22 Mar 2010

The Evolution of Music As A Living Format

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The following article was pieced together by a series of realizations I had right before I feel asleep the last couple of weeks. It’s kind of like a ‘brain throw up’ of me analyzing different music formats right between me being awake and falling asleep. I felt like I needed to ‘get it all out of my system.’

It’s no surprise the Vinyl record is coming back. I believe people just got lost in technology with the invention of digital audio, file sharing, and iTunes. While all of these inventions did hurt the idea of what an album was because of the ability to purchase songs singularly, the Internet and file sharing has in fact opened a new door for the music world. By utilizing these great technologies, we are able to share a track by some guy making music in his bedroom with his bongo drums from Alaska. Because of the Internet and file sharing, new genres are being created, and it is also a useful way for upcoming artists to find inspiration-the possibilities are endless. Not only that, but the Internet helps us find music in other countries. I have tracks sent to me weekly via Soundcloud, and typically they are songs from artists that live on the other side of the world, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, etc.

As humans, we grow older, and weaker. It is a fact of life. Our bones become brittle, we get sick easier. Before you know it, we need to be taken care of like when we were babies by our parents, except now by our own daughters and sons.

Like us, vinyl grows old. Those pops and skips you hear on a vinyl record from play after play are signs of aging. Sure you can try and clean them, but they’ll never be the same as they were when you first purchased them-just like we won’t be as healthy when we are 70 compared to when we were teenagers. This reason, alone, is why I love vinyl, because it grows old like us. It’s a ‘living’ format. I can relate to it at a palpable level.

Cassette tapes too, are a living format. After a long enough time of flipping sides, you’ll start to hear those ‘pops’. Cassette tapes were the format of the eighties. But now, they are becoming more and more popular. Still considered a ‘useless’ format by many, cassette tape popularity continues to rise due to limited edition releases that capture a collectors’ attention.

The compact disc format seems to be now dwindling, which is most likely because of the ability to purchase MP3’s, put them on your iPod, and play them in your car. The compact disc is the most ‘living resistant’ physical format to date. They’ll sound great for a very long period of time unless you scratch the bottom of the discs. Oddly enough, I believe that transportation has a large role to play in the popularity of a particular format.

The introduction of the cassette tape shined a whole new light on music; finally a portable way to listen to a physical format had been invented-and now people could listen to music through their automobile or a Walkman. You could use cassettes to record the radio through your home stereo; I used to do it when I was a kid all the time. I had so much fun trying to record the beginning of a song and the end of a song at the right moment-and I think for this reason, cassette tapes gives me a sense of nostalgia from my childhood and is why I enjoy collecting cassettes as much as I do now.

Once the compact disc came into play, CD players replaced those tape decks in your car, and the cassette soon became ‘obsolete’. People began to buy CDs for the increased quality of sound. Even better, computers let us burn CDs from our computer with custom playlists, just as we used to make mixtapes with cassette tapes.

The creation of the P2P file sharing program, Napster (whoa, flashback), gave a whole new way of getting audio files-for free-on your computer. This meant that the average Joe’s music collection was increasing, and wanted more room than a compact disc to put his/her music on. Hence, the iPod became a household name, and now the most recent audio playback technology has gotten to either playing your digital audio from a digital audio player (iPod, etc.) that is hooked up directly into your car stereo or is transmitted to your radio via an FM transmitter. It seems as though we have reached the end of a ‘living format’, and have found something that is impervious to external damage.

Now, CD’s are slowly becoming ‘obsolete’ and people are retreating back to home audio through Vinyl and limited run cassettes, ironically the MP3, that had once made CD’s so popular, has instead led to the compact discs’ decrease in popularity due to the invention of the digital audio player.

My personal opinion is that people are retreating back to the home audio format of the vinyl record because it is real; it is tangible. The listener can associate with the vinyl LP better because it is ‘living’, like us. The liner notes describes the records personality, by the way it is designed visually, and includes where it was made as well as the songs/lyrics that make up the album-just like your birth certificate shows where you were born, and your own personality can be hypothesized through the clothing that you wear and how you act socially with others. Cassette tapes continue to gain popularity as an ‘indie’/’collector’ format, and judging by past history, it won’t be too much longer for the compact disc to join the group.



Tags: essay, evolution, music, music format
written by Salad Fork
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