Friday, September 28, 2012

For the Record

I buy records.
For real.
I buy old fashioned vinyl records. And not just old ones. I buy new music on records. They still make them.

I’m not opposed to MP3s. I like my iPod. In fact, most of the music on my iPod I’ve downloaded for free using codes given as a bonus with the records I’ve purchased. And if you see me walking around town I’m usually listening to MP3s through headphones.
But when I’m home and cooking or cleaning or reading there’s almost always a record playing.

I prefer records for a lot of reasons. Album art is almost non-existent with MP3s, but those 12.75 square inch pieces of cardboard around a record are a great canvas. MP3s have very high fidelity but the warmth and richness of sound vibrations traveling through a crystal tipped stylus is something far better. MP3s are cheap but, as I said, most new records come with a free digital download creating a higher value. (Incidentally, my record player, a portable Crosley, has a USB port and came with software that lets me rip a record into MP3 on my computer so now I can have all those old LPs on portable devices.)
A great thing about my iPod is that it will shuffle my entire music library, playing songs at random from many bands and many genres. The flip side (a term we get from records!) to that is that I rarely listen to an entire album on my MP3 player. But the music I usually listen to is “album” music.  The order of these songs is carefully chosen to construct a complete and cohesive whole. You don’t get that big picture on shuffle, and you just don’t shuffle a record.

But what I like most about records, really, is this:

Listening to records feels cool.

See, listening to records isn’t simply an aural experience. It is tactile:
I slide the record out of the sleeve. I carefully place the record on the turntable, trying not to fingerprint it very much. I lift the tone arm and position it on the record.
When was the last time you positioned a laser so it could read a CD? And can you position anything about an MP3?

I’m not too old-fashioned, but I prefer my entertainment to not be passive. (I’m passive about plenty in other areas of my life.)
When I play a record I have to physically engage with my music. I choose, I place, I play. And then, I listen.
And, yes, that’s the point in the first place.
See, though, some people worked really hard to get that music to me. It seems fitting to put in some effort to hear it.


  1. Hey Marty!

    Just thought you should know I'm finally creeping your blog. The whole thing. Also, I don't understand technology, so in case this doesn't link to my Google account, this is Sydney. (:

  2. Huh. Well look at that. It did. It's got my picture & everything. Good job, technology.