Silence rules everything around me…
Recently, I was alone for an afternoon, without any pressing tasks to complete, so I decided to pull out my turntable1 and listen to a few records. I listen to music all the time, and have a vast, horder-esque iTunes library, but I’m often too lazy to play records. I sat in a room I call The Lounge, and spun a half dozen LPs. Some I only wanted to hear a song or two from, some I listened to in their entirety, both sides.
Such a different experience, as I’m sure you’d concur. I won’t go into the debate here over sound fidelity, and warmth, and all that. In honesty, I don’t want to give up the convenience of being able to walk around with hundreds of my favorite albums in my pocket, or the ability to instantly play a song in my car. Vinyl does wear out, and there is that crackling, popping sound that does not exist in digital versions.
The vinyl experience is different in other ways. I didn’t realize when I purchased my turntable, but it doesn’t have an automatic shut-off feature. In other words, I need to be actively listening or else the album will continue to spin for hours, wearing out the turntable’s needle. I’ve incorporated this negative feature into my ritual of listening to records. I put the needle down on the song I want to hear2, sit down holding the album jacket, study the cover art, read the liner notes, and listen with my full attention. I have the option of listening via3 desk top speakers, or a4 headphone amplifier with comfortable over-the-ear headphones.5
Curating playlists on my Mac is one of my hobbies, creating mixes of songs and albums based on topics and phrases, or genres, or concepts, or years, or events; but that means the music never stops playing. In contrast, when a record is finished, there is silence. Silence until the next LP is selected, or until the current record gets flipped over. I guess one could say listening to a CD would be similar, but my first (and only!) CD player was a six disc shuffler – again, when music was on, it kept going and going, filling up the nooks and crannies of available aural space.
I was surprised at how significant the empty spaces were, especially on a quiet afternoon.
These are the records I played6