Monday, October 13, 2008

Record Wave Makes Me Both Happy and Sad

This makes me happy because it's cool - I love vinyl records, and I also surf, so this is the kind of image I like to have in the memory banks. But it also makes me sad, because the fact that records have become a disposable commodity suitable as raw material for sculpture is depressing. The switch from analog to digital music stripped us consumers of our right to 'own' our music collections, made us criminals for sharing music with friends, and made our physical music media subject to "brick wall degradation" (that's when your CD goes from 100% fine to completely unlistenable with a single scratch, unlike records which can still be enjoyed at nearly 100% of their original quality despite years of abuse.

I doubt anyone will see this sculpture and cry for the music that was destroyed to make it, but I remember a time when I felt remorse for destroying old records. I was working at the public library in high school, and I was asked to take some boxes out to the dumpster. One box was full of old classical records that had been donated to the library, but not needed. Being a high school intern in a very low-stress job, I often found ways to make these dumpster trips as long as possible. On this occasion, I did it by climbing up on top of the dumpster and smashing each of the old, acetate records one by one. Afterwards I felt a pang of remorse - I imagined some old classical music lover weeping that a rare collection of records had been destroyed in such a fashion. I don't know if these records were really worth anything - they were 78rpm, outdated even in the 1980s, and this was before ebay. But I still regret it.

Now I see works like this and the record-mashing sculpture of Christian Marclay, and I appreciate and enjoy them. But it does make me a little sad that the rock records of my youth are going the way of the old Victrola. Luckily I know I can live out my life enjoying records, because if those classical 78s made it to the 1980s, my Foghat records still have plenty of life left in 'em.

Sound Wave - The Vinyl Strikes Back (Gizmodo)



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