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Friday, August 06, 2004

WHY DO YOU LISTEN

For Christmas, in 1976, my brother Rod (age 16) gave me (age 11) my first full length record, the Beatles "Abbey Road". That nearly thirty year old slab of vinyl still sounds better than any mp3. Technology has changed where and when we listen, and I have benefitted. I remember the winter of 1982 when the Walkman was new, and I could listen to the Kinks "Give The People What They Want" while barreling down the ski slope at West Point. That was brilliant. But I'm worried that as a culture we prize convienience over quality. I often hear people say that the difference between a quality mp3 and an aiff file (16 bit cd standard) is negligable, well that negligable difference is audible to me. I hear it in the high and low end, or lack thereof, and this is why I have not made the great leap to ipod, and will not until I can get the quality that I deserve.

Comments:
A very good point you are making here. I hear the diff as well, but I think you bring up another aspect of listening habits that I dare say is slowing going the way of the batamax and that is the very activity of listening to music. I am not talking about driving your car and listening to music, or walking to work listening to music, I'm talking about sitting down at your turntable/CD player and playing music with your friends/family, or by yourself. You and I do this Ted when we're together, I do it with my wife, but I seldom see or hear of anybody else sitting down with a beer or glass of wine and going through a stack of records/CD's and doing nothing else but listening and talking about music. I sadly feel that music has become background soundtrack and noise to most people becuase of this iPod thing. I absolutely love sitting indian style in front of my gargantuian shelves of CD's and records, pulling them out INDIVIDUALLY, and lsitening to them. Maybe pluck the guitar and sing along to them. We used to do this for hours everyday when we were kids and it was great. Now, listiening to music is an activity you do while your doing something else exclusively. That's why I think nobody cares about the lackluster quality of the mp3 format. My IT guru neighbor and I had a debate years ago about this very thing. I challeged him to bring his computer over to the studio and we'd a/b a few tunes between the two formats through one of my sets of flat response monitors in my studio. He was absolutely convinced after hearing the first song. It was even one that we burned from the disc being played!

The very fact that nobody does listen only activity is the reason many are willing to give up the package part of records too. I can't conceive of ever not looking at the record jacket of what I'm listening to when I'm at home. I will cling to this until the day I die. A record (at least the good ones) are a complete multimedia package. Sad to see them go with the whole downloadable thing.

I think if people were to do more listening only type activity they would demand better content and better fidelity, but as long as listening to music is something that is done in conjuction with something else, sadly, things will remain the same.
 
I got the iPod 5 years later
 
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