It’s the time of year for saving money!
Ken Kantor, the main creative force behind NHT audio products also happens to be a fine photographer with an eye for the quirkiness in modern life. He opined recently on Facebook that “the collapse of civilization is a gift to photographers.” The downside is there may be no humans around to look at the images…
This got me thinking about how we homo-sapiens treasure objects such as photographic prints, or LPs, CDs and tapes. As one of those “long-living audiophiles” I have all of the previously mentioned physical objects within reach.
Gary Winogrand said, “It’s not a photograph until you make a print” at that point a potentially fleeting image becomes something tangible. The same could be said about digital music files for many audiophiles. Streaming, or for some even personally-stored data files on their own hard drives, are not the same as physical albums, be they an LP or even, gasp, a CD.
Archeologists have found that even at the very earliest stages of human development various objects that were perceived to have value were collected and treasured by early humans. And it can be also be assumed that these objects had some basic survival value. Whether that value was merely aesthetic or spiritual depends on the object, of course. But even some mammals collect objects – you should see my cats’ “toy” stash spread around my home.
So, there’s something intrinsic to our basic biological hard-wiring that pushes us to collect things. It should then be no surprise that we value objects we can hold in our hands more than those that are seemingly “virtual,” such as a music file.
Humans also react especially poorly to loss. I don’t know how your internal wiring works, but when I think I’ve lost something I have a physical reaction involving both my internal temperature and my heartbeat.
Losing stuff has a clear physical effect. And while we all occasionally (except you iron-trap mind types) lose objects, its usually just an item or two…imagine your reaction (or mine) to losing your entire music library? Hard drives fail, just as surely as humans die. And the mere fact that it COULD occur is enough to cause many audiophiles to prefer to have a physical rather than digital file or “cloud” music library. I get it.
My physical music library has many releases that I have yet to rediscover in digital form – CDs or Streaming…either they were too obscure, or they’ve fallen into legal ownership limbo where no one has any interest in seeing them rereleased. But I have physical copies, so for me, they are still very real. But if I were herded into an all-digital or all-cloud library, they would be lost to me.
This brings up one of the problems with our new digital age – much in the way of fringe art and many fringe artists have been left off the digital catalog. They have disappeared from the mix, which means that their influence on future artists and potential fans is reduced. And our cultural future is poorer because of it.
While there are Internet projects to keep some vintage music in our ears, such as the Smithsonian’s cache of Folkways recordings, the primary motivation for making stuff available through the Internet is monetary reimbursement, but when there’s no money to be gained, the incentives for adding to the Internet’s cultural richness and diversity plummet.
And that’s why we keep physical copies…
Yes, some recordings will never be streamed or were never released on CD, and that is one of the reasons for collecting vinyl. There was a lot of music that only existed on vinyl and cassette or 8-track, and since we’ve generally concluded that cassettes and 8-tracks are dumpster filler, it’s vinyl or nothing for a number of recordings that I’ve found to be indispensable. And for many that were at one time released on CD, sometimes the vinyl is easier to come by and cheaper.
Yeah, and either way I can’t imagine there’s much, if any, essential music that only exists on cassette. I’m not going to miss Dolby hiss reduction, that’s for sure. It sort of got rid of some hiss and took the high frequencies of the music with it.
I agree with most thats written here, although i now use a DAP for my music playing, either using headphones or mostly connected by coaxial to my amplifier and speakers, most of that music on my DAP is there from CD’s that I buy then rip to put on DAP. I might only play the CD once, read any booklet with it, before having ripped it , put the CD away but the is no doubt I feel happier knowing I own the CD. Also the thought of losing a digital collection fills me with horror, so even though for most I own the CD, I have the digital file on my main computer and on my main DAP, also on another computer and DAP in another room AND two external hard drives, Paranoid lol
Seriously, what if there was some sort of huge, worldwide electromagnetic burst that wiped all our hard drives and took our music with it? That would suck. (Though I suppose the blast would have other, much worse, consequences.)
Well then I have The CD’s for most of my music and would have to start the laborious task of ripping them again, breaks out in a sweat at the thought of ripping a 1000 CD’s lol. I would lose about 50 albums tho that have just been downloads 🙁
Over the years we’ve lost the tactile quality to collecting music. First to go was browsing, searching thru racks of LPs, paring down your choices and auditioning the contenders on the shop’s music system and the Tower records experience, hundreds of new releases on display and the review resources to help make buying decisions. Second to go was context, reading the liner notes to understand the musical context of what you were listening to, perhaps, not relevant to pop music but highly relevant to everything else. This is good enough reason alone to hang on to your LPs and CDs.
I miss Tower records. When in class for work in the Chicago area, I always brought enough cash with me to make many purchases. Loved that store.
Believe it or not, the flagship Tower records building on Sunset Blvd is still vacant. (Last I checked about a year ago.) And its been that way since they closed. Depressing. Truly a sign of the times when that closed.
I have a collection of some 4TB of music. I know that I will never have a chance to listen to all (will need another lifetime), but the thought of losing them, fills me with horror (and it is much more likely to lose virtual media than vinyl and plastic). The collection urge extends to intangible virtual stuff too.