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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.

Music streams, files and artifacts of enjoyment

CDs had a good run in my life—there were many years where I bought CDs at least once a month. Now, CD purchases are pretty rare.

Most of my life, I've listened to music on LP, CD, cassette tapes and the radio. (For this post, I am writing about only recorded music, not "live" music.)

It's really not too different now: just add mp3s (and digital files) and streaming over the Internet to the above formats. But, I've definitely crossed a line where CDs are the least used format of all of the above. I actually have listened to more cassettes lately than CDs (in the putting-a-CD-in-a-player sense).

But, I do love to collect music. So, I am still buying some CDs—they just get immediately ripped to the computer, and then subsequently played via iTunes (which, as a music library interface, totally annoys me). And, regardless of whether I get a shiny disc or files, I enjoy the whole experience of acquiring / collecting the music.

I am not buying CDs for a few reasons, beyond the above. One of which is physical space: the 1,000+ CDs I already have are more and more getting packed away in storage, and I have no interest in buying CDs just to store them. Given the choice, I am tending to buy a few LPs rather than a lot of CDs—if they're going to take up space, they need to be something I want to take out and hold regularly. And, that's part of what this post is about.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we're currently trying out the MOG music service. We're listening to a lot of music this way, which is accompanied by the least-physical collecting of all of the above formats. My MOG collection is "in the cloud"—maybe. I am not sure I "hold" anything when I get music from MOG—that's good and bad, I think.

I go for days and days where I listen to music non-stop, from the time I get up until I go to bed. And, radio is a good option for this, if you're lucky enough to have a good radio station handy. We have KEXP here in Seattle, which is both good and handy. But, by a coincidence of convenience, we listen to KEXP via it's online streaming more than via over-the-air FM broadcast. So, KEXP is everywhere via the web—it's actually the primary "streaming" service we use, in that sense (and, I'm listening to Larry's Lounge as I write this).

I'm enjoying MOG and having it fill a similar role as radio. I spent an afternoon and picked out about 700 tracks I wanted to hear, and now have been playing album after album. In this way, it's more like collecting CDs. It's like a hybrid of radio and collecting, which I'm liking.

I am a big fan of Television & Tom Verlaine, and I found his 1992 album Warm and Cool on MOG. I've listened to it twice now—this is pretty much the point where I'd own the CD if this were 5 years ago.

So, now the big question: can I just collect this album on MOG, and feel like I have it? And, in particular, will that feeling of having it "work" like it does with physical albums?

This week, I also have been listening to the Thelonius Monk LP, Epistrophy. It's a recording from a concert in Paris, November 1970 (almost exactly 40 years ago), and the LP came out in 1979—I bought it used a few years later. It's maybe the first jazz album I bought when I was a kid.

(Here's Monk playing the song, "Epistrophy" in Paris, 1966)

So, this Monk album has all this meaning to me. Yet, I hadn't listened to it in years, and it's meaning was invisible to me—out-of-sight, out-of-mind. But, when I picked up the album this week, and actually pulled the vinyl out of its sleeve, and heard the first notes: total magic.

Obviously, the music is the main magic. And, music we've had in our life for 30+ years and/or since our childhood might have more meaning to us than music we've heard for the first time this week. But, I wonder how and where (and, thus, if) I am going to collect the music "in the cloud" such that it fulfills this important role of being an artifact of life—my life, our lives, our time & place?

It's been 6+ years since I posted The future of music playback on Wrong Notes, and I can't help but revisit this notion that we'll need to create physical embodiments of our music collections, even if those collections are purely digital, or even in the cloud on a streaming service like MOG.

And, with the Ear Reverends, with works like Err or Man, I can't help but want to attach my own music to some physical artifacts that might help it have a life in our places and times.


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