amateur audiophile

A Saucerful of Secrets

Reading an article from The Atlantic (All Ears: A Musical Homecoming) this morning, I found today’s post topic.

I love music.

My affinity for it, I think, can be attributed to my sister. Though she’s only a year older, when I was young, I thought she was so cool. I have memories of musical artist posters adorning the walls of her room and wondering who they were. My discovery of Tracy chapman and my longtime love of Pink Floyd can be directly attributed to her.

After my Bar Mitzvah, I used some of my gift money to buy my first CD stereo and album CD; it was Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints.

In high school, I spent a considerable amount of money on CDs and concert tickets. The size of my music collection exploded: Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, morphine, The Wolfgang Press, and more. At 16, my very first concert was Meat Loaf in the spring of 1994 (I love the internet). In 1996, I and a good friend spent the night waiting in line for tickets to Pink Floyd at Arrowhead Stadium.

I was away at college when Napster and online sharing hit the mainstream. With little money to spend, my music collecting shifted away from CDs to MP3s and my catalog grew even larger.

Despite all this, I didn’t I really find a deep appreciation for music until I was much older. I can’t really say how I came to it. I think it was a combination of factors and people. People whose music knowledge and appreciation exceeded my own and from whom I learned a great deal. I learned to appreciate all kinds of melodies, rhythms, and musical styles. I also gained self-confidence to “like what I like” separate and independent of what was popular.

From classical music to some rap, to pop, and heavy metal. From indie rock, to Motown, electronic, or folk, or jazz, or alternative, or classic rock, or blues, I can find something to appreciate in it all. Even country music.

Now, considering myself an amateur audiophile, how I experience music is just as important as the music itself. I don’t spend nearly as much money acquiring music as I did in high school. And I don’t spend any considerable time downloading music the way I did in college. Instead, I’ve spent far more money on the means by which I listen to music.

Hundreds of dollars were spent on a home theater system; not for the purpose of experiencing surround sound movies, but for a full, apartment-filling, high-quality music-listening experience. The same can be said for headphones.

In both cases, I devoted substantial time researching the best quality product I could afford within my budget. Never being one for name brand following, I care less about the label and more about the quality. No Sony, or Beats Audio, Apple, or Panasonic, or even Bose.

There’s a part of me that really appreciates the musical options afforded in this digital age. Thousands of songs and hundreds of albums all on my computer, or smart phone, or iPod. Streaming music like Pandora or Spotify provides additional options, as well.

For some time, though, I’ve been contemplating a return to a simpler way of experiencing music. In high school, I flirted briefly with building a collection of vinyl LPs, but practical concerns of money and space put that flirtation quickly to rest. Now that I’m older, the audiophile part of my brain has been itching for a turntable and the requisite collection of vinyl records. Despite having more space and money, I’ve hesitated making this a more serious hobby worthy of devoting significant resources.

The Atlantic article, which I would encourage you to read if you feel even remotely about music as I do (and there’s some cool illustrations), gives me reason to reconsider a look at music as a serious hobby. Though I’ve mostly resisted completely abandoning CDs as a way of acquiring music, I never listen to them anymore. Instead, I simply put them on my computer and store the CD.

In much the way I’ve resisted digital music purchases, so is the case with books. Though I’ve bought a handful of Kindle books, I like the idea of all the books I’ve read perched on a bookshelf. I’ve thought about creating, essentially, wallpaper out of my CD liners as a kind of home decoration; like a bookshelf for my music.

Or, thinking about music in a slightly different way, I’ll refer to a quote at the closing of the Atlantic article;

Dacey recalls another time and place, which she describes as “four or five friends around a turntable and listening to a record that one person had just bought. We miss those kinds of rituals.” Like our ancestors gathered around a fire at night, we feel music best when we hear it out loud and together. A complex alchemy of neurochemistry, engineering, and human evolution, the magic that music conjures has no single, fixed location, but when conditions are right, as Rogers puts it, “you close your eyes and you’re right there.”

This conception of experiencing music hits me right in the nostalgic feels. Maybe I’ll take a hard look at building a good collection of vinyl records. Maybe its time to begin researching turntables.

Then, invite some friends over to “gather around a fire.”

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