Digitization of the music industry has been a double edged sword. While there is more music available with unlimited streaming at the touch of your iPhone, music has also become a cheap commodity. The experience of discovery, acquiring and listening to your music is now so easy and commonplace that its value has been diminished.
The LP “experience” was a significant part of my formative years. Leafing through albums in the record store, marveling at the cover art, shelling out my hard earned cash, unwrapping, carefully handling the disk, setting the needle down on the spinning turntable is an experience that is totally lost in the digital age.
Listening to records was also a social experience. Untold hours were spent with friends taking in the music, passing around the album covers, reading the lyrics and liner notes, sharing our recently purchased LP’s, discovering new music together. Admittedly we were often stoned as we enjoyed the music and each other’s company. We listened to the music intently. It was not background sound or dance music. We listened to the lyric, musicianship, compositions and arrangements.
|Cover art by Mati Klarwein (click to enlarge)|
Besides the obvious differences in packaging, handling and playing of records versus digital, there is something wonderful in the format itself. Records have a physical “limitation” of having two sides of about 20 minutes of music, 40 minutes in total. This is a perfect amount of time to stay immersed in the music. It requires you to get up and turn the disk after 20 minutes, keeping you engaged. Artists used this time-frame to sequence their songs into a cohesive story. I find that this format lends itself to listening to an entire album from the first track on Side One till the last one on Side Two. Not so with CD’s, which are nearly 1 1/2 hour in length, or streaming digital where single tracks and shuffle modes are more common.
I've only listened to a dozen or so albums in the last couple of days, but I look forward to getting to know my old records once again. And, due to the resurgence of vinyl, there are record shops here in Connecticut like The Telegraph in New London, or Integrity in Music (Wethersfield) where I can get lost flipping through isles of record bins and filling in the holes in my collection of classic Jazz releases, and maybe some new vinyl too!