I’m still working on the audio story but taking a little break. It’s going okay, but it needs some air and I’ve been mulling over this post for a little while.
What seems like a long time ago (I’m probably counting in internet years) I wrote about print newspaper. Not down the demise of news – I suspect we’ll still be needing some of that – but the visceral sense of reading a newspaper. If you are curious/bored, that post is here. This post has something in common with that.
Recently in an attempt to avoid studying and working, I decided to sort out my cranky iTunes files. So, that’s digital sock sorting for you – work avoidance. I cleared a few things out and then took a look at my CDs. Yeah, physical CDs.
Most people are probably a few steps ahead of me on this – but my CDs are propped in one of those narrow shelving units in the corner of my office. They’re covered in dust.
There was a time where this would be impossible. CDs were never in their case, or in the correct case at least. They would be strewn about, bedroom hi-fi, kitchen CD player – covered in cake mix, stacked up in my office next to a player in there too or to listen too from my laptop while it wound up like a jump-jet.
I started importing some of the older ones and the ones that handily “fell off” my copy of iTunes, (yeah, thanks Apple for that). Listening to music is a bee line through history for me. I recover memories and scenes in full HD clarity. Old boyfriends, console games, pubs I worked in, desks I wrote at. CD by CD I recovered a whole lot in one afternoon. The covers, sound of crystal cases clacking against each other as I stacked them up, lyrics I thought I had forgotten. It reminded me of who I was at different times.
It also reminded me of who other people were. Friends I still have and some who drifted away. A CD and vinyl collection was a tribal marker when I was at college. Sonic Youth CD – you’re in. Take that? You’re probably an old school friend and therefore forgiven. Corduroy – on vinyl along with creased thrift shop LPs we thought were ironic – Sexy Hammond? Yeah.
It was the thing we would inspect when visiting a new friend. The collection we hoped would be cool for others when they came to visit us. I have a stark memory of living with a flatmate when I had just moved to London. It was a warning sign that I dismissed. Face it, when you really need to find somewhere to live and you’re inexperienced or not so assured, you ignore yourself.
An extreme example in the end of a bully and a guy who seemed to be often on the edge of violence. White collar professional, propped up by family inheritance. I though he was bland but okay. He wasn’t and I left that place frightened. But the thing that I spotted when I first saw that flat? The CD collection, not many, not all out and well played and frankly nothing I would want to listen to. I was busy deafening myself with System of a Down and Siouxsie Sioux, he – well, he wasn’t. I’m not going to associate recording artists with acts of violence. But the differences were large and it led to leverage in that situation.
If I had been as persnickety about his record collection as I was when I had been a pompous art student, then I would not have moved in at all. Let that be a spurious lesson!
But back to today and old records in a new form. The fact of the matter is, if I popped around to your place for a cup of tea for the first time, you’d probably have an iPod full of secrets (I do – Carpenters? Yes. Gwen Stefani? Shut up, yes that too). Point being, the music collection that lined the walls as an open code for your tribe, is fast fading away. We may talk about it online, but face to face, how do you know who’s like you?
Sometimes it feels as though our physical presences are disappearing. Sometimes I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. Sometimes I suspect I am just growing old. I’ll listen to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and get back to you on that one.