Hey ‘Spillers – I’ve geeked out a bit this week, with the arrival of my new laptop (It’s a 15″ Macbook Pro, if anyone’s interested) and thought I’d discuss it with you – mainly centring on how my music set-up has changed over the years. Maybe it would be easiest if I break it down by rough era:
1977 – 1987 – My music listening is at the whim of my father. He owns thousands of LPs, mostly classical. These are played by his record player and amp, and massive speakers that he built himself. By the age of ten I’ve heard every piece of classical music ever written, some 60s avant garde, and some jazz. I’ve also heard “Pillow Talk”/ “Roly Poly” a 7″ that I get him to play over and over, it’s from some Doris Day film I’ve still never seen.
1987 – 1992 – I buy my first 7″ records, but still have to play them on my dad’s record player. At some point during this period, a tape-to-tape deck gets brought home from my dad’s work. He puts my 7″s onto cassette tape for me, an I can play them on the “dubbing” deck. I also use this deck to copy Sinclair Spectrum games, and to tape songs off the radio. This must be my first musical independence – being able to play what I want at my own leisure. About this time, I have a go on my cousin’s Sony Walkman when out for a walk one day. My mind is blown, having all this music to yourself, to your ears alone, is phenomenal. I don’t even realise the fast forward and rewind buttons exist. I buy a few albums on tape, and get a walkman equivalent for a birthday. My Madonna tapes make way for Extreme, Ugly Kid Joe, and Aerosmith. Cassette singles abound, from 1988 onwards.
1992 – 1996 – The first CDs that I can remember turn up, though it escapes me which the very first was. During this period I still have to tape a lot of CDs through my Dad’s stereo, I also begin to borrow CDs from the library – who in retrospect have a decent selection of indie music! I inherit my Grandfather’s record/tape player, which I hook up a CD player to (A Technics unit, that only died about a year ago) that I buy with saved up birthday money. I start to love the vinyl, buying what are now Indie and Grunge classics, cos the cds were always a bit too expensive. I make a copy of an indie tape that my brother’s friend has made, this tape turns out to been the most influential compendium of music that has ever featured in my life (the exact tracklisting of which is going to be the subject of a future blimpcast). I start to trail around Soho record shops looking for stuff that I can’t get in my local WHSmiths.
1996 – 1999 - I swap a Britpop Adidas 3 stripe trackey top that’s a bit too big for me for a CD/tape stereo with quite small and crappy speakers, which only works when there’s a shoe on top of the CD lid. This goes to Uni with me, and is how I hear music for the 3 years I’m at Uni. Also during this time, I buy almost zero music, due to a lack of money, and a lack of a place to play vinyl. The most important CDs I buy during this period are Belle and Sebastian, and Mogwai, though it takes a few more years to realise the importance of the former.
1999 – 2003 – I get my first computer, an Apple iMac, which has awesomely powerful built in speakers, and my first internet connection. Dial Up. 56k!! I download mp3s for the first time, which could take ten minutes for one song, and begin to build up a library of free tracks from a website whose name escapes me. Itunes doesn’t exist at this point. My iMac is located in a spare room, so I still listen to CDs and LPs, now Uni has finished hi-via my fi separates that have turned up.
2003 -2006 – This period my computer music and analogue music are very much separate, my iMac moves into my bedroom, and I can play CDs through it. Peer to Peer software gets invented and I start to take advantage of it with my new broadband connection. Itunes shows up, as a very easy way to organise and access all these hundreds of songs I’ve downloaded.
2004/2005 - I get my first laptop, as well as airtunes via an apple airport express. This means I can wirelessly stream music on my laptop to my “big” stereo. Torrent software makes it quick and easy to download whole albums. I get my first iPod in 2005, and almost fill it immediately. The difference between mp3s and cds etc is lessening, the effort of having to sit at a computer in a specified room has vanished due to the laptop. The experience of listening to music thru small computer speakers has also vanished. I still fetishise vinyl, and my wife buys me a 1950s portable record player.
2005 – Present – Listening to music via the computer has become the norm – Itunes, Ipods, Airtunes, iPods in the car via a tape adaptor, Last.fm, torrents, and lately Spotify that means even tho the CD is upstairs, you don’t need to go and find it. The idea of having music on a physical storage media seems dated (cds from the 80s are falling apart, just like the Mona Lisa) The laptop is the most important part of it, because the internet is no longer confined to a certain room, all the music ever can be wherever you are at home, sitting on the couch with your feet up. Browsing is dead. Buying music on a review alone is dead. No alarms and no surprises (but also less disappointments and wastes of time, and albums bought on the basis of one good track and a good NME review).
At the moment, I have 3 networked laptops with music librarys that can be accessed via iTunes from any one laptop. This streams wirelessly to the massive B&W speakers in the lounge, via the Cambridge Audio amp. This is achieved using an application called “Airfoil” for the mac, and an apple airport express which has an audio line out from it, to carry the perfect signal. Occasionally I get up and put on a record. One day I won’t require legs any more.
It’s a shame that, although the process of listening to music has been made more accessible and easier and easier, this process has cheapened the art itself.
It’s the myth of speed.
The faster you go, the more you see, and the less it all means.
A Brief History Of Love