17 November 2008

Music of Days Gone By

I've got millions upon millions of discs (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is I have quite a lot). These include anything from original music CD's (which I stopped actively buying sometime around the turn of the century), to VCD's, DVD's, a few laser discs (the technology that never really took off), but mostly, I have tons of CD's and DVD's holding backup data, images, files, music, etc.

Through years of backing up data, copying music, creating mp3 CD's, etc, these discs have managed to accumulate into a large pile of unlabeled rubbish. The process is simple; you burn a disc with whatever on it, and then you look for your permanent CD marker pen, which always seems to get lost at that exact moment. You then decide, ok, i'll write something on this later, which you never do, and a few years later you have hundreds of CD's with no obvious description of what's inside them. Of course, a day comes where you're looking for a specific file you managed to back up ages ago.


So today was the day; I looked at my unlabeled CD collection with a mixture of emotions; confused, horrified, amazed.. How on earth am I suppose to find that file?

So I decided i'd fix this whole mess by going out and buying a set of 4 CD markers, sat down in front of my computer with a table covered in discs, and started going through them one by one, figuring out what they contained and labeling them as required.

I found quite a bit; photos from college days, random videos, an old CV, lots of music, and quite a bit more. Of course, through the years your discs get mixed in together, and between every 4 or 5 unlabeled CD's is a DVD or an original music CD.

I found an old music CD I bought years ago; 1993 to be precise (Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince; Code Red). Great album, really, and I decided to play it; although a few of the tracks were a bit cheesy, others were great, and the whole album sounded amazing and took me to a much simpler time a good 15 years ago. I was in a different place in the world, in school, hardly any responsibility, and the vibe was nice and chilled out.

But it wasn't just that; there was something different about the music itself. The music felt richer, deeper, and much stronger than most of the tracks I listen to nowadays.

Why is that?

It's not that this album was specifically done really well. It was a good album, but nothing overly special about it, except that it sounded amazing.

I decided to rip some of the tracks to mp3 to play in my car later, and that's when it hit me; the music here wasn't compressed. The music isn't as compressed as mp3's are nowadays. The music isn't compressed to fit a small file size of a few MB per track.

I pondered; on regular music CD's, you could fit a good 15 tracks or so on the CD before it got full. That's an average of around 40mb per song, while today's mp3's rarely go above 6 or 7mb. Compression means loss of quality, and although mp3 music does sound clear, listening closer you can feel the difference; certain small instruments get lost, some of the not so obvious tunes get compromised, and although the song is the same in general, it's the small touches that give a song it's depth that are gone.

Most people can't tell the difference, or can't be bothered to tell the difference, to be honest. Music has changed from something that lives with you, to something disposable, tracks that you listen to a few times and then replace, shifting from classics, to hits. The subtle underlying tunes don't matter to most people, and go unnoticed.

It's not all bad though; the mp3 revolution has made music much more accessible to everyone. It has managed to open up the market for loads of new musicians around the world. Getting what you want whenever you want is becoming more and more possible by the day. The big labels are losing money on physical distribution, struggling to find solutions to make money through digital sales, while new companies spring up all the time offering music online. The world is growing smaller, and now it's much more easier to listen to music from parts of the world you never thought you would be listening to. There's a lot going on, and a lot more to come in the coming months.

For now, just leave me with my old uncompressed albums, while I enjoy vibes of days gone by.

"Can you feel it? Come on, clap your hands, wind it up if you're feelin alright, clap your hands, wind it up, if you're feelin' the vibe, nod your head from side to side, as we ride the vibe, cuz it's a party all night, You can't fight the feelin' you're feelin'g cuz you're feelin' fine with nothin really on ya mind.."

Oh, and I haven't found the file I wanted yet, either.


Seroo said...

Mp3s are to music what digital cameras are to photography. It's a cheapened way to experience a beautiful process.

Hasan said...

Did you know that the first song to be compressed into mp3 format is Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner"? That song is the "mother of mp3".

Cool post, as always.

Abid said...

a) This is exactly what happens when that day comes where you sit down and plan to label all your unlabelled CDs - you find one CD that is interesting, and then before you know it, hours have passed and you've done nothing.

b) Ammaro meet FLAC. FLAC meet Ammaro.

Anonymous said...

Yep, been there done that. I have so many CD/ DVD with no labels... I should search through my oldies as well.