My girlfriend and I were discussing the other day what shapes our preferences for aesthetics, whether it be in fashion, art, architecture, music, furniture, etc.  I expressed my frustration with people who reject the mainstream by virtue of it being mainstream and by doing so join an alternative anti-mainstream, yet another mainstream just the same.  It saddens me how, in an effort to be non-conformist, people will actively avoid popular trendy things that are quite possibly beautiful, but simply because they are trendy, they are somehow beneath them.  We began talking about the issue because I just recently got a record player and am really excited about listening to all those old recordings with that relatively base technology that somehow makes the music seem more raw, natural, authentic and real; dare I say, it seems more meaningful somehow.  I recognize that my desire for a record player comes at a time when record players are en vogue, much like many other things that are “vintage”.  I will not apologize for liking something at about the same time it becomes trendy; rather I can thank the trend-setters for reminding me of something that has been cool and valuable all along.  But while the raw quality of the music one gets from an LP of Nick Drake might be motivation enough, there is another reason I like records so much: they demand your time.

In our world of mp3 players, CDs, iTunes/iPods/iPhones/ithinki’mgonnavomitmedias, we have become insatiably obsessed with the symbol FF>>.  Jump to track 3 and switch the CD.  Scroll through your playlist and find exactly what you want and move on.  Don’t get me wrong, this certainly has its place.  But records require that we invest in the experience.  The goal isn’t to hear that one song you love to rock air guitar to in the car (which I do, and certainly don’t want to discourage others from doing, but that’s not the point).  Rather, the goal in listening to a record is to embark upon a lyrical journey from track 1 through 12, complete with the 3-second breaks of silence punctuated by those scratchy commas that remind you you’re listening to an LP while at the same time inviting you to prepare for the next step in your musical journey.

MP-3 players have their value, CD players too.  And jumping to your favorite track is at times useful and prudent.   There is even a time and place for sweet mixes of unrelated songs weaved into an (un)intentional musical tapestry.  But the fact remains: there’s nothing like sitting down with a beer, throwing on an old record and taking in the whole experience from the moment the needle scratches the surface to the moment you’re once again left with that interminable scratchy silence.