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Re-Discovering The Pleasure Of Physical Media

December 16th, 2013

While I’m writing this post, I’m listening to the latest vinyl that entered my collection: Retrospective – The very best of e.s.t..

Slowly rotating on my old school turntable, dissipating soft Jazz melodies in the air, I find myself re-evaluating the meaning of the physical media. I’m an avid music listener and to this day I still believe the Spotify is one of the best thing ever happened to mankind. By allowing you to consume as much music as you wish, Spotify will erase the meaning of the word “silence” from your vocabulary.

Despite that, if you stop for a second you’ll realise that Spotify is also very much ephemeral. As soon as you stop paying the monthly fee, or if you are not connected to the internet ((I know, there’s a free version of Spotify but the ads injection feels like a restriction to me. At the same time there’s an offline version of the service but it’s based on the assumption that you are a subscriber and you’ve remembered to enable this function)), your listening experience will be drastically limited.

On the other hand, if you own a vinyl, a CD or a cassette, it’s your possession and it will stay with you as long as you don’t sell/lose/exchange it.

One of the best advantages of having a turntable is that I can now time myself using the length of a side. Because I know my records very well ((My collection is still limited in number. Currently I own 10 vinyls, so it’s easy to remember how long they last approximately)), I can use them to time some activity. If I decide that I want to read for half an hour before going to bed, I can put a nice jazz on and once the needle goes up I know it’s time to retrieve to the bedroom.

In general I find that a physical interaction will give me a better sense of time. If I start a playlist on Spotify, I can literally spend weekends daydreaming on my sofa while I’m transported in a parallel dimension!

Then of course there’s the “fidelity” argument. I like having access to music everywhere, but it’s also true that nothing will ever beat the scratching sound of a good old record. There’s a sense of intimacy and warmth that we are irretrievably loosing in favour of the always on access to music ((Neil Young is trying to solve this issue of the digital world with a new initiative called Pono. You can learn more on Wikipedia)).

I guess it’s probably a nostalgic feeling that brings me back to my childhood when my cassettes were my proud possession. I still remember the joy of putting Michael Jackson’s Thriller in the stereo, trying to skip at the exact moment of my favourite track, always loosing the battle against the tape!

It’s surely a feeling that will disappear with future generations (if it hasn’t already disappeared), but it’s something of a great importance for me.

A direct link with my roots, a real link in an always more digital world.