Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in how I interact and consume media in my life, and I’ve noticed I’m not alone. Let’s take.. music and records as an example.
I have access to Google Play Music, and I can listen to any song more or less ever recorded I want, pretty much everywhere I have a data connection. Even better, between Pandora, Spotify, and Google Play’s own algorithms, I can give it vague idea of what I’d like to listen to and get a complete playlist in one click.
I was one of those 80’s kids who made mixtapes and carried them around in my Walkman and in my car stereo. When Minidisc became a thing, I made the same mixtapes on Minidisc, and carried my goofy-ass Minidisc recorder pretty much everywhere. That escalated (quickly) to MP3s as data on writable CDs as soon as the first MP3 capable CD players came on the market. As the cloud has come into my life, I started uploading the more obscure stuff into Google Play, and made playlists of the stuff I used to make mixtapes of.
Recently I got one of those cheap-ass Crosley phonographs and I’ve been keeping an eye out at thrifts for old albums I might be interested in. Originally I was more interested in the novelty and nostalgia of having vinyl (a format I quite honestly avoided like the plague as a youngster, even though it was ubiquitous in my younger years) .. but yesterday I found myself doing something that I haven’t done in years.
I actually LISTENED to two albums. it wasn’t just background, it wasn’t an augment to what I was doing.. it WAS what I was doing. I found myself sitting at the turntable, doing nothing but actively listening to the music coming out of the speaker. And I was enjoying it. All the imperfections of the analog format, the pops and clicks, and having to turn the record over and place the stylus on the record… it was a complete experience.
While I could have searched for the same recordings and listened to digital copies on my smartphone, there was something .. real about handling the physical media.
I’m not saying it is the sort of thing I’d do every day, but as a ritual in and of itself it was a pleasant use of my time. Sitting down in front of the phonograph, gently pulling the record from its sleeve, gently removing as much dust as possible with a microfiber cloth, and putting this disk of plastic down in and of itself was a ritual.
And an enjoyable one at that.