Monday, August 29, 2005

Record Geek

I've been putting together some mix CD's and iPod playlists while I've been recuperating. So this article in this week's New Republic really hit home. It's about how the easy availability of even obscure rock tracks is making Rock Snobs, "usually young men, of argumentative tendencies who have lorded their encyclopedic musical knowledge over others," obsolete. You need a subscription to view the whole thing, but here's the money graf for me, about a girlfriend to whom the author gave an iPod:

She promptly plugged it into my computer and was soon holding in her hand a duplicate version of my 5,000-song library--a library that had taken some 20 years, thousands of dollars, and about as many hours to accumulate. She'd downloaded it all within five minutes. And, a few months later, she was gone, taking my intimate musical DNA with her.
This afternoon, I accidentally clicked on an arrow next to a Monkees' track in one of my playlists in iTunes and opened the Music Store. And this wasn't just your basic "Last Train to Clarksville" or "Daydream Believer," but one of those tracks left off the original albums back in the '60s and traded in bootlegs by Monkees geeks for decades.

My screen instantly listed every Monkees' track available for downloading, plus mixes involving a Monkees' track or two that other customers had put together under names like "Ah, the 60's" and "Guilty Pleasures." Most of these lists had over 100 songs. So anyone with the Internet and a credit card could click a button and within minutes they would acquire:

In short, a collection that took forty years to put together--and that I've mostly replaced myself with CD's, MP3's and AAC's over the past five years--could belong to somebody in the time it took them to get a cup of coffee.

So does this mean that all that time, effort and hard-earned money were for nothing? No, no more than Around The World in 80 Days is no longer literature. Those C-60's and C-90's, products of, "Oooh, if I give you a tape can you make me a copy?" have their own treasured history long after you've ceased being able to find a decent repair service for the equipment to play them on. The initials of a stranger in ballpoint on a piece of masking tape stuck to a 45 attest to the fact that somebody cared enough somewhere along the way, and then you inherited that care just long enough before passing it along to Bleeker Bob's to be cared for by somebody you'd never meet.

And eventually, these little digital files will take their place in the continuum with their own stories. The fact that the author of the article had enough of an idea to write an article and get paid for it and that I could get inspired by that article and write a blog post, is proof that those files have become part of the larger story already.

So off I go, to burn a few more digital cave paintings.

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