Sunday, April 26, 2009

American Pie Revisited

When Don McLean wrote and sang about "the day the music died" I wonder if he ever imagined the state of music today. I like to think that the music I listen to mirrors my personality. In my collection from A to Z: Aha to Zero 7. In between is a mix of rock, alt, jazz, contemporary Hawaiian, pop, adult contemporary and just plain strange. I'm sure I could list more categories, but they (whoever "they" is) keep changing them so I'm never quite sure of what I'm listening to anymore.
Now the forecast is that the CDs demise is on the horizon. Replaced by digital downloads. Notice I said digital downloads and not MP3s. Seems that they keep coming up with new ways to import and store music too, so I'm not sure the MP3 format is even used anymore. I may be the only one still using it.I bought a Cd off of Amazon last week: The Cocteau Twins Four Calendar Cafe. If I think real hard I sort of remember buying a CD a couple of months ago from Best Buy. The point is that I don't purchase a ton of new music. If I do get something, it's usually something that came out like ten years ago that I had forgotten about and remembered that I liked it.I have bought one digital download. One.
Looking at my computer, I find that I don't even have it on my drive anymore. I believe after I got it, I went out and bought the CD.I haven't downloaded music since the days of the original Napster. For those of you who don't remember it, the original Napster allowed one user to download any music from another users collection. In other words, if I happened to have my complete CD collection on my hard drive (which I don't) you could have accessed my computer and downloaded any of my music files. A copyright nightmare for sure. Funny, no one ever threatened to take my cassette tape recorder away.
I don't dislike digital music files. In fact I have about 4 gigs of music on my portable player (iriver clix!). The fact is that all of those music files came from CDs in my collection. MP3s or whatever it is they are using today allows me take my music with me while I ride my bike. It sometimes amazes me that most of the music I like to listen to is stored in a device about the size of a credit card.I like CDs. I like shiny bling (see below). I enjoy reading linear notes and having record cover art. Hell, I have two books dedicated just to record art called the Album Cover Album. I like my music to be tangible.
I also like my music to sound good. I like my music to sound so good that I actually spin vinyl on a stereo powered by vacuum tubes. Three and half watts per channel of to my ears, listening bliss. Compression be damned.
Part of the problem I think, is that all music is beginning to sound the same. Yes, I have heard the same thing about the music I enjoyed in the eighties, but I swear I turn on the radio today and hear the same stuff I was listening to two years ago. Perhaps ten years from now, I'll listen back to todays music enjoy it as classics. That may very well be the case since I've seen videos of Radiohead covering bands like The Smiths and Joy Division.
I have to wonder if music is progressing or regressing. Hip hop seems to be more about sampling than originality. That's not a knock on hip hop, just me wondering what direction music is taking.
Music is about the sound right? We went from portable radios to boom boxes to massive gigawatt home stereos and now back to small portable devices again. The compact disc was supposed to offer the ultimate sound. Yet I believe that Norah Jones sounds better on vinyl than she does on aluminum. Then again, what do I know? I listen to my MP3 player with three hundred dollar headphones.
Meanwhile, I still need to find a clean copy of The Eagles Greatests Hits album.
Did I mention that eBay was evil?

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