11 February 2009

Metarock: Value of Digital

(You can view this an extension of Brandon's post here, since it touches on many of the same things. You should note, as well, that I only have 250 tracks of Orthodox singing, which is more than enough for almost anybody.)

I've spent the last two weeks acclimating to my new place, new city, new time zone. This trip moved me a thousand miles. I left with a backpack and two bags: everything else was given away, sold, or stored.

This includes my music. The vinyl, the CDs, even that one cassette I own (Robert Johnson's Complete Recordings)...most are in a storage unit in the middle of the midwest. The rest, hopefully, are being given a good (temporary) home with a friend. I have 12 albums with me, 5 I brought, 7 I bought once I arrived here.

This is just physical media. I did rip most of the music to an external hard drive before I left, so I'm not in danger of running out of exciting music or having a listening itch that I can't scratch. (If I really find myself begging to hear, say, Billy Joel's Millennium Concert or the second Finger Eleven album, then I have bigger issues.)

Is this not a glorious time we are living in? I have over 40,000 tracks two clicks away and they physically take up as much space as my left hand. Thirty years ago I'd have crates of AC/DC, Sabbath, Springsteen, Cheap Trick, and the Damned to lug around, plus a turntable ('cause why would I buy a new one when I'd have a perfectly great one already?).

Eight years ago, when I moved 1500 miles for college, I had 224 CDs. I bought a case that allowed me to take the entire lot but not the jewel cases or booklets. I felt it was a bit of a loss not having the package, but the music is what's important, right? The subsequent 11 moves in 4 years between dorm rooms convinced me that the lack of extra bulk was virtuous.

But still, when I got my own place and it seemed I was relatively settled, I once again brought out all those empty cases and added them to those I'd picked up in the intervening time. And when I finally got the whole thing set up, I was happy and impressed. Here's the picture, initially from a previous post:

Yeah, I'm a little sad that all I have now are 1s and 0s and code to show me what I got. I like having the booklet, I like having the case, I like seeing the CD sitting on the shelf. I like being persuaded to listen to an album because exposed end is garish yellow. I like the artwork. I like to read the essays included with compilations of old blues. This is all lost with a switch to a solely or mostly digital interface.

But...I have 1800 albums I can listen to right now that I couldn't otherwise.

I wonder: it'll be at least three months, but more like six or nine, before I get the physical copies back. In that time, will I feel the same way? Could I bring myself to sell all those discs at the local used store? Will I stay completely digital?

Well, no. Because, for me, it's not just about the music. I'm a collector. I like the aesthetic, the way rows of music look on the shelf. I like re-arranging my albums by things like spine color or how they fit into my personal narrative. And that's something you can't do with a digital copy. Not easily, anyway.

But I imagine 95% of what I'll play will be the digital versions.

Robert Johnson - Ramblin' On My Mind (take 1) [sounds almost as good on the cassette]
Cheap Trick - Stiff Competition [a very specific time in my personal narrative]
Gogol Bordello - Oh No [from that garish yellow album]

(Having difficulty uploading the files...will try again in the morning. Sorry.)

Posted by Lin.

09 February 2009

Reading Rock: Lost Highway (7), "Hillbilly Boogie"

With many apologies for our extended absence (life intervenes...)

The introduction to the next section of the book, "Hillbilly Boogie," gives us essentially the story I've been building us up to all along. With the coalescence of rockabilly as a commercial form of music, and most specifically with the arrival of Elvis, "the focal point of a revolution in taste and style," (94), we arrive at a great "widening" of the appeal and cultural significance of popular American music. This is the beginning of the era of what our good friend Bob Christgau calls the "monoculture"--that moment in American social life when the vast, racially mixed majority of Americans actually participated in a shared popular culture. For Christgau, near as I can tell, the high point of the monoculture is Motown, but for Guralnick, it's Elvis all the way.

For those of you aspiring musicologists and historians out there, the story I think Guralnick won't be telling (at least, not in great detail--the Hank, jr. chapter heads in this direction), is the influence of this monoculture--essentially rock & roll plus Motown soul--has as it feeds back on what's left of country and the blues. Obviously (at least, for my dear readers), neither were properly "folk" musics as of at least the 1920s, but nonetheless, the indelible impact of rock and roll on both is a story that I can see (Shania Twain meet Mutt Lange, hijinks ensue), but that I can't tell with depth or nuance. Just a thought.

The songs today are mostly early proto-rockabilly numbers--honky-tonk music with "boogie" in the title. Enjoy.

Merrill Moore - House of Blue Lights
Tennessee Ernie Ford - Shotgun Boogie
Arthur Smith - Guitar Boogie
Jack Guthrie - Oakie Boogie
The Delmore Brothers - Hillbilly Boogie
Elvis Presley - Baby, Let's Play House
Johnny Cash - I Wish I Was Crazy Again
Jerry Lee Lewis - Middle Age Crazy

Posted by Brandon