Turntable vs. Digital Algorithm in The Sky

Thursday morning at around 3:00am I am awake , yet again not able to sleep. I grab my iPad and start browsing, trying to connect myself to something of interest. Truth be told not much but sleep interests me 3am.

I hyperlink my way on to a page about record players. Note: to anyone who may be under that age of 29 reading this: a record player (a.k.a. turntable is the proper name) is what came before mp3, cd’s, tape decks but after live musicians and sheet music. A turntable plays big black vinyl discs with grooves that produce analogue sound waves. Not the flicker of sounds produced by zeroes and one (a.k.a.) analogue single converted by a computer then compressed into a digital sound wave as to be re-dubbed as digital music.

Torn, between yesterday and today, I love the convenience of all things digital. I miss the quality and stillness of the physical item. The idea alone of not having to find a place to keep a collection of, well...anything is great. Be it records, books or better yet photo negatives, put them all on hard drives and let me pull it up through a computer search when needed.

There I sit with iPad in hand complaining to myself about quality of digital vs real. For years now I keep thinking about getting a turntable. Then the question comes up, what selections of musics are worthy enough for me to repurchase them on vinyl? In the late eighties I walked into a used record store and sold my vinyl collections of LP’s, numbering somewhere over three hundred, to be traded in for cash so I could turn around and re-buy a lot of the same music on cd’s.

First, let me select music “worthy” for re-purchase. Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites performed by Yo Yo Ma, definitely first choice. Next, would have to be “The Right of Strings” by Clarke, Di Meola and Ponty. There is not a week that goes by that I do not listen to those two selections of music. I do feel that I should own the entire Beatles collection on vinyl but will probably not purchase them. “Born to Run” by Springsteen, U2's “Joshua Tree”, “Hejira” by Joni Mitchell would be a definite purchase and some Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco for my wife would be a must.

The next question I ask myself, would I sit to appreciate the music? If the quality is better I should take the time to enjoy the listening experience. If it's only background music to fill up the silent space in rooms that does not deem itself to be worthy. Could I see myself sitting in a chair sipping Pinot Noir listening to the complete Cello Suites? Yes.

I need to find out who sells turntables and where I can get good quality vinyl. No problem there, type my question into the search engine box and hyperlink my way towards purchase.

While writing up this rant I am listening to Pandora (internet radio). Note: to anyone over the age 39: Pandora works like this: you select a favorite artist (currently, for me, its Elvis Costello). Then the digital algorithm in the sky goes on to play the artist of your choosing and pairs it with other similar artists, which you may like. If you like the selection you give it the thumbs up or if you wish to never hear that particular song again you give it the thumbs downs.

This is where things get maddening for me, I do not want a machine or an algorithm making decisions for me. What is the experience of music if you have no control over what is coming next? The real problem is that I love Pandora and the decisions it makes for me.

I lost the connection of falling in love with music that I felt in my youth.

Going into a record store and browsing the aisles of albums listening to what is playing on the store turntable; that is how to discover new music, while waiting for the tattoo hot chick behind the counter to come over and recommend something new for you. That is how you get into new music. Not by an algorithm in the cloud preselecting music for you.

Music is to be discovered, not stumbled upon.

Definitely getting a turntable.

Strange days indeed...