Technology is so far advanced these days that one can walk around with the entire music section of the Library of Congress in their pocket at any time. Yes, it is a wonderful advancement for music lovers, and I enjoy how much music I have at my disposal all in one little machine, but there is something missing in me.
There is an intimacy I lack these days with downloaded/burned albums versus having the physical album itself. I remember the first album I ever got was when I was about ten years old. My brother and I rode our bikes up to Sound Warehouse and I bought “Dirt” by Alice In Chains on cassette tape. I took that cassette home and listened to that album the whole rest of the day and night while memorizing all the liner notes and lyrics and admiring all the artwork and photos. I remember I always really liked looking at the people and places the band would thank.
That was all part of the beauty and the connection that I had with a physical album and with a band.
It is now inevitably dying away due to the ease and non-cost to get music online; not to mention the suffering of most of the record stores around the country as well. Somehow, Hit Records & Tapes, the little record store from my old neighborhood in East Dallas, has held on, but every time I ever drive by there, I only see the owners old Monte Carlo out front. Even touring bands make very little on physical cd sales at shows these days. Most just buy online from the band’s MySpace page or on iTunes or CD Baby.
Right now, I could barely tell you half the members’ names of the bands I like. Most of the time I have no idea what the artist looks like, and when I finally get to go see them when they roll through town, I am usually shockingly surprised at how different they look compared to the mental image I have formulated in my head over time of listening to their downloaded or burned albums. Sometimes I can’t figure out the lyrics to a particular line in a song, but don’t have liner notes to go to. And yes, I know I can look up most of it on the Internet, but a lot of it you can’t find. I haven’t been able to find any Beachwood Sparks lyrics anywhere online.
I remember the term “music collection” and what that meant to have one; when you’d go to a friend’s house and look through all of their cd’s or vinyls or cassettes. That was a thing to do. I even had an old acquaintance that would use that excuse to get a date to come inside at the end of the night and check out his “immaculate record collection”. And, by God, if it didn’t work most of the time!
Having a good music collection was like having a well-groomed garden. There was time for growth and sectioning, and there were also times of pruning and refinement. And you would always know exactly what you had. Looking at an iTunes library now, especially mine, it feels almost like hoarding than collecting music. Some of it I don’t even know how it got into my library.
I’m not saying all of this to try and change anyone’s mind or that downloading or burning music is a bad thing. I’m just saying remember. Next time you’re at a good show or at a record store, pick up a cd and just hold it and feel it and look at it and listen to it and really just experience and remember what the full beauty and intimacy of an album is.
-Cory P. Coleman [c]