Thursday, May 10, 2012

still-sound 67. Record player

My birthday isn't until Wednesday but I opened one of my presents last night.  I knew what it was, in fact I found it online and sent the link to Rob so that he could purchase it with absolute certainty.  It's a portable record player.  Rob insisted I open it early so that I could enjoy it for a few days before I set off on my 'big 40th birthday trip' next week.

I've missed playing records.  When I moved into the dormitory my freshman year of college, I lugged a record player and two wooden wine crates full of  LPs into my little room.  Although most students (wisely) took the less space-consuming CD route, I actually didn't have many CDs back then.  By graduation, my entire vinyl collection ended up in boxes, stored in my mother's garage.

Record playing requires a certain level of ceremony.  The removal of the vinyl disc from the paper sleeve without smudging the grooves with fingerprints calls for a deft hand.  The commitment of the diamond needle to record begins the crackly preamble to the first song.  The album is characterized by a distinct ebb and flow. 

The opening song must be the best that the record offers.  Or almost the best.  The end of the first side, like the ending of the first act of a play, must reach a high point, making the audience hungry for more.  The second side must begin with a song that preserves the mood established on the first, but with the addition of something new.  A new thought or feeling.  The album must end as strongly as it begins.

CDs and (more so) MP3s encourage me to skip to the songs I remember liking best.  Over time the list dwindles to nearly zero.  Not because of the quality of the songs but because of the laziness of my memory.

I broke in the new record player last night with Samba With Some Barbeque, the first song from Paul Desmond's album Summertime.


  1. As I've just been re-experiencing life with a record player for the first time in decades, I know exactly what you're talking about here. I was just saying to my friends the other night that playing a record is a ritual (and you said ceremony...we're on the same wavelength here). There are physical actions that must be performed at regular intervals if you want the music to continue, and indeed, choices made along the way the keep the music flowing - unlike putting the ipod shuffle on first thing in the morning and letting it randomly soundtrack your day. Holding each disk and examining for dust or scratches before playing encourages the build-up of anticipation, which enhances the listening experience. And the pace of the album, just as you said, becomes clearly important. The big (or not) opening, the cliffhanger track on the end of Side 1.

  2. Yes! And my rekindled phonographic love was heightened even more today with the arrival of the speakers I ordered. Now the sounds are rich and proper (as opposed to slightly tinny and contained). Yesterday I spotted a record by Grimes - a special edition on purple vinyl. I didn't buy it since I didn't know the music well. When I got home I checked the band out and instantly fell in love. I've been thinking about the record all day. I'll even qualify it as a crush. This does not happen with MP3 downloads. It just doesn't.