Sunday, 6 September 2009

CDs, vinyl, downloads, dispersed items and other miscellaneous notes

I love the physical objects and forms for conveying music. Okay, CDs are not albums - those chunky 12" forms of artwork beauty and solid (yet dramatically breakable) physicality, but even so I continue to be enthralled by the little square boxes with their sleeve notes, photos and thanks to families, friends and random influences. You may not be able to spread jam on them without consequences but they can be fabulously produced objects that challenge the formal constraints of their size.

Between us Cloud and I have probably released into the wild (that is, donated or sold) more pieces of vinyl than most people own in a lifetime. Ah, the 7" and 12" we have loved and played and scratched. Sadly, playing many of these items has not always been easy for us: non-functioning record players, a lack of any record player, record players that can only easily play one speed of recording -- all of these have affected our relationship to vinyl. Being broke has driven things to be sold; being bereaved has driven the (temporary) acquisition of parental record collections. We have just a handful of vinyl items left with us now.

The invention of the download has revolutionised music listening, yet to me these tracks do not feel like music I actually own. Instead they feel as if they are on loan to me. In practice this may well prove to be the case as iTunes has already proven itself adept at 'retrieving' items. As we move towards streaming being the dominate mechanism by which we listen to music, I suspect that being so old-fashioned as to even 'own' downloads will seem like the action of another century pretty quickly.

Dispersed items
In an age of online listening it feels far easier to ditch and disperse items of music. So there are a number of tracks still on my iTunes where I have opted to ditch or more likely donate the physical objects to Oxfam. Compilations - especially those free with magazines - have frequently headed this way even though they may include several fine tracks. The point is that unlike compilations produced by friends, the track listing is unlikely to have any real significance. The order has rarely been selected to show similarity/contrast, link a band via a soundtrack they both contributed towards, or make a thematic/lyrical connection. So off they've gone, to be enjoyed by others.

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