Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Medium and the Music....


So the other day I was randomly thinking about all of the different formats I've listened to music on over the years.  I don't really have a favourite, but each one offers something a little different than the others.  I hope that progress doesn't completely homogenize and thus destroy that variety, although I am afraid it already has.  If so, that's too bad, as I think the options are too valuable in some way to just give up.  In that spirit, here are a few thoughts on each format:

The Record Album:
 I like records.  Records are full of joy and whimsy and are highly visually entertaining.  They also remind me of my childhood which can be nice.  I also like the large format Album artwork and the addition of "record noise"...the pops and hisses and strange resonances that come along with records.

The 8-Track:
 8-Tracks fall into that weird groove of time where I am familiar with them but when I was too young to really know what they were...I don't have much to say about them except that they seem mysterious to me, and possibly a little dangerous.  In that "don't get into that guy's van no matter HOW much candy he offers you" sort of way.  My main experience with them was during a 3 day road trip in my dad's old car, so I also always feel a sense of transition associated with the format.  Which is, I suppose, quite appropriate...
The Cassette Tape:
 Cassettes have real character.  Much more durable and easier to transport than records, but still occasionally finicky.  You sometimes need to know just how to treat them to make them shine.  Who hasn't had to hand-spool a cassette to stop it from sticking and/or playing slow?  And of course there is the ever-popular huge spool of unraveled tape that you have to somehow get back into that little plastic case!  Got a pencil?  BIC pens work wonders, too.  I think all that unspooled tape is very pretty glinting in long ribbons on the side of the road on a hot summer day.  Of course the sound quality isn't exactly the best, but hey!  It could be worse! And then there are Micro-Cassettes.  Sometimes they're just tiny, you know...because!  Also the cassette gets preferential treatment for inspiring my favourite Transformer, Soundwave!  Where would the Decepticon army be without their own micro-cassette playing ally?

The Compact Disc:
  Compact Discs are beautiful!  Shiny and modern and wondrous.  How many people had one hung from the rear-view mirror of their cars at one point?  Or used them in an art project?  I remember just staring at the first one I ever bought (Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction).  I didn't even own a CD player yet...I just bought the CD...they were that seductive!  This is the main format of my teens and twenties and probably the one that I'm the most attached to.  Each Compact Disc was like some shiny magic treasure of possibility!  Music made solid, like a thought frozen in time.  Beautiful and clean.

The Digital Format:
 And finally we get to all the 1's and 0's.  MP3's are...well...I sure can carry a lot of them in my pocket!  I really enjoy being able to shuffle every song I've ever heard on iTunes just to see what happens.  Having digital music is infinitely practical and useful.  It's great being able to carry so much music in a tiny magic rectangle in my literally makes me feel special somehow.  Still, I have to ask...where's the fun??  The whimsy?  The digital format is certainly the most dull, boring way to present and listen to music, even if is is the most practical.  Perhaps that is okay, though, as finally the focus is fully on what you are hearing, rather than the medium through which it is delivered.  Despite it being the least interesting musical delivery system, I must admit it is the one that I am using right now!  Progress!  Right?  Maybe?

I don't know.  I just hope that no format ever "wins" to the point that the others become unavailable.  I'm "Pro-Options"! 

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