January 4: Storing (my) music

It used to be easy, kind of anyway.

In my life I’ve stored music on LP, CDs and cassettes. 8-track? Nope, I never went down that rabbit hole, not even in the bad old days of Madman Muntz. Cassettes are miserable. They suffer from nasty compression (though some like a more compressed sound) but, worse, even commercial cassettes were prone to stretching and print-through. I did have an early fondness for making my own cassettes from radio broadcasts of classical and jazz back in the 70s. Some of them sounded Ok, especially when they were new. I found a cache of them in the basement of my parents house when they died back in 2008. I thought, for a brief moment, about trying to play one of them but quickly thought better of it…another rabbit hole avoided.

Me? I choose bigger and better rabbits holes like LP, CD and now digital music. LPs used to rule my world like dinosaurs. It was very difficult to listen to CDs when you have easy access to a quality LP playback system and good LPs. But, CDs got better and at a fairly rapid rate. Digital music is hurtling forward in quality. Even everyday bluetooth (especially later versions). Technologies like Qualcomm’s aptX will just keep on coming. Now, just as a brief reality check even aptX taps out at the limits of commercial CD (16 bit / 44.1 kHz) which is good but even better is sure to follow. This reality causes my enthusiasm for LPs to hold steady if not lose a little steam. Hey, as luscious as LPs are to hold, play and listen to I don’t like the feeling of emphasizing the medium over the music.

Good LPs, those pressed from virgin vinyl are extremely durable. I have records from the 70s that have been played thousands of times that still sound fantastic. The records themselves will certainly last well over a century (absent another flood). Until recently I’m not sure the same could be said of CD. Some early CDs suffered from fatal de-lamination. I have no doubt that the materials will be stable for the same century plus. The encouraging recent development I referred to earlier was the sudden increase in the availability of new one-box CD players. For a while it was looking like buyers would have to settle for a DVD player (until those went the way of the dinosaur) or a more elaborate and expensive two-box (transport/DAC) solution. I haven’t heard any of the new CD players but I’m sure they’re all good to excellent. Everyone has access to superb chips today and that’s a win for everyone. My suspicion is that most two-box solutions from smaller companies use chip sets that are inferior to those used by the big boys. That’s just how it is when it is comes to digital. If you can’t buy in quantity you have to get by on less.

So, both CDs and LPs are archive quality. But both formats take up space and it’s starting to annoy me. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about where that annoyance is taking me.

By the way, it hit 64 today with 70 on tap for tomorrow. I like the sound (and feel) of that!

January 4: Storing (my) music

January 3: Come on, let’s all think about my music collection!

Yesterday, I laid out the raw numbers of my current music collection. There are a few hundred LPs and maybe 500-600 CDs. But wait, I’ve forgotten about the digital music from iTunes, Bandcamp and even a small smattering of music I bought from Amazon. Each purchase has one thing in common; it is as available and reliable as the company that has granted the me use rights to the music.

Like pretty much all rights, iTunes rights are beset by limitations. Hey, .99 cents (now $1.29) only buys you but so much. Let me tell you the story of a handful of songs I purchased by a fairly obscure singer named Brendan Campbell (from his 2008 record, Burgers and Murders). I bought the songs from iTunes quite a while back. But, earlier this year when I tried to play them I found that the songs were MIA (at least on my iPhone).

Well, that’s weird thought I…

Once I was back in my home office I checked my master iTunes library, which resides on the lovely if aged, 1TB drive of my elderly MacMini. There the missing songs were right where they were supposed to be, ready to play.

The cover of Campbell’s 2008 record…

WTF?

It took me and Mr. Google a couple minutes to solve this minor league tech puzzler. The answer resides not so much with iTunes but rather with the license granted to them by Mr. Campbell. It seems the two had a spat of some sort and the result is that iTunes can no longer sell (or allow access to) Campbell’s music even though I had previously purchased the songs.

The only reason I still have the songs is because a long time ago I downloaded (remember that 1TB drive?) the songs in question. If I had left them to float around the digital ether all this time the songs would be gone forever, or at least until Campbell’s work pops up somewhere else. Going forward who can say whether the rights granted by iTunes, et al are ephemeral or long standing?

I raise this issue because it serves to emphasize how important it is to have a downloaded, nailed-down (read residing on an actual hard drive you own) version of all the music you own. Sure, Campbell’s music comprises a financial investment of exactly $5.94 but the point is that I cannot find that music anywhere else, at least not as of this writing. The loss of those songs would go beyond the mere pittance I originally spent on them.

In the end, a valued music collection has to be archivable.

More on that tomorrow. By the way, it actually warmed up fairly well in the valley today. The mercury made it all the way to 64 today.

Not bad!

January 3: Come on, let’s all think about my music collection!

January 2: Quality, music & nostalgia

2020 was a year that I started to try to get a handle on my music collection. Years ago I lost over 2,000 treasured LPs in a flood. The insurance company first offered me $1 per record and ended up paying me $3 each. Still, that pretty much took out my collection save for the few hundred that escaped the hot, ravaging waters of the broken pipe.

A few of the survivors and my beloved Per Madsen Rack.

I would include a photo of my CDs, but they’re just so boring looking. Yesterday I wrote about Paul Simon’s disdain for contemporary music and I alluded to my music collection. I find that the more I write the more music I listen to. The listening is different, for the most part, than when I worked in and wrote about the high end audio industry. It is more of an accompaniment or a soundtrack. I no longer have a system, though I can still play LPs and CDs and hear them in free space. When the music or my brain demands it I listen on headphones, either wired or bluetooth. This is all heading toward how I intend to manage and grow my collection without as much physical mass to manage. The idea of using FLAC and dumping what’s left of my LPs onto a bunch of really big (an well backed up) hard drive is appealing. So is buying most (but not all of my music digitally through either iTunes or Bandcamp. I can’t quite wrest myself from the appeal of the physical so when I bought Deep Sea Diver’s new record I bought the LP from Bandcamp and it arrived signed by Jessica Dobson herself. Plus, Bandcamp tends to pay musicians a high percentage than iTunes.

C’mon, Jessica sent me Xs and Os…How do you pass that up?

It’s cool, but it’s also pretty damn physical. There may come a day where my enjoyment of buying and listening to records goes away altogether but I am not quite there yet. Digital and digital storage is just so convenient and it usually sounds fairly good. There’s a good chance one of the few benefits of aging will be the fact that my ability to discern good sound from bad sound will continue to decline. If I end up being happy to listen to a portable radio that’ll be just fine. My hearing already rolls off above 14kHz so I’m on my way!

Enough preamble. The word of the day is nostalgia. And my question is this: If you like something that happens to be old is your appreciation inherently possessed with nostalgia? What do we say when what’s old is really good let alone possible better than what’s new? Say we’re talking about Van Halen’s 1978 eponymously titled record or Steely Dan’s Katy Lied from 1975. Yup, I grew up with both. Still, each record is still fantastic by any measure. Do I have to admit that some of my appreciation for either work is dripping in nostalgia? Think about it and let me know. More tomorrow. I’m trying to keep the daily posts between 300-400 words. Wish me luck…

January 2: Quality, music & nostalgia