From the editor's desk
When I moved to Vancouver almost 10 years ago, I didn’t go to HomeSense or Ikea and buy one of those large, oversized paintings of the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum. I brought a crate of old records and a bag of binder clips and hung those all over my walls. (I dare you to try that with an mp3!)
How many things have we tried to shrink and digitize over the years but somehow failed to render completely obsolete? Books and newspapers are another great example. No matter how many battery hours and authentically-sounding page flips can be programmed into our iPhones and Kindles, we still keep going back to the real thing.
I feel the exact same way about LPs. Sure, you might be able to store your favourite albums conveniently in the cloud now, but you won’t be hanging them on anything – and you certainly won’t be getting a fancy fold-out poster or any long-form liner notes, either.
Think of your favourite song at this very moment. Can you name all the backing musicians who play on it? Do you know who wrote it? How about the person who designed the cover?
If this were the 70s you would still have all of this information at your fingertips – but in 2017, a time when Google has pretty much been elevated to demigod status, not even the almighty search engine can save you.
These are the little details that have gone by the wayside as things have shifted toward a trend of mp3s and streaming sites. (I’m glossing over CDs on purpose here, because they’re basically just a smaller, more high-tech version of the LP – more specifically, one that still allows you to hold something in your hands.) Nowadays, tracks and albums have been reduced to just a single file folder, no more visually appealing than the assignment you might have saved onto your desktop this morning. The days of 12-by-12 album covers being something we can all unwrap and enjoy are largely over – unless you’re willing to pay top dollar for the new Bruno Mars record at Urban Outfitters. (You aren’t, are you?)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a regular stick in the mud about musical evolution by any stretch of the imagination. I have a monthly Apple Music membership, I use Spotify and I’ve long since abandoned my obsession high-fidelity audio files, but I am a firm believer in consuming things as authentically as possible. For example, the new Thundercat album was recorded last year and mixed for likely nothing more than a pair of iPhone earbuds. That’s fine – I’m happy to enjoy it that way.
However, the Eagles’ Hotel California was recorded in 1976 for a 12-inch vinyl release, and even if I do keep a digital copy close by for driving, jogging and all-around computing with the relevant technology of our day, I am still blown away by the original LP that hangs on my wall and occasionally spins under the needle of my record player.
This musical product was created before the iPod was even a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye. It was meant to be enjoyed (both sonically and aesthetically) as a physical product – preferably on a belt-driven turntable and a clunky set of Pioneer speakers. Sure, you can stream the very same songs and the very same album online, but you’re doing both the music and yourself a major disservice if you don’t at least try to track down the original LP to experience it the way it was first intended. How else are you going to feel what it’s like to get up from your chair to flip Side A over to Side B, or hear all of those charming snaps, crackles and pops that gurgle soothingly throughout? Trust me, having your roommate sit on your lap while eating a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal doesn’t quite offer the same effect.
Let’s not forget there’s a nostalgia component to this argument as well. I know those records must have meant something to my parents when they first purchased them back in the 70s and 80s, just as they hold sentimental value to me today. (You can learn a lot about the people who raised you simply by descending into the basement of your family home and picking through a record pile as if you’ve just found the musical equivalent of Drumheller!) Each one is like a little snapshot in time, and I’m sure my parents can recall where they were and what they were doing in life when they first unwrapped them.
Let’s face it, your kids and my kids simply aren’t going to be doing that with our Spotify playlists. So, it begs the question: if we have nothing physical to remember our music by, how will our music be remembered? Does our cultural scrapbook exist solely in our Internet search history? (Good Lord, I hope not…)
Our grandparents’ scrapbooks were drawers full of handwritten letters. Our parents’ scrapbooks were their record collections. Ours are probably going to end up being tattoos, Facebook walls and Pinterest boards. That’s pop culture, for you!
To be honest, I’m cool with it, as long as we don’t forget that record-keeping (of any kind) is important. And maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t be putting all of our faith in the world’s ever-changing assortment of technology to do it for us.
Campus Life Editor
Community Relations Manager
Arts and Culture Editor