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WRONG NOTES: a blog of ear reverence

Wrong Notes collects posts on music, art, culture and fun stuff. Also included: news about the Ear Reverends.

CD symbolism and the power to play music

We (humans) commonly have had the power to record music and listen to it for less than one hundred years. It's been maybe only during the last fifty years that records (LPs and CDs) have become the most common way to listen to music.

I have considered myself a "CD addict", and probably would have called myself a "record junkie" when I was a teen. And, I find access to music mp3s on the Internet an interesting catalyst to reflect on what it means to listen to recorded music: what I feel like I am purchasing when I buy recorded music, and how the formats / media (e.g., album vs playlist) affect the ways in which I relate to the music I listen to. Mp3s are changing my listening.

I have a lot of ideas about this that I want to explore. And, as I have suggested, I think one of the important ways to explore it is as a musician recording music for these new formats / media.

While thinking about this today, I serendipitously came across Edward W. Felton's A Grand Unified Theory of Filesharing and a number of good comments in response (via BoingBoing). Here is a comment I wrote:

Two of the appeals of owning CDs are: the power of possessing the shiny disc, and (to initiate the "concert") the ritual of spinning the shiny disc to make music.

I think at least some of us who grew up with albums and CDs continue to strongly relate to this (80-90 year old, legacy) idea of music that comes out of a shiny disc. Even when we download and/or listen without the disc, something seems missing until we possess the disc as well.

At least some of today's free-riders are also people who have never embraced the ritual of the shiny disc—they aren't simply too young / inconvenienced to possess the discs, but are creating new rituals (or putting greater priority on different rituals, e.g., making playlists and sharing them) as well.

In terms of the battles of CDs vs filesharing, I think it is important to note that record companies are fundamentally in the business of selling shiny discs, and that "music business" throughout its history, with the exception of the last 50-75 years, had nothing to do with selling discs.

I love these shiny discs myself, but they are serving a more and more symbolic, and less and less functional role in my music listening. And, as a music listener and music creator, I feel drawn to follow where the power of music is going—which is the where people want music (i.e., which is less and less about where the shiny discs are).


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