Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Wall of Plastic

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.


DarkoV said...

Last person to recognize it? Ha! Recognize...what exactly? I live, when not disturbed, in plastic & vinyl bliss and know that my kids will earn their inheritance when they pore through the musical remains.

Darrell Reimer said...

In my case, the odds are there will be massive dumpstering, and little poring.

DarkoV said...

....but I'm sure there will be tears and stories told of you and your ties to each of the plastic musical markers as they are frisbeed into said sure to leave a crate of Kleenex for them.

Ray Sawhill said...

I've gotten rid of my wall of plastic. Took a month about a year ago, ripped everything I had into iTunes, and unloaded the physical CDs at a used-CD place. Feels good. But now I'm starting to feel like owning (or "owning") music files is silly anyway. Why *not* just pay for Pandora or Rdio or something? Live light on the earth. But it may be too late for the likes of me.

Darrell Reimer said...

Well ... way too late for the likes of Darko and me, at any rate.

Darrell Reimer said...

Do you have any vinyl, Ray?