Recently I began listening to music with the permanent accompaniment of gentle rustles and soft crackles – it often sounds like a warm and cosy fireplace: welcome to the vinyl record club. Our newly established collection is the result of several invasions into dark basements and dusty cupboards in old family houses – where we took records which were played over and over again – music and fingerprints on round black plates, packed in beautiful covers. Now, when I place a record on the player and carefully lower the needle – I listen to the exact same tones and scratches other people listened to for many years, long time ago.
Quoting from Wikipedia is not the most creative thing to do, but I adore this description:
“A gramophone record or vinyl record, commonly known as ‘record’, is an analogue sound storage medium in the form of a flat polyvinyl chloride disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove.” [Wikipedia entry: Gramophone record]
It says it all: a vinyl record is a disc made of some strange material, which stores groovy sounds! While officially belonging to the past, LP (long playing) records are enjoying in the past years a glorious comeback among music-listeners of all ages. Many contemporary artists even offer special vinyl editions for their new releases. Sound-wise, the superiority of these records over newer sound storage mediums – especially on the MP3s we listen to nowadays – is a measurable fact. To me, the beauty and charm of vinyl records goes far beyond their sound quality.
Listening to an LP record is an experience which hast little to do with modern lifestyle – it isn’t comfortable, it isn’t really environment friendly and it doesn’t allow me to do twenty different things at the same time. To begin with, it requires careful choice making – which pieces should I include in my library and how many? records consume quite a lot of space. I need both hands to choose a record from my collection, put it on the player and place the needle down – holding a phone at the same time does not work very well. While the record plays, I stick around, because soon I will have to turn it on to its B-side. There are no pop-up windows suggesting me to so skip to the next recording; there are no phone calls or messages causing the music to cease for a moment. I cannot hookup headphones and walk away, so I actually sit down and listen to a record – beginning to end.
I love everything about it: the distorted sound (for a moment I thought Arthur Grumiaux played out of tune, until I realised it is just a broken record); the beautiful cover art and the hypnotising circular movement of the disc, which so naturally visualises the movement of sound in space. What I love most about it, is the concentrated state it brings me to – such a rare situation, when I finally listen to music with the kind of stillness and peace of mind it requires.
I do not have many records. Unlike my 160GB iPod, it is actually possible that in the next few months I will get to know and appreciate my collection – the various compositions, performers and musical scenes which are my humble library. There is a good chance that before visiting again the record store and picking up new discoveries, I will explore and enjoy the details of what I already have.