the album in the first place, as well as the ones that the artist chose to include. On the internet, however, the consumer is king. A good thing, you may feel. But, to me, part of the joy of acquiring a new album is discovering the other songs, the ones that I may not have sought out if left to my own devices.

The physicality of holding a vinyl record in your hand is another difference from the digital music landscape online. It simply is a fact that one values things differently when one is able to cradle them between one’s fingers, as opposed to downloading them to one’s iPod. Maybe the internet’s simplicity of use works against it in this regard: a song seems somehow less valuable online than it does when it is grooved into a record album. To me, the internet is a wonderful tool for discovering quirky and interesting new things but if I find something online that I truly value, I’m much more likely to want to buy it in the real world for my record collection than download it from the web.

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Entry filed under: Music, Technology.

Being True

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