Alex Ross considers the online cornucopia of sound files, and returns to the comforts and rewards of his “wall of plastic.”
I don’t stream music, but I’ve also stopped playing CDs.
At this moment in Canada streaming options are extremely limited. A listener can rig up an internet chain to get access to Spotify and the like, but the sound quality is less-than-ideal. Fussy listeners can subscribe to Google Play, HMV’s “The Vault” or the Sony Entertainment Network — this last option being the only legitimate venue for audiophiles (which I can’t quite claim to be). Sony’s catalog is vast, of course, but has its limits. Still, it's quite the bar-goon.
I still subscribe to eMusic, having grandfathered a super-sweet subscription rate. I tend to download entire albums, partly because I’m fond of the format, and partly because I hope to give beleaguered artists a few more shekels in their pocket.
And of course I have my own wall of plastic, which I’ve arranged to highlight exemplary trophies of liner notes and album art (“The power of the commodity fetish,” as Erik Davis puts it).
|Whoever would have thought a band called "Tool"|
would cook up the most singularly delightful CD packaging?
But I don’t play any of them. I’ve ripped them all into a portable library of fat, juicy WAV files. At home, I feed them through a DAC and listen to them via my chunky (but still better-than-serviceable) post-college stereo speakers. In the car, well, who cares?
My wife still listens to CDs. She has a half-dozen that are her bedrock of well-being. They have a permanent spot in the car that shuttles her to and from the airport.
My daughters each own a handful of CDs, but they are a particularly concrete form of “back-up.” In the next few years when they embark on their college experience, I expect those CDs will be exactly where they are right now, collecting dust. I have occasionally regretted giving my parents the go-ahead to sell my vinyl, but I doubt my children will experience any such pangs.
I’m the last person to recognize it, but things have changed.