21.10.11

addiction to the physical

In the many faiths and doctrines of our wide and varied planet there are a few interconnected ideals, strings of common sense meant to appeal to humanity at a base level. Kindness to others, moderation and the renouncing of material possessions all feature highly across the gamut of both secular and non-secular faiths and where I am wholly in favour of the two former I am a sucker for ignoring if not blatantly defying the latter. I like ‘stuff’, as much as I am told that the key to happiness, creativity and enlightenment itself is to clear out the clutter of my life and live by an ethos of less being more I have quite a problem giving it all up. I am by no means a hoarder, but like most of us – like you I wouldn’t wonder – I have a penchant for things. I like things that make life easier, things that solve a long term problem, things that mean I no longer have to think about the thing itself.


When gaming, I’m the guy who needs to find everything, to gain all the achievements I can manage. Likewise with the music I love, I feel compelled to hear everything, remixes and alternate takes, demos and covers.  While attempting to sate this aural lust I, as I have mentioned previously, believe in supporting the artist in any way I can. After all without my money they would be required to get a normal job like the rest of us lowly mortals and then where would we be? So, as archaic as it seems in these times of fast moving technology (and hypocritical of me who constantly declares my love of said technology) I often buy CD’s, especially when I have the option to purchase them from the artist direct. Before CD and before cassette, vinyl ruled the sales floors of record stores. Many who remember vinyl speak of it with a nostalgia which isn't held for just any fallen medium - no one longs for 8-trak or mini-disc for example.

Vinyl enthusiasts still exist, in prominence, today and still have the same arguments for their medium of choice, which claims music as an experience. They are found to wax lyrical on the importance of the record as a complete package, an event; and they are right. When the wait and anticipation is over, when the album is released and finally in your grasp, there is little that surpasses the hour of unadulterated entertainment and emotional involvement that can come with giving yourself over to the creativity and talent of the artist. Spending time with printed artwork and lyrics is just as important, they form a symbiotic collaboration of ideas expressed in two mediums as well as sealing the record as a whole package, a complete entity. Post vinyl, cassettes failed at this hurdle while CD’s took note and not only delivered a medium less prone to degradation but one that brought back the idea of spending time with a record. In some ways the years of dominance that CD’s enjoyed allowed for a myriad of innovative designs and delivery mechanisms which developed the concept giving fans greater and greater reasons to buy, sadly digital changed everything. With downloads and MP3 music became cursory, the anticipation was gone and the music never really exists in the tangible world we inhabit, all very zen but not conducive to the human experience.



Since 1994 the MP3 filetype has grown to become synonymous with the digital distribution of music. Developed in order to compress the inaudible frequencies from recordings to create a smaller, more transferable file, MP3 is now the leading proponent of music sales and storage across the industry. In that same year CD had quelled the advance of cassette to a 70/30 share of the market in CD’s favour and like any other evolutionary cycle the music industry was watching MP3 with growing concern and an anticipatory rubbing of hands. Time and numbers have shown digital music as gaining the popular vote, even in terms of piracy versus paid for media; MP3 figures overtook CD’s as of mid 2008 and so it would seem that music has shifted into the digital wash and cultural mindset rather easily. It’s propensity for usurping the previous status quo of the industry is comparable with growing pains, the napster debacle may have been just the speed bump of adolescence but now that digital music is verging on adulthood and defining itself as a fixed and explicit entity in modern society it is clear that it may have an incisive grasp on an industry failing to keep abreast of the times.


Digital media is great in many ways, its delivery is unsurpassed and the idealistic way in which it forces staid industries to rethink the very foundations they were built on is undoubtedly a welcome evolution to the base concepts of entertainment. But it is also fleeting, not in the sense that I believe digital media will fail but in the sense that it is frivolous. It takes neither time nor effort to get a copy of any film, album or book from across the internet these days and just as quickly it can be disregarded or deleted. There is a distinct lack of consequence with the digital especially in terms of music; the choice to buy a CD entails forethought and commitment to the artist. You show support with your wallet and perpetuate a career in the process. The reward comes with the physical acquisition, the time and experience of being fully involved with a record, allowing it to shape you and become a part of your life. So although clutter-free and housed in the white box of a minimalists dream, the digital version of a record will just never live up to the physicality of leafing through an inlay as a shiny plastic disc whirs away quietly within my laptop.


For me CD and the concept of physical media will always be relevant as a means of expression my appreciation to and for an artist and as an argument for enjoying the experience of music as a complete and unique event which will later tie itself to a point in my life.       
    

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