Dec 202015
 

Last week I posted on Facebook, that I am trying to find a balancing act somewhere between Frank Zappa’s dictum that “a mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work unless it’s open” and the notion that a new and radical idea, however exciting, may prove to be complete bullshit.

So how does this work in practice? I think I may have found a practical case and it involves music. It’s time to open up my mind anew and visit a local record store in Oshawa, one that sells new and used vinyl as well as CD’s.

In the past, such places were instrumental to expanding one’s musical horizons. It is pretty much guaranteed that people who own such places or work there are true music geeks. Sometimes when you would walk into the store, there was disc playing on a turntable or CD player that would blow your mind. It was some artist or band you never heard of before and then in an instant, you wanted to know who it is and buy it on the spot. In such a way, you would begin a personal relationship with the staff, and in some cases, other customers.

bens-collectors-records-places-to-shop-medium

Over time, the owner or staff would get to know you and when you’d walk into the store, they would point you in the right direction to new music you would enjoy. Every now that then, they would throw you a curve ball and blow your mind once more. The number of times this happened to me in old privately owned record shops is uncountable. What to do I have to show for it? Several hundred albums and CD’s still enjoyed to this day.

I find it paradoxical that with all the convenience of downloading music, whether legally or illegally, my music world has stagnated. Generally I download tunes from artists or genres I already know. What is missing is that spark of inspiration or the passion of another music geek sharing something new or different. Those “if you liked…..” suggestions on Amazon just don’t cut it. There is no passion, no insight, no humanity to it. Just data mining trends mindlessly posted back to a buyer. Moreover, what online downloads cannot replace are those rare gems out of print that can be found in record shops.

This weekend I was deep cleaning dozens of old albums, so I can play them anew and in some cases for the first time. Many of them date back to the seventies, sixties and fifties. As I was removing the records from their sleeves, it was cool to rediscover those sleeves with advertising for other recordings of the same genre. On each side of a sleeve there was over a dozen suggestions from a record label’s catalog. The recommendations were handpicked in accordance to the genre of the record contained therein. What makes it different is that a human suggested those lists instead of an algorithm. Many a times these sleeves would inspire me to seek out new records. Today, they do the same, once the wave of nostalgia receded, I made some mental notes of records to find in the used bins. Quite effective marketing back in the day and even now.

Record-Store-Day

I am really excited about rediscovering recorded music in its most human form and begin shopping again in a REAL record store. I know over the next few months my mind will be blown away with new artists and recordings.

This weekend, I went shopping at Star Records in Oshawa and I will have more to say on that in another post.

Dec 202015
 

This week I have been doing something every night that I have not done in years. It is something I did nearly every day as a teenager, somewhat less frequently in my twenties. In my thirties I started doing it again, at least a few times each week, then somewhere in my forties it came to a grinding halt. Now here I am in my fifties and I am rediscovering just how good it is.

I am listening to records, honest to goodness old vinyl records. I had forgotten just how good they can be when played through the right gear. Back in my thirties I had invested a good sum of money in a high quality turntable, cartridge and phono preamp. In the last few years that gear was all but neglected, as was a few hundred albums wedged into two bookshelves. Odd how good analog tech can survive the test of time, whereas digital sources suffer from digital rot and are always disposable things. Digital sounds great as well and technically speaking it should be better than vinyl, but that is not what matters. It is the music that matters and how you connect with it.

Playing a record is a wonderfully tactile and engaging experience. You must make a commitment to play an album, it involves scouring your collection to find just the right music for the moment, carefully extracting a record from its sleeve, cleaning it and then actually listening to a whole side or album. You are truly involved with the music both in sound and touch. Those old album covers and lyrics printed on the inner sleeve are far more connected to the artist’s vision of their music than some insipid thumbnail image on your iPod or computer. A record means you need to SLOW DOWN, sit in a chair and really listen deeply. Vinyl compels you do this, there is no shuffle or play list, just a singular work of art in and of itself. You can also experience something similar with a digital source, but its convenience and instant access does require the same commitment to listen and stay in one place.

Rega P25 Turntable

Rega P25 Turntable

It seems to me that music streaming off digital sources often becomes just a form of acoustical wallpaper, nothing more than a background pleasantry to accompany some daily activity. Same goes for people listening through earbuds or headphones via mobile sources, where the music is interwoven with mundane tasks such as commuting or typing away in a cubicle. The music does not have your full attention. Somehow “music as data” fits our shortened attention spans and multitasking lifestyles where we are increasingly disconnected from each other and also real art.

I dare say I am not rediscovering vinyl as much as I am rediscovering a true love of music. Playing records anew means that I am totally engaged with music I have loved and at times forgotten over the years. As such, listening to music becomes the only activity to occupy a few hours of my free time. No movies, no Youtube, no streaming, no screens, no smartphone or other digital distractions. There is just a beautiful warm analog sound washing over me and leading to a state of bliss.

Nov 012012
 

Well, Terry since you decided to bust my balls about not having posted to my blog in the last two days, I realized that I have no excuse and I was just plain lazy.  I probably should not be mixing whiskey, coush, amphetamines, salbuterol and liquid drano, especially in my sleep.  So, you’ve motivated me to make a filler posting before my next major post.

I thought I’d offer up a photo of my last backyard BBQ party, the one you did not attend.   If you don’t break my nuts again about posting each day, I’ll invite you to my next BBQ party and I promise to double the number of midgets in your honour.

The Fun Terry Missed out On