It was initially nice to get hands on my banana-boxes full of old records, tapes and CDs that have been sitting in mum’s garage for the last 8 years. It was specially nice to have a little look at the CD cases of albums I’d listened to a lot during the different parts (places, friends, adventures) of my time in korea—soundtracks. I bought several (not a huge amount by my own standards) CDs while I was there, ripped them to computer then brought them home to mum’s place for safe keeping on holidays.
I’ve already mentioned how artwork, liner notes and that concrete sense of possession are terribly, badly lacking from music in the MP3/Internet medium. But sometimes old stuff isn’t as good as I remember it either. The CD “jewel case’ was probably designed by some coked-out ‘80s executive who obviously wasn’t thinking of longevity when they decided on brittle plastic for flimsy hinges and those little circular clippy bits that are supposed to keep the CD in place.
My re-experince of tapes was worse. I am from the cassette tape generation. The first albums I bought were on tape. I started taping the radio right after I discovered radio. I had a whole load of tapes of stuff I’d taped off 3PBS and RRR during the early-mid 90s that I’d been itching to get back to listen to. Stuff that is obscure enough that I have very little chance of ever finding on CD in 2nd hand shops. Because it was taped off the radio there were all these big FM scratchy sounds blasting through intermittently which I’d forgotten about. Plus there was this HUGE slab of white noise which was really, really noticeable and hard to ignore. I haven’t given up—I need a better tape player with clean heads.
I haven’t found a record player at all yet so I don’t know how the records will sound. I did have a hi-fi (now there’s a relative term..) here for a few days that had CD, tape players and a record player with no needle but I got rid of it again thanks to freecycle.org (the digital place where real people come together to pick over eachother’s junk) mainly because I kept noticing how much space it was taking up. I thought about the functions it could perform (tape, CD, radio etc) and the electronic components needed to make those things happen and I kept think what’s all the rest of the space in there for? I guess that’s caused by a combination of living in an age where a song now takes up the space of a few electrons (or nothing at all, in my house at least, if I was streaming the music) as well as living in shoe-boxes in korea where home-space is at a premium. It still is a bit here in the new place.
Streaming music, not even radio stations, just music services is much more common in Korea, and from what I can gather in the US too. And it makes me wonder how this younger generation (the millennials or whatever they’re called) will experience musical nostaligia if they’ve got nothing to hold onto. Very few people keep their old mobile phones when they move onto a new one and the phone is really the only physical site that I can think of that a person might be able to go back to to remember how things were. But then, these things always find a way (even if it seems in diminished form to an old fart like me). Just the other day I was surprised to find that my girl J-e, who I’d always thought was dead against computer games, used to play a game called Princess Maker when she was a kid in the early 90s. We found some clips of it on youtube and the music from it brought back memories for her.
I don’t see radio station bumper stickers on the backs of cars like I used to.
In conclusion, Steve Jobs and Jony Ives have, and will continue to, destroy society as we know it.
edit 2 (21/05/13) – BBC article on tapes.