Thursday, May 7, 2015

Turning The Tables - Why Vinyl Is Final

It has become common in today’s society to pull out the latest iPhone and have access to all the music imaginable; whether it’s singles, albums, stories, recorded events, etc. The convenience to just pop in headphones and pull up popular apps such as Spotify, Pandora, or maybe even the wide variety of catalogs provided by iTunes, all in order to create the blissful experience of listening to music; but is this how music is meant to be heard? 

Phones and computers are now loaded with music libraries of MP3s and files that have stripped the music to an almost distorted quality. These files have ruined the tradition of passing down artifacts and personal items, such as Vinyl records, from generation-to-generation. Not only that but headphones limit the amount of interaction and sharing of the music experience one might of once had with another. Analog has been described as a fuller and warmer way to produce music, with this said vinyl records, being a true analog wave form, provides a higher quality in both sound and, should provide, a much higher satisfaction rate. Due to this technology, vinyl records can be seen over and over again to be very effective, not only for our ears but serves as potentially a great way to bond with others, become a generational connection to the past - not to mention it's cost-effective and can be considered as collectible items compared to the latest MP3 file or CD. Any musician or music fan with a a keen ear will agree that vinyls provide a stronger, more effective sensation to an overall blissful experience.

Vinyl’s were introduced as a way to listen to music in the early twentieth-Century where families and friends would enjoy listening to the fruity-voices, jazz tempos, swing rhythms, ballad singers, along with a variety of other, early music genres. It wasn't until the 1950s when musicians such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and other Rock and Roll pioneers that  vinyl records would take off. Records became a novelty and a way for teenagers and the younger generation to rebel against their parents, whose population mostly resented the new genre. Record stores began to flourish with life as everyone tried to get their hands on the latest single or album, cramming bodies into booths to take in a track or two before making a purchase. These shops became a place to meet people with the same music interest, and still today you’ll find friendly, music enthusiasts in the local vinyl selling store. When purchasing a CD there is little thrill or experience as one would achieve when purchasing a record. However when browsing through the CD selection at Wal-Mart or FYE one could meet other’s in the same interest, but most of the time it’s heads and hands buried deep in the $5 bin with little interaction. iTunes and other online music catalogs provide even less communication, as one sits on a Google  Phone and purchases a track or two with the only bonding or conversing comes from the thumb to the phone screen. If communication does permit through the music downloading process it’s through online discussion, which isn't an interaction at all.
The thin, black disc doesn't just provide a great way to communicate with other music fanatics, but can solve various other problems that is seen in today’s society. It is no secret that with every decade the generation gap expands and more often than not the older generations and younger generation do not connect and share experiences as they use to; one factor of this is the use and spike in technology. Spending time at Grandma’s house is not the old baking cookies, instead it is spent in front of these 2” by 3” screens and communication is not the moving of a jaw but the typing of codes that literally have to travel through outer space just to reach our companion. The older generations are suppose to teach the younger generation lessons of their lives and stories of their youth, during which artifacts and memories of their past are often shared.. Artifacts such as pins, pictures, scrapbooks, toys, and yes,even records are most common among bridging the past with the present. Music can tell a lot about a person, their interests, their situation … Passing down music is passing down a piece of someone’s heart which makes Vinyls an important part of building the gap between generations. How will today’s generation pass down this vital piece of life? By sharing a file through the next social media website to their children and their children’s children? Vinyls are structure, solid mass, they are  here to stay while MP3s and other similar files are part of the unstable digital world that involves a constant need of updating and hours of backing up just to insure it's safety for the following year or so. When was the last time you heard of a 33 ⅓ needing a new update?
    It’s true, owners grow a deep bond and connection for their records; maybe that is why vinyls are still around today and are finally regaining popularity. Everyone has their own hobby, whether it’s athletics, painting, photography, cooking, and so forth. Vinyls do not just provide a way to escape the world, a way to communicate, and a great way to pass memories and stories from generation-to-generation, they also provide a great hobby; the art of collecting and archiving. Whether it’s the collection of stamps, stuffed animals, baseball cards or any kind of collection any collector would agree that there is a deep appreciation and love for their items. For any music lover records probably provide the best way to collect and show off their music catalog, for these discs express a more unique look than CDs, look fantastic hung on walls, are neatly stacked on a shelf, can come with rare and collectible add ons such as posters, and much more! Also, it’s physically impossible to collect and boast your collection of MP3 files, unless you want to print off a bunch of sound-waves or file folders from your desktop. 

Records and Vinyls provide a timeless collection and with help with today’s technology these collections, for example The Beatles, are being restored and released as box-sets, AKA a collectors dream! It was groundbreaking when iTunes released The Beatles collection in 2010, allowing music fans from around the world to have access to downloading and bring the Fab Four into their playlist, thus skyrocketing iTunes and Apple business. However, even with the great increase in Apple sales, a decrease in sound quality could easily be heard by any audiophile purest. Four years later, long over due, The Beatles collection was remastered and released in the ultimate Beatle lovers dream; a vinyl box set! For essentially the same cost as their catalog on iTunes, the mop-topped Liverpool lords can be brought to shelves, walls, and collections and passed from generation-to-generation. The moral of this paragraph? Vinyls and records provide a great hobby and make a great collection with their artsy vibe, look, enthusiasm through restored box-sets.

          Words like, art, free, creative, expression, among others are usually associated with the word “music”. One can say the same about vinyl. It’s words like dexterity and the previous list that cannot be used in the same fashion when comparing vinyl records to other sources of music for a few reasons. One being the cleverness and effort put into creating the track-list of an album; granted buying an album online or on a CD will offer all of the same tracks in the same order as they appear on a vinyl, however vinyls require some effort in flipping the record every few tracks to listen to each side. What? Actually having to get up (or sit down) to flip a record just to finish listening to the album? Vinyls and the switching of sides weren't created as an exercise routine for listeners, due to the technology of a record it is impossible to have all tracks on one side without expanding the diameter of the vinyl itself, but these sides are not a bad thing, in fact this is where words like creative come into play. Sides provide an artistic way for artist to space out their songs and create a track-list that flows constantly throughout the album. Take The Beatles, again, for instance and their album Abbey RoadAbbey Road is a great example of how vinyls are more creatively put together than CDs or MP3s with what is known as The Abbey Road Medley. A Medley, as described by Merriam Websters Dictionary, are “a musical composition made up of a series of songs or short pieces”, for example the A-Side of Abbey Road is composed of a normal track-listing of songs, one to another, without much thought of the order, it’s the B-side however consists of creative, expression with an eight song medley! MP3s and CDs do not allow a listener to have the experience of jumping from one side of an album to having the second side be completely dedicated to a suite of music, instead one listens to the album in a whole without any artistic, if you will, breaks. When it comes to listening to music, side’s are on your side.

My uncle, Dan McGonagle, CEO of Media One, whom has re-read and edited my work for this post, mentioned the following on the subject; 

"And to more emphasize the point, music being produced today isn’t being produced in the genre of “concepts”. Abbey Road or Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon were meant to be listened to from A-Z. They were known as “concept’’ albums with the idea of a total music experience. Today music is being created as one downloadable track at a time with no relevance to each other. Concept albums are still be created by artist such as “Beck” and revered for their creativity, there are still too many Taylor Swift empty-shell, thoughtless tracks promulgating playlists and most of our society, who are heavily affected by pop culture, suffers and steps back, instead of moving forward to greater enlightenment. "
The following video is The Abbey Road medley;  

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Hard Promises album,  and poster
    Money, the major factor in any purchase. When it comes to music MP3s maybe cheap, and yes, Walmart does have a $5 bin when it comes to buying CDs, and sure a new vinyl can cost a lot of money, depending on their rarity, condition, and who the artist/band is, but vinyls can also be found in good condition for little cost. Buying a single song on iTunes is typically $1.29, whereas a CD can cost an average of $13.80 (as of 2010), but a FULL album used can be found in good condition at a local record store that can sell as little as $1 - a vinyl in new condition can averagely cost,at starting price, around $20 (estimated in 2013). When it comes to purchasing an album, vinyl is the way to go for a few other reasons besides cost. For example when downloading a file one only receives the song, track, or album on their device - but don't worry, one will still get the album cover with a download, but warning, binoculars will be needed due to the small sized image. A CD provides a case and cover - a cover that is slightly larger than a file - which is cool too. But, an album provides a cover, better quality sound and, as mentioned previously, can come with other novelty items such as a poster. Get the whole music and cultural experience and purchase music with the whole package.

  While on the subject of comparing these main, three music productions and their design, there's really no comparison, vinyls are the clear winner. In the previous paragraph it is mentioned that MP3s and digital files use the computer generated route in producing a sound-waves and compression that create the music we hear through our headphones. CDs come with little cover artwork and sometimes with a booklet about the album or song lyrics of every tracks. Vinyls proudly provide not only a larger and prouder collectible item but much more. Let's start with album art. Music itself is an art form, therefore the music ringing through the air while listening is a form of art and beauty itself, but another reason to purchase vinyls is for the cover art itself. Sometimes the true beauty of an album is found in the cover, that certain design or look that gravitates the listener towards the music source. Covers are created in various ways, whether it's an iconic picture, for example Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run, of the artist(s) themselves; a scenery or place, for instance The Eagles Hotel California; or artwork itself, use Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of The Moon as a reference. However we not only loose this beauty when downloading a small, pixelated image on our phones, or a slightly larger image on a CD but we loose the creators and story. If you've ever held a vinyl you may find song lyrics,and more often than not, little notes found on the records sleeve or cover - these are called liner notes. One should also find a list of names, names of people - from producers, other musicians who played on the album, engineers, cover photographer or artist, etc. - who made the album possible. Vinyls contain pictures of the bands journey and sessions throughout the albums which can make great posters and a great way for the listener to see what goes into the creation.
 Cover art work provides much more than just pictures, lyrics, credits, etc. they also provide a story. Once again take The Beatles as example with the Paul Is Dead Rumor where cover's such as Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road provide a plethora of clues and details that aid towards the rumor. Then there are album covers that are simple or are created through colors and zany patterns that allow the viewer to create their own story or imagery giving a more creative experience, in the sense that the album art doesn't just belong to the artist but the interpretation belongs to the fan.
Not to paraphrase what has already been written, it cannot be stressed enough that vinyl provide a much higher sound quality than any other music production. Now here's why in depth. Let's start with that rich, beautiful, and full sound a listener receives after dropping the needle. The sound quality provided by the contact of the needle and vinyl grooves emits the closest, most organic, production one can experience when it comes listening to a specific artist or band without actually being a live concert or recording session. This is due to several factors, one is do to the the full analog contained on the thin, black disc. When creating a vinyl record an engineer takes the analog, or the raw product of a artist or bands work and transports it into a magnetic tape which eventually will be transformed into that beautiful, shiny LP without loosing the full-fidelity of the track and avoiding, at all cost, any digital conversions. Another reason why records dispense a stronger quality are the grooves or lines shown on the record itself. Depending on the grooves length and depth reflects on the songs volume. For example the larger the record - compare a 33 1/3 to a 45 - the softer and quieter the sound will be, due to the more tracks fitted on a side, the skinnier the grooves. However, this may sound anti-vinyl it is completely opposite. Grooves supply room and space between the analog - not to mention a mirrored image of the sound-wave itself - creating a crisp, clean sound for it's specific format, unlike digital.
Digital formats of music, found in both MP3s, files, and CDs strip the analog and loose essential pieces of music through the transformation process. This can be seen through sound-waves and radio-waves, where Disc-Jockeys are over and over again playing songs that have been so digitally mastered. These files are made of closely knitted waves created by speeding up snippets of the analog signal at a certain rate - CDs for examples are sped up at a 44 rate, meaning 100 times per second. In this process the once untouched, analog becomes a digital file of smashed dynamics, textures, and other essentials, concluding in little space for the music to produce the full, vitality of an artist or band's creation.

In conclusion, vinyl is more than just a material. The icon symbol of music is a great way to make new friends, create a greater bond between generations, provide a stunning collection, without worrying about money. When compared to digital productions it's no secret that vinyl records supply a more creative outlook, in both the album art work itself and the creation of the track list and sides. If I haven't convienced you yet about the sound quality of a record verses a mass- media digital creation, try it for yourself.

Peace, Chaos and Good Vibes!

-Lindsey C.