Monday, February 22, 2010

Digital music

So I spent some time on iTunes this weekend and downloaded some tracks from my youth: The Who, Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, and even one by Blind Faith. This is not necessarily music of "my generation" since I still think I was born 25 years too late. I wanted desperately to be a hippie and apparently so did most of my high school friends because we exclusively listened to music from the '60s and early '70s.
There seems to be something un-genuine though about listening to "Baba O'Reilly" on an iPod. It's just not how that music should be heard. For me, it should be listened to on a cassette player in a friend's car, or maybe on a boom-box in Memorial Park. Good grief do they even make boom-boxes anymore? Music has become so personal with MP3s and ear-buds, we can each walk around to our own individual soundtracks, but when I was a kid, music was a community experience.
When my parents and the neighbors would get together on Saturday afternoons for beer and burgers on the grill, someone would open up their patio doors and blare whatever music my parents and their friends would listen to from an archiac turn-table and speakers that were taller than I was. Usually it was The Beach Boys or a radio station that specialized in "the oldies." This was when vinyl was king as the 8-track had finally died so there was always the background sizzle and pop of the record accompanying the actual music.
All of that is missing in digital music. It's crystal clear but somehow more impersonal. Even listening to music on the radio comes with the occasional area where reception is lousy and the station gets fuzzy for a second or two. I miss liner notes and real album cover art. The teeny tiny album cover on my iPod just doesn't satisfy. My thumbnail is bigger than the picture of the album for Pete's sake - a lot bigger.
So this is what we're left with: clear, tiny replications of our memories. Maybe with my tax return I'll go out and buy a turn-table...if I can find any place that still sell them.

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