Saturday, May 19, 2007

Burn Your iPod

CD in Play: Pink Floyd, Ummagumma.

I bought the CD version of Ummagumma (You-mag-un-muh) today for reasons both practical and sentimental. Red Silo ( a band I am in with Elijah Bak, Miriam Davidson and her little brother Lorne) is covering the song "The Narrow Way, Part 3" at an upcoming show on June 7th, which is the practical side of this purchase. The song is pretty simple, but Roger Waters had some nice touches he was doing on bass. Sentimentally, Ummagumma was a cornerstone album from my teen years.
I had started listening to Pink Floyd around Grade 9 (1984-1985) and really got into them. My Mum married a total scumbag in 1986. He was a creep, but he did have a great record collection. Among his records was Ummagumma, a strange double album by Floyd consisting of an experimental studio album and an overdubbed live album. It also had two different great album covers. One cover features the father of a certain modern day movie starlet. He was one of Floyd's roadies and contributed the wild laughter on Dark Side of the Moon.
A few friends have iPod's of assorted types and they are pretty neat. The fact that you can store so much music and not have to carry around CDs or cassettes is a big bonus. But the iPod lacks a certain something. Perhaps it is just too convenient a format, making music more like a disposable accessory than an experience. I used to lay on the floor listening to Ummagumma on headphones for hours at all hours. After that might come John Coltrane, The Police or a soundpage out of Guitar Player magazine. (usually "Easter Sunday" by Robert Fripp)
Having to flip sides of a record or cassette was always considered to be a downside to the format, I thought so. Everyone loved CDs because you could listen to an entire album, usually, without having to change anything: multi-disc players took away even more of the hastle, just settle in and the music flood on by. These days I am beginning to think that inconvenience and limited space of the vinyl and cassette formats - except in the cases of, Baroque, Classical, Chamber music, etc - are their upside.
Not everyone is going to agree with me and that is fine. For some people music isn't an experience, it is an accessory that makes you feel good, that makes you seem hip or is simply something to help pass the time away. For me, music is about the experience to be had from it and the best experiences have to be worked at and don't come easily. Music seems much more special on these limited formats - like gold on vinyl and like silver on cassette.
Good grade vinyl, despite its fragility, still has the best fidelity overall. Just check out a copy of Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and compare it to the other formats it has been released on. Vinyl is inherently superior in this regard and really doesn't degrade as quickly as so many people believe. Cassettes are great for their versatility. Mixed cassettes have always been much better than mixed CD's. The tighter time limit really forces you to think about the music you are putting on, what is you really want to hear or express to someone. Cassettes also allow for some really creative people to cut loose. Ken Goudswaard and I did a fake radio station once called KILL FM 108.9, "The Rabid Pit Bull of Radio". Hard to pull the same thing off as easily on CD and kind of pointless to do on an iPod.
I dunno, I just hate to see music become so disposable and the iPod is so vast it just seems to render music as just another comodity, like toothpaste or toilet paper.

5 Comments:

Blogger Magnus said...

2 things:

1. I will say one thing in favour of the iPod, it reduces on waste and saves resources. I like sleaves and CD packaging, but the more we produce... Anyhow, I assume the iPod is a little less hard on the environment.

2. Bloggerreset all my preferences on posting comments. Why? I have no idea.

21 May, 2007 19:07  
Blogger Geosomin said...

" Just check out a copy of Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and compare it to the other formats it has been released on"

I have it in superaudio format...I think it's very nifty. Couldn't listen to that on the ipod I don't think. I stay away from vinyl as I could get sucked in and be obsessive. I'm leaning more to DVDaudio and Superaudio...

I too love music a bit more than I probably should...I have a memory of listening to music at your Dad's place on the floor in the dark...J and I often spend the evening just relaxing in the basement listening to music under the stars. Music has conjured so many emotions and is not just background music.
I do think the ipod *could* potentially make music - well the whole digital format thing.
My problem is I *like* the CD case and the inserts and stuff, and like the option of being able to have all the CDs at home to load up in the 5 disc player and still be able to go out for a walk or run or on a trip and have all out music with me. My beef is with the copyright protection on a CD - if I buy it I want to be able to listen to it on my CD player and my iPod. If I have to buy an album off itunes I miss the inserts and stuff...there's something about being able to hold the CD/tape/album in your hand...

22 May, 2007 08:30  
Blogger Trent said...

People lament the quality of digital formats, because it gets crunched to the smallest decent size you can listen to. But you don't have to listen to 96 kb MP3 files. You can stuff your ipod full of lossless songs where you have all the detail that you have in the original CD. I suspect you could get your superaudio files onto there, too, if it wasn't for the copy protection.

I agree that the tactile element is missing with holding the CD case or record jacket, and we no longer have the classic album covers of old. Still, there are ways around that, but none really elegant. It'll get sorted out someday.

There is a backlash coming against the rush to the bottom, I think. People are starting to be more interested in quality again. There's the new files on iTunes in 256 kb un-DRMed format, which is cool. Is it up to vinyl standards? No, but it's better than what we have now.

The other thing to note is that not only are the MP3/AAC files usually of a lower quality, most people don't have very good sound systems, so most people aren't going to notice the loss in quality. The earbuds for the iPod are actually pretty good. Best bass reproduction of any headphones I've tried, but I haven't tried any of the real high-end stuff.

I am not an audiophile, though I could be. And there are audiophiles who love their iPod, so I know that the quality is there, if you want it.

Before I got my iPod, I was listening to CDs on a pretty crappy boom box, so the iPod is actually a step up for me.

As the hard drive gets bigger, the ability to put lossless or high quality AAC songs on it will increase. Will it ever be as good as vinyl? Who knows. For now, it's not, but the quality is as good as listening to a portable CD player with your headphones, without having to carry the CDs, without having to worry about skips or scratches, or changing CDs or....

23 May, 2007 17:01  
Blogger Magnus said...

I wouldn't call myself an audiophile either, not exactly. I am certainly not an audiophile in the order of Greg Fast, but I do appreciate quality for certain things.
As I stated, my concerns about iPod is music becoming even more disposable than it has become.

23 May, 2007 17:16  
Blogger Betty said...

I love my iPod, and can connect with the music on it on any number of different levels. What I've never understood is how people -- most people, I think -- use music as background noise. When I'm listening to music, even if it's just some cheesy 80s tunes my random shuffle turned up for me to listen to while I do the laundry, I listen to it.

And, oh, man, I remember lying in a darkened college dorm room listening to Wish You Were Here like it was some kind of transcendent experience... :)

24 May, 2007 05:47  

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