iTunes vs physical media, and the urge to purge

Physical media is doomed, and it has nothing to do with technology.

A very small part of my collection. Steve Guttenberg

I own 3,000 CDs and 4,000 LPs. They take up a lot of space in my apartment, and that's OK with me. They're lined up in metal racks, wood shelving, and stacked up in piles on the floor. But a lot of my friends with just a few hundred CDs are in a big hurry to dump them into their computers and get rid of the discs. I just had lunch yesterday with an audiophile friend who is in the midst of transferring all of his CDs as WAV files to his new HD. As always I'm completely out of step with the times. For me, the joy of sauntering over to the wall and scoping the titles to figure out what I'm going to play next is still so satisfying. I stumble upon stuff I haven't played in years, like the other day I popped on "The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann" and that led to gamelan percussion from Evan Ziporyn, which put me in the mood for Radiohead's "Amnesiac." And so it goes.

I like clutter, it seems to spur creativity, but to most folks it looks like a mess. So maybe the whole move to download music and movies is really based on the urge to purge. That at least makes some sense. That's also a big part of the whole iTunes mindset. But for me, scanning playlists just doesn't have the tactile appeal of fingering CDs or LPs. I like sitting there reading the booklet or just staring at the cover. Which sometimes jogs my memories of buying the music in the first place. The funky store in San Francisco where somebody turned me onto Clifford Jordan's jazz, or the time I was walking through Central Park on a misty April morning listening to Copland's "Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano" on the radio. The music so perfectly fit the scene I headed straight to the Tower Records store on 66th and Broadway and bought it. And now every time I play that CD it takes me back to the day in Central Park. The CD is a physical connection to that day, and I don't want to give that up.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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