One of the unfortunate things about having a blog is the tendency to get locked in, a little bit, topic-wise. I have two that I maintain, more or less. One is my gracefully aging humor blog, and the other is the SJV-Author site, established, ostensibly, to talk about writing.
But making people laugh and talking about the books I pen are not the only things that crawl through the twisted cavern that is my mind. Sometimes I think about other things! Sometimes it’s twisted caverns!
So, what do I do? I know I’m probably going to crack wise at least a little. Do I post it on the humor blog? I’m writing it, so is it out of place on the author’s blog? Do I launch a third blog called “Stuff That Doesn’t Fit Thematically with My Other Two Blogs?” This last is tempting, but no.
I’ve decided to solve this high moral dilemma by posting it to both blogs, knowing in advance that my Facebook followers are going to call me bad names, because they’ll get a notification about each and they’ll say, “Dude, how many times are you going to tell us about the same thing?”
Twice, I guess.
Alright, here we go, kids.
I say “kids,” because anyone younger than 30 or so may have a little trouble relating, because I’m going to talk about music. And no, I’m not going to launch into a tirade about my music vs. your music. That was my dad’s gig. He pretty much thought everything after Benny Goodman was crap. To make a point, in the 1970’s I started listening to Benny, though he refused to listen to the Beatles. He did bring me home a Monkee’s album from the thrift store once, though, so that was progress I suppose.
What I’m talking about today is a little more ethereal: the concept of “owning” music.
With the advent of subscription music services and streaming music services and services that bring you to services that stream and/or subscribe you, the need for owning a physical copy of an artist’s music is passing into the mist. I heard someone say on TV that our kids and grand-kids will think the fact that we owned music will be insane. My daughter, for example, subscribes to Apple Music. When she wants to hear something, just about anything, she types in an artist or an album title, and wham! She has it. Sometimes to delightful comic effect, such as when we took my six-year-old niece to see the Trolls movie, and upon getting back in the car, my daughter downloaded the soundtrack, so that every song that came out of her “radio” for the duration of the ride was from that movie, much to my niece’s amazement. “Your radio is broken on Trolls!” was her reaction. “This is crazy!”
It is, a little.
I suppose there is a liberating experience in knowing you can listen to whatever you want whenever you want to do it.
But I grew up holding my music in my hands.
Originally, we held big old vinyl record albums, their dark black flesh beautiful to behold, their cover art large and legible, a whopping 12″ x 12″! If there was a lyric sheet insert or liner notes you didn’t need a magnifying glass. New records had a distinctive scent, like new car smell only completely different and for a lot less money.
The first album I ever bought for myself was “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. It was followed by a couple thousand others. I think the last album I bought was “So” by Peter Gabriel. By then albums were already passé, as the compact disc had arrived.
I have always considered myself something of an audiophile, which is just a nice word for “music snob.” It mattered to me that the music not only was good, but sounded good when I listened to it. To that end, the CD was a godsend. Sound quality was head and shoulders above vinyl, even the special edition discs that were touted as being sonically superior. I actually only sprang for one of those. It was “Abbey Road” by the Beatles, and when I dropped the needle on it I convinced myself that I could tell the difference from my old copy, which had cost me about ten dollars less.
Then I got the CD and realized I’d never really heard the album before.
The first compact disc I ever bought was [gulp] Journey’s greatest hits. I was married by then and was not the sole arbiter of musical taste in the household anymore, so… compromise.
The SECOND CD I bought was “Dark Side of the Moon.” I still have this disc, and whenever we’ve moved and I’ve set up my sound system, this is always the first album that gets played. It’s tradition. Like Benny Goodman. The Journey CD got lost, and has not been replaced.
As so often is the case when one begins to attain a significant collection of years, I tend, in certain areas anyhow, to like things my way. So, I still like compact discs, and I do not subscribe to any music services. I like taking the disc out of the jewel case, or with your more environmentally conscious performers the 100% biodegradable cardboard container, which will decompose one day, leaving the 100% chemical CD behind. I like pulling out the little booklet and straining to read the liner notes and the lyrics.
I liked records even better for everything except the sound. They used to even come with posters sometimes. The aforementioned “Dark Side” had something like fifty of them. I had a copy of “Chicago at Carnegie Hall” that had a poster so huge it covered almost all of one of my bedroom walls. We’ve lost that with CD’s, and no streaming music gives you posters or liner notes or lyrics or even cover art. Well, okay, maybe cover art in a one-inch square rendering on your device’s screen, but dude! It’s not the same.
Sadly, when Kim and I moved into our apartment, after seventeen years in a three-bedroom house, I had to finally let go of my record collection. There was no room to store it at the new place, and although I still own a turntable I don’t really own an honest-to-Pete stereo system anymore. I listen to CD’s in the living room through our Blu-ray player, which gives me the added dimension of surround sound, or in my office on a self-contained RCA stereo that was my mom’s then my bro’s and eventually mine. It has an aux input, but the turntable needs a pre-amp to be heard, so, ultimately, it was a lost cause.
The good news is I gave the entire collection (minus a handful of albums that I just could not let go, two of which are now wall art), to my brother-in-law who does have a sound system which allows him to enjoy them. Sadly, however, he’s sold off, or attempted to sell off, a significant portion of the collection. I didn’t put any stipulations on his ownership of the records, so they’re his to do with as he see fit, but I’ve been to two garage sales where he’s had several hundred offered for sale, and I always want to wrap my arms around them and bring them back home.
But I stay strong.
There is probably something inherently wrong with wanting to possess so much music. My CD collection is far larger than my album collection was. It probably speaks to a deeply ingrained Capitalist running-dog mentality, which while once again in vogue is nonetheless unsavory. There are children in war-torn nations who probably own no more than a handful of CD’s. As my kids used to say when they were little and still functionally illiterate, I have these many:
That’s just the rock music collection. This is the jazz collection:
The classical music collection is currently in six plastic totes waiting for me to build them their own rack.
My daughter’s music collection takes up considerably less real estate. In fact she can fit it in her purse.
As owned music passes into the same mist that claimed the vinyl album [ed. Note: vinyl is making something of a comeback, but in a way that makes my former audiophile snootiness seem boorish, they actually advertise the weight of the album now, as if more grams means better music!] and the remotely-housed digital file becomes the gold standard, I wonder what will become of the music I’ve collected when I pass, in two hundred years. Will my kids have to go to garage sales and thrift stores to locate a CD player in order to listen? Or will they just rent a couple of dumpsters and toss them?
I think at my funeral I’m going to be a pain in the rear and request that someone track down a high-quality turntable, an ass-kicking amplifier, and a set of gigantic, liquid-cooled speakers, and play a record over my lifeless hulk. And since, technically, it will be the first music played at my new home, it will have to be “Dark Side of the Moon.”
Got. To. Be.