The Beauty of Vinyl
by Sean Condon
Can you remember the first music you grasped in your hands? For me it was my father’s vinyl collection. At that time it was music like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash. I would sit on the floor, pull the sleeves out, play the record, and soak in the album art and lyrics. Before the days of the Internet, that was how you connected with an artist. You read their lyrics, who they thanked, see their pictures on the album jacket. Half way through you would have to actually flip the record over to hear the other side.
I was reminded of this recently by an article I read over at Wired Magazine titled “Vinyl May be Final Nail in CD’s Coffin.” If you don’t want to take the time to read it, here’s a short and sweet summary.
The demand for vinyl is on the rise, and smaller labels are producing accordingly. CDs have little to offer the music listener now. Portability is a moot point with the advent of digital music (mp3s) and sound quality has never been on par with what vinyl can offer.
Which leads me to wonder, what is the ultimate musical format? In my lifetime I’ve seen vinyl, 8 tracks, cassettes, CDs, and MiniDiscs come into the spotlight with hosannas and hallelujahs shouted from the mountain tops. Nowadays one would be led to believe that the mp3 has come to deliver us to musical nirvana. To that I would say poppycock! In fact I would go so far as to say that digital music is a blow to the aesthetics of music.
“Let’s Turn the Record Over” – Elliott Smith (mp3)
Is music just the song we listen to? Is it composed of the instruments, notes, vocals that flow into our ear? Or, is it more than that? Is music something that we connect to on a deeper level than the auditory? Do we choose our favorite artist simply on the mechanical composition of their music or is it a connection we make with the makers of that music?
Like many things in our society today, mp3s are throwaway products: easy to lose in your “My Music” folder, easy to delete. Can you really tell me anything about it other than the number of bytes it occupies on your hard drive?
In this age of iTunes and the Hype Machine, albums are purchased with a click of a button and brought home through cables. That is, unless the listener is just buying one song. I have heard (and seen) complaints that today’s albums are full of filler. Well, who can blame an artist when they can expect listeners to buy only the song they’ve heard and not pony up for the entire experience? What happened to albums that convey a story? Let me tell you: they disappeared when listeners stopped wanting to listen to the whole story.
Bring back the jacket sleeves. Bring back the now nearly extinct art form of the album cover. Give me that solid piece of art that an artist poured their sweat, tears, and soul into. Can a downloaded file really contain all that? I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve found loads of new music through blogs much like this one. In fact, I would almost go so far as to say it’s ignited a revolution in the breadth of my listening habits.
But we can’t let it stop there. We owe it to the artists we listen to; we owe it to our own aesthetic being. Don’t be content to just download songs to load on to your newest iMusicPlayer. Use those songs as a springboard to truly enjoy the music. Ask your dad if he’ll dust off his old record player for you. Order a piece of vinyl (many of which now come with coupons for free downloads anyway) or at the very least a CD. Don’t let Satan tempt you down the road of mp3 gluttony.
Sean Condon is a writer living in Massachusetts. When not being overly critical of digital music, Sean turns to the dark side and posts them left and right for his musical blatherings on Mainstream Isn’t So Bad.
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