The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Monday, February 23, 2009


2-23-09 Artifacts

So, for ease of handling etc., I guess I am sticking with the compact disc. Yes, I’m keeping all of my LP’s & 45’s – when I have the time, I enjoy playing them in the evenings at home. I have 2 x working Sony cassette decks; I have at least 2 x working Sony MiniDisc machines, too. I have no interest in MP3’s or the handling thereof.

Doesn’t look like I will ever get back to my music video collection. I simply do not have the inclination. Those who know me well know how many I have, too. With the forthcoming advent of “digital TV”, my DVD recorder will eventually no longer work for plain old off-air recording (except via the cheap converter box, through the ‘line in’). Maybe I should turn my out-moded DVD recorder into my new audio toy?

I used to want a Sony ES hard drive. I forget what it’s capacity is (or was). No matter, it is no longer being sold. But I bet my DVD recorder has plenty of disk capacity! I’ll make it to DVD-Audio this way! I suppose it will operate like a big, convoluted MD deck! Oh, but I’ll have to make each track be a ‘chapter stop’ – quite unlike an MD, I won’t be able to just hook up a CD player to my DVD recorder and have it ‘see’ the tracks!

I remain somewhat curious about SACD, as I have some of those (notably Can and The Rolling Stones). Can’t really hear any big difference with the new-fangled SHM-CD format from Japan.

I considered getting some new audio equipment – a PRO-Ject turntable, maybe. Some nifty new speakers. An SACD player or a new amp with a 5.1 set-up. It all really seems so neither here nor there to me. I doubt any new piece of audio equipment is going to help me hear any better!

So, if I clear a space off to move my DVD recorder up to where an MD or cassette deck would sit…I guess I should do some tests. In the video universe, maximum quality is had on DVD at up to 1 hour per disc…but we all know it still looks fine at 2, 3 hours per disc. Audio about the same, I should suppose? I remember making SuperBeta hi-fi tapes, from LP’s! Great for parties, just wap in an L-830 and let it rock for 5 hours!

While I am concerned with ‘good audio’, I suppose that from childhood, I have always had a format that would record. Reel-to-reels, 8-tracks, cassettes, mini discs, CD’s, DVD’s…etc. I am definitely not content with just putting everything on the hard drive of my computer! What if my computer fried? Where would all my music go?

= = =

Oh, I still have my artifacts! Crisis averted!

p.s. enjoyed the Buena Park record collector swap meet, lots of folks go to that meet! - Ron


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

You've got that right, pally! Music as artifacts rock! Music as files, blow!I see lots of cretinous punks trumpet the superiority of lo-bitrate MP3s on their portable devices or media servers. I don't see it. I don't see it at all. Too much convenience cheapens (sacred) music!!!!

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...


Hey Ron, I just Googled your name (since you are now a Mega-Collector and all. And I found your evil twin right in Asheville!

9:29 AM  
Blogger chas_m said...

Not to play devil's advocate, but I don't mind MP3s/AAC files for the incredible convenience of listening.

I totally agree with the importance of "music as artifact," however. There are some records/LPs/singles that are very precious to me as ART not just sound. A digital file can easily give me the sound, but not so much the LOOK, or perhaps the FEEL of an artists' vision.

I've bought tonnes of stuff from the iTunes Music store, but I have yet to buy an entire album and doubt I will. I "pick and choose" individual songs for specific purposes (like "songs from 1959" for people whos 50th birthday happens this year) or to get that ONE song I like from a band I otherwise wouldn't collect (Fastball's "The Way," for example).

Not too long ago, they put out new copies of Joe Jackson's first two albums with two "bonus tracks" per album I already had on other vinyl. How great was it to buy the TWO tracks I wanted in each case and save myself having to buy these albums YET AGAIN.

So I say thumbs up to (DRM-free) digital music files in certain scenarios and for ease of listening, but BOO to not buying the album/singles "artifacts!"

6:22 AM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

I'm with Chas on this one as well. I've bought a few entire albums on iTunes and I always burn a hard copy. They sound just fine to me. In most cases I even go to great lengths to make some custom cover art and track listings. My dwindling entertainment dollar stretches much further with occasional downloads while I still buy plenty of factory CDs.

As Chas also notes, the "cherry picking" convenience of bonus tracks is a godsend.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

I will now be my OWN Devil's Advocate! While I bemoan the loss of music as I have purchased it all of my life, I recognize that music as artifacts have a short shelf life as of now. Most artists born in the last 20 years (and for certain in the next 20) may never release a physical music carrier medium release. Ask your friends how many of their offspring under 20 have purchased a CD. The likelihood is slim to none.

I have purchased downloads. I am not proud of this fact, but in every case it was a case of:

1) cherrypicking - buying the single track a release had that was necessary for my collection for <$1.00 I don't live near a major entertainment metropolis where music is deep, cheap and plentiful. If I want an obscure UK 12" Promo only release for a single track, there are plenty of internet locations where I may pay dearly (>$10) with the added bonus of jacked up shipping rates (from Europe) making that single track worth more than an hour of my salary. Or I can buy it from iTunes for $0.99 and listen to it within minutes. Downside: I can't come into my room and stare at the release like a fetish object, reveling in it's other aesthetic qualities. At least Cover Flow (in iTunes) begins to address this flaw with some verve, it must be admitted.

2) Saving a TON of money. Example: I lack "Spoonhead," a Frazier Chorus track (90 seconds long) on vinyl. The cheapest I can get it on GEMM is $14.06, including shipping from England. The actual quality of playback is a crapshoot until I slap it on the turntable. iTunes? $0.99. Additionally, iTunes just doubled its bitrate and offers non-DRM files now. And I am saved the hour (or more- I've been known to invest up to 4 hours in de-noising a particularly troublesome track manually) of my time remastering it from vinyl - if I'm lucky.

Now multiply that savings by an artist's entire recorded output! Every track owned by EMI from Frazier Chorus (that's 98%) is now on iTunes for the taking. That included single releases that were planned but never carried out. I still won't listen to this track on a computer or iPod but betcha by golly wow, I'll get the pleasure of designing my own personal physical carrier medium to house the file for my listening pleasure. Downside: I lack the physical recording still - and I must carefully back up my purchase. But we all did that back in the vinyl only days when it was de riguer to record an album to tape to listen conveniently to a (compromised sonically) representation of it in order to preserve the quality of the record. I may have designed a cover back then too, though! Upside: besides what I have enumerated, there is another factor of significance to sales downloads: your favorite artist (in theory, anyway) gets royalties from your purchase. Paying 14x more for the "Sloppy Heart" 12" with "Spoonhead" only makes the (possibly verminous) record dealer richer.

Would I buy whole albums on download? I don't see that as long as a CD is available. And album is best experienced on CD. And for some artists, buying the CD a 2nd-5th time for different release perks is acceptable to me. John Foxx's "Metamatic" I have bought twice on LP (I wore the first copy out) and twice so far on CD (Virgin & Edsel RM with diff bonus tracks). But I still don't have the new 2xCD RM and I certainly plan on getting it since it's Foxx, and I'm there for his stuff!

In my personal vision of the consumption of music, everything would be in print at all times on CD at a reasonable price. CD singles would be $5-7 new and albums would be $15 new. But so far, this hasn't really happened. And wishing won't make it so.

1:04 PM  

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