Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back in the saddle

So it's been a while, and a (small) number of folks have perhaps wondered if this blog is gone, but how could I let such a name brand expire? What's been happening is that I've been coming to terms with digital music, the end of liner notes as we know it, and life after Tuesday trips to the record store.

See, for the longest time I was the rare bird: a blogger stubbornly clinging to the physical media standard of my youth. I still wanted pretty much everything on CD, and had a sense of my physical collection as distinct from my digital one, and more important. I had a clunky old RCA mp3 player for walks or the car, but didn't manage my digital music using any sort of program, long a point of pride but eventually a recipe for chaos. Digital bonus tracks or live gems from online sat in this fuzzy, tenuous, other world from the real collection.

It's tough for a collector like me to give in. As much as I love music, I always loved the act of collecting music almost as much. The bin-digging, the new releases every week, the score of the out-of-print record you'd been looking for for years, the nabbing of the tour-only rarity. The sheer joy of the physicality, the sense that you owned something that was not unlimited, that took effort to obtain. The memory of where you got every disc. I still buy CDs and vinyl, but as soon as you regard a single digital album as a legitimate ownership of that album, the mystique falls apart all at once.

Record collecting has always been fetishistic, but it was legitimized by its utility. You needed those pieces of plastic to listen to the music, or at least to claim legitimate ownership of them. That first digital album you regard as your copy of that album instantly makes every CD you own, and every future purchase you consider, purely a different, and far less practical, means of owning the music. And that's just sad. But after many months of huddling down with iTunes, and looking long and hard at piles of plastic encroaching around me, I'm ready to deal with the new world order. Even one that, somehow, seems happy to abandon liner notes altogether.

So, very soon: thoughts on the new Ron Sexsmith, and playing catch-up on some of my favorites this year. Hayden, Okay, being regaled by Peter Hammill in person! Oh man.