Thursday, February 25, 2010

On Gifts... or how music was (and still should be) a communal experience

If you're like me and broke (these days, WHO ISN'T?) a hobby of any kind can be expensive.

Running a good vinyl collection isn't any different, especially if you deal in some of the more popular and newer releases like myself. For example, I bought The Clash's London Calling for about $30 at the Uptown Minneapolis Cheapo. Pricey for your average record, but to me? Worth every penny for a great album. But this, my friends, is exactly where gifts come in.

I don't mean to sound crass, but getting vinyl as a gift is a GREAT way to boost your collection. I mean, sometimes records get expensive, especially if you're going to buy five or 10 in a single outing. And in a kind of oblogatory gift-giving situation such as Christmas or a birthday, where friends and family are going to get you gifts anyway (despite your insistence to the contrary), you might as well make sure they get something worth while, right?

For example, Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde (pictured above) is one of my all-time favorite records and, for my money, one of the greatest albums of all time. I've got it on vinyl. Where did it come from? A birthday present from the girlfriend. Velvet Undergroud? From said girlfriend. I also got an additional Bob Dylan record and The Doors' first album from my parents this past Christmas.

Long story short: Not only did I enjoy it, Emma (said girlfriend) and I both enjoy listening to these and other records together. A gift that keeps on giving!

This brings me to the broader point: As music consumption has moved through time, from live to phonographs, records to CDs, from CDs to MP3s, and whatever I missed and whatever will come, there's been a trend toward individual listening. But, the greatest thing about vinyl is the group consumption. For me, I've got a stereo system receiving my record player. From there? Two five-foot-tall speakers, each with a 10- and 12-inch subwoofer. You CAN'T listen to this by yourself.

That's really what's great about records, and what makes me long for the past. I don't want to just sit in my apartment with headphones on listening to music with someone else sitting five feet away and listening to something else. I want to listen to it together, talk about it, experience the music together. It's how it was meant to be!

Perhaps this is (or is coming off as) some kind of hippie, let's go backward fantasy, but I don't want to live in a world where I listen to my stuff and you listen to yours. That's close minded. You'll never hear something new that way, and you'll never hear something the way someone else hears it, which is just as important. So, tonight, listen to an album with someone. You'll be better for it!

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