Monday, January 23, 2012

my changing relationship to music

(first in a series)

I've been trying (in some respects) to be a proactive parent. So, not too long after we learned my wife was preggers, I realized I was going to have to rethink my relationship to music.

Bear with me. While like most parents I had no true idea what I was getting myself into, I did know that we were going to have a little person roaming around the house. This naturally means baby-proofing. I knew I would have to move electrical cords and lock up household chemicals (which we used to just keep in the liquor cabinet). What scared me, though, was learning the DuBose-to-be would be mobile at some point...and while I really couldn't picture my child at the time, I would picture this potential infant learning to crawl, heading over to my wall of cd cabinets, pulling cds out at random, pulling the disks out of the cases, and hurling them all into a giant, jagged pile.

I didn't want to have to decide between my love for my child-to-be and my love for music, so I spent hours online searching for good storage options. New cd shelves with doors, though, were quite costly...and since we can't even afford to move out of our two room wooden shack with dirt floors, I realized quickly that purchasing expensive storage shelves with doors was not the solution. I considered then rejected making my own doors, because I really didn't want to count myself among the ranks of those home repair and woodworking enthusiasts who have lopped off fingers. I briefly thought about rigging up some kind of strap system to lash the cds into place but rejected each plan as being too Goldbergian.

It was clear there were no other options. I had to get rid of my cds.

I spent about two months sorting cds and ripping them to mp3. I would take my time, gazing at the prisms of light reflecting off the disk as I poured over the packaging for the last time, all while trying to remember where I bought the disk in the first place. Music ripped, I would then file the disk away in a big plastic tub for easy transport to a relative for safe-keeping.

It all seemed too big to me, the end-of-an-era-type event. I remembered getting my first cd of those portable units which skipped whenever you tripped or stumbled. I found my way to a pawn shop and bought a dozen used disks, two dollars apiece. I then joined one of those music clubs to jump-start my collection. They outgrew my shelf. Then my collection outgrew the carousel storage unit. Then I bought my first shelf...then another...then another...until I had seven shelves and a few thousand disks. Now, though, I would have an empty wall and a number of used bytes on my computer. It seemed...inadequate.

Moreover, it was unprecedented. I never really liked cassettes all that much...they were too disposable of a medium, and if a tape was of an album I really enjoyed, I would most certainly go through three or four getting rid of them was no big deal. I liked records, particularly because of the artwork, but my stereo receiver died a few years before I finally divested myself of all my vinyl. Besides, all of these were a move from one media to another. The end of cds was a larger event in that it meant the end of artifacts. Yeah, I still had the songs, but there was no "thing" attached to them. For the first time in my music-consuming life, it was impossible for me to sit and hold my favorite album.

I moped for a while. Abandoning my cds was a move I had to make. I knew that. A child, my very own child, was much more important. I knew that. I couldn't, however, stop myself from being a little sad from thinking of the empty spaces where my racks of cds once stood as standing for something more...a hole within me, perhaps.

Then my daughter came...and I found myself not thinking very much of my cds at all.

Christmastime came. Me and my wife knew we wouldn't really need to buy each other piles of gifts. We were broke, yes, but my wife has long insisted on having at least some level of presents, so she could tear open wrapping paper with her hands...because she is, as she feels free to tell you, a little kid. Christmas is (and will increasingly become) all about our daughter. But we agreed to still give each other at least a token gift.

We decided on on the massively sentimental and romantic present of gift cards...and, as the actual holiday hour approached and our lives as a result became more frazzled, we didn't even put them in envelopes.

I got a gift card to Amazon. First thing I did was buy a couple of albums I'd been wanting...but as I had no more cds, as there were no more artifacts of music, I found the downloads to be instead of two cds, I could get five albums! Furthermore, as I wasn't getting anything physical, I didn't have to wait to get my music. In five minutes, all of my new albums were sitting on my hard drive, ready for consumption.

Yes, I no longer had the artifacts. I did, however, have increased access to the music.

Realizing this is a bit of a game-changer for me. How long before my Kindle renders my bookshelves moot? Should I get a streaming service and do away with my dvds? What is next? I dream of a future where I buy a fiber optic tee shirt and download its graphics directly from the bands.

Why not? It's the end of the artifact. Let's hope it makes content more important.

No comments: