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Free(d) Music

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by Vol-E I do love it so. Like this morning. Today during meditation, I had Pandora set for my WAVES channel. "Waves" is a great song by Mr. Probz, and if you check it out, you'll find about half a dozen versions of the same piece -- some very slow and soft, others more brisk with more percussion, with various other featured artists. It enchanted me the first time I heard it on the car radio and promptly set up this Pandora channel. The channel has since acquired artists such as the Grateful Dead and The Werks. Similar, yet different. They're all good for meditation -- for me, at any rate.

So, as I was sitting there, blissing out to the station, it occurred to me how nice it is to listen to music this way. The only drawback for us stingy folks who don't want to pay for commercial-free is, um, the commercials. But it's ok. They're not long, and when one knows to expect them, they are not intrusive. You can use them for bathroom or coffee runs.

I guess I discovered Pandora about 9 years ago. I've also used Rhapsody, Spotify, Slacker Radio and Google Music, but for some reason Pandora is my ol' tried and true. I guess because it's familiar and undemanding.

I also have a fairly extensive collection of CDs, which I uploaded to Windows Media Player earlier this year. It's not a perfect system -- if you lose the computer for some reason, you generally lose Media Player, and I know of no free file storage system that will accommodate that many gig. But it's all good. In the unlikely event that my physical CDs are lost, I have only to go out onto one of those Internet music apps and sooner or later, I can find the cuts from it. I can always buy the individual tracks or the whole album on Amazon or Google Music. I can buy the CD and get it shipped to my home. It's THERE, and that's what counts.

The lives of us trailing-edge Boomers have spanned several major eras of entertainment technology, and we've been able to adapt to all of them.

As kids, we listened to music on a "record player" or phonograph. Ours was an RCA Victor with a fat spindle that only accommodated 45s. My dad happened to be the guy who kept jukeboxes in order. He put the records in and took the money out. He did that for 25 years, traveling all over Harlem and the South Bronx. Needless to say, I amassed a collection of 45s that reached nearly to 1000, but only after I directly asked Dad for them when I was about nine. "Why?" he asked, and I told him my friends and I wanted to go-go dance. "Hmph! They should call it 'stop-stop' dancing," he muttered. He hated pop culture in most of its iterations. But he gave me records. By then, he'd come to learn that giving me what I asked for was easier on the ears than trying to argue with me.

Soon after, I got my own "record player." It was an incredibly cheap thing, but it did accommodate 33-1/3 LPs, and it folded up so I could carry it to friends' homes. As I recall, I did that maybe twice. At home, the machine required a quarter taped to the tone arm so that it wouldn't skip. About six years later, once I was earning my own money, I upgraded to something that didn't make records skip -- as much. But by then, I'd discovered cassette tapes, and the new machine could play those too. Tapes didn't skip, but they did sometimes derail and if you listened to the same one too many times, the tape would simply break, and that was all she wrote.

In the early 1980s, CDs debuted. They, of course, are still with us, but they're declining. As a music medium, they are a vast improvement over LPs and cassettes. Their one major drawback, for me, is that they're too small for their packaging to contain a large poster that you can staple to your wall, the way LPs did. But then again, most people my age have gotten slightly past the blacklight-poster phase...

Digital music is THE THING, and I like it just fine. Ever since the Napster kerfuffle of 1999 or so, music publishers have gradually come to terms with the fact that there is NO going back to the days when you had to either buy the recording in physical form or improvise some inferior-sounding thing using a tape. You can listen to an entire song now, unlike AM-FM radio days, when the DJ would get a signal from a timer and abruptly cut off that last glorious one-octave drop at the end of Boston's "Don't Look Back" to run a commercial for the local Toyota dealership.

O Technology, let us praise thee. Let us put on our MP3s, bliss out, meditate and become better people for it.



Anonymous said…
It was annoying to have to go and buy all my 33albums as CDs. I considered it a cheat by the recording industry to force us to buy the same albums twice.
Vol-E said…
I agree...too bad they don't accept trade-ins for equal value!

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