I have about 200 audio cassettes taking up prime shelf space at home. I don’t listen to the cassettes much anymore, they have become ornaments, ugly ornaments.
Today I’ve started to box them up and have kept only a few of the non-labelled cassettes out as I’m intrigued to find out what’s on them. May be there’s a long lost gem that my band recorded back in its heyday. No really, I was in a band, and no, we never had a heyday but its always fun and self-indulgent to listen back and wonder what if… what if we had some talent.
I was gonna scan all the covers of the cassette singles, just the ones that came in a cardboard sleeve rather than a plastic cassette box, but the scanner wouldn’t do its magic autocrop function because the scanner lid was too high above the scanning element. In the end I just scanned the cassettes I got free from the Melody Maker, NME and Vox magazine. These tapes got a serious amount of playtime in my walkman and on my dodgy Aiwa stereo.
For the past 6 or 7 years, packing and unpacking my cassette and record collection has always had a certain joy to it. I will stick on a random track I haven’t listened to since my teens. The cassette, the vinyl record and even the CD bring about a certain sense of nostalgia. The same feeling is impossible to achieve with a digital music collection. I agree with what mycassette blogger says:
Over time, a collection of music matures, and depending on the care of the collector, the final accumulation can represent years or decades of effort on the part of the archivist. Varied musical trends and styles are often represented indicating both cultural and personal growth. In this case the collection also includes several different media formats.
Thinking how digital format music moves from one person to another is a different story. The entire physical aspect of time is lost, leaving the bare content itself, the music, to stand on its own, with its meager and most likely inconsistant metadata to back it up and provide some measure of date. There will be no worn edges, no scratches no muffled sounds or cracked cases in the digital world, and thats a good thing, the thing we all like.
Still, there is something nice in picking up an old album or tape and ‘feeling’ the age inherent through the physicality of the object. Whats that all about anyway?
Listening to music as it was intended to be heard, with no pops or crackle, no warping or hissing, nor guessing whether Dolby should be switched on or off and if on, set to B or C, is great. I don’t doubt digital music. I doubt my own ability to really listen to music anymore. I will listen to anything I haven’t heard before but I don’t connect with any of it because not a single record is given a chance to grow between my ears. I’m suffering from information overload! The same can be said for most things in today’s consumer market, where a new book, a new tin of baked beans, a new tv prog, a new mobile phone, a new pub, etc… is in fashion today, and may be tomorrow, but is soon replaced by something better, tastier, more thrilling, smaller or trendier. Slow down world.