Friday, December 14, 2007

Closing the vinyl café

What Roy Edroso said:
There are probably far fewer analog audiophiles now than there were once upon a time. That battle has been lost by attrition. When I first heard Raw Power on CD I thought it was crap, and maybe if I still had the LP and a really good sound system I'd still think so. But I don't, and digital is what there is. To what extent was the ass-kicking power of "The Real Me" from Quadrophenia through my college roommate's maxed-out shelftop stereo a superior experience to whatever digitally remixed version we're on now? Was it the grooves, or the time and place? I can't tell you and I don't have thousands of dollars to try and recreate the experience. Maybe we were all better off with Edison cylinders.

But the recesses of our cultural memory are an archipelago where vinyl certainly rules. Things were caught on wax that, with rare exceptions, no one will bother to digitize because there's no money in it, or because no one cares, or because they just plain suck. These artifacts have the same value as any unobserved details of life: they are either worthless or a treasure trove, depending on how much faith one has in the obvious, or patience for that which is not obvious. Like bookstall remainders, garage-sale handicrafts, photos found in the trash, or conversations overheard on the bus, or anything you might happen to attend that did not call attention to itself, they are part of a secret world that is larger, and often more interesting, than the consensus reality we half-awakenly inhabit, and to which we can only abandon ourselves at great risk to our souls.
I'm tempted to add "literary fiction" to that list of cultural marginalia, though not at all in a mean way – not this time, anyway.

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