Holding on to the Music
I was surprised, shocked even.
If this was a flick, the screen would now fadeout and take us back a few years as I got hooked on Marie Kondo and started to touch almost everything I had to see if still brought me joy.
I touched all my books, all my clothes, all my CDs and all my records, that had not been played in decades. Kondo’s idea of “tidying up” took over my life and the piles that would be removed grew day by day.
The books went to a charity based used bookstore and I felt good about that. The clothes went to Goodwill. Then I sat and sat as I put all the CDs and records in a pile on the floor — trying to follow the Kondo directions.
It is interesting how the world has evolved to the concept that music is to be “streamed” as the digitized bits and packets fly through the ether of the highspeed internet. All my CDs, and there were hundreds, did make it into my computer and iTunes account as this was a seamless transfer. However, even though I had a USB turntable the transfer of vinyl was time consuming and far from seamless, and never really occurred. I suspect that I am not the only person who bought CD copies of some of the records I owned.
I sat myself down in the middle of the pile and dug deep into my psyche to see it I could feel the joy. I sat and sat, and just got more and more confused. I struggled with the feeling of holding the medium vs listening to the content. For the CDs, this was not a challenge, as the content would still be available to me and consumable in many easy ways via computers. As far as the records I wrestled with the fact that they have never left the shelf for at least two decades and the idea of not having them just did not feel right. But…but… in the end, I made the decision that they could go, and if I really missed them, I could find a way to replace them via the ether and the clouds of music readily available. The key word was “easy.” If I really wanted them, and the great ones were already being re-mastered. Yeah, that was the story I told myself as I moved on with tidying up.
I found one of the local record stores still around that advertised that they bought used CDs and records and made multiple trips to load the boxes in my car and headed out one morning, not totally anxiety free, but determined to see what would happen.
What I learned is that there is not much value to used CDs, but the value of used vinyl was pleasantly surprising. The friendly clerk took the boxes of both CDs and records in and suggested that it would take 2–3 hours for her to go through the boxes and look up the value of each one. For the CDs there were many that they did not want but they did take many of my records and I walked out of the store with a good chunk of cash.
I did not feel totally good but was pleasantly surprised that there was new money in my hands. I kept a few CDs and records and stopped of at that charity used bookstore and donated many CDs and records there.
Let’s return to the present day. There has been so much learning, well, not so much a learning, but rather an acceptance of the truth that tidying up is not something you can do once every few years. Although not on the scale of the big purge a few years ago, over the past few weeks, I have begun to clean up the accumulated little piles that were just about everywhere in my living space. There is a bookcase next to my computer that has had my turntable on it, yet there were many little things covering the turntable, and all around it. Multiple earphones and other cables. Little boxes that for some reason I found hard to throw out. Sound familiar? Random pieces of paper that had notes that must have been important to me at some time, all of which I had let accumulate.
This past Saturday morning was the day I went after it. I cleaned up — yes even purged — many items and found my turntable under a thick coat of dust, unplugged and unconnected. I was on a roll, and decided to reconnect it to see if I could get it to work, just for kicks I was thinking. It took me some time to figure out how to reconnect it to my Mac and configure Audacity so I could play through the spinning discs. The disc that was still on the turntable was It’s A Beautiful Day and it was spinning through the trial and error of configuration attempts and then I heard…
But the white bird
Just sits in her cage
White bird must fly
Or she will die
…and I felt I was transported to another world, another time. Even though the turntable was USB, and the music was digitized through my Mac, it sounded different, it felt different, it was different. I only have a few records left from the Kondo purge but on that lazy Saturday I then began to bake cookies with the sounds of Deep Purple’s, Made in Japan rocking the walls. Time seemed to mix just right. I was standing both in the present and the past with a big happy smile on my face.
Then, the surprise, the shock occurred.
Records require that you touch them, hold them, flip them. It was hard not to watch the needle traversing the groove as the disc spun its merry way on the journey to send the waves to your ears, your body, your brain, your heart. Records are a physical medium that you can hold and they can hold you. Surprise, shock that I did not remember those feelings of holding the records, the album covers and the joy that they brought me back 40–50 years ago, and how the easiness of streaming has allowed that to disappear. I made cookies and listened to 8 sides of Deep Purple this past Saturday and got to hold the music in my hands and carefully and tenderly flipped the LPs when needed and watched the spinning discs and the needle in the groove and it felt good, felt groovy, felt right, and brought me joy.
In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” or “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
I am not sure that I will be buying vinyl records again, but I have learned that holding on to the music does bring me joy.
How about you?
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
- Simon and Garfunkel