Friday, February 26, 2010

What Will You Play in 2020?

Are you dreading 2012? Depending on the state of that year's election, I may move to Antigua, Guatemala, no matter what the Mayan calendar says. Or, more safely, Barcelona, 20% unemployment or not.

I've also been envisioning the year 2020 a lot lately. I like the ring of it better than 2012 anyway, and there's enough time to get ready for it. Lately I've thought I will learn to play a musical instrument or at least play one better than the ones I've tried through the years -- piano, recorder, flute and snare drums. I was, however, quite a good xylophone player in my high school days and always had my heyday during the Nutcracker Suite.

Does the turntable count as an instrument? Since the days of Sugarhill Records onwards, I guess it has. I used to buy 12-20 CDs a week. Now not that many in a year. However, I've been in something of a frenzy of uploading old LPs. I used to give the line "I'm not a vinyl purist," but that was in the days before USB turntables. Granted, I am uploading the work of true artists and performers, but part of what I love about LP uploads is that it's not a passive act. One must dust the LP and check the stylus for dust, adjust the tone arm for perfect weight pressure. I equate it to the Japanese Tea ceremony. I didn't grow the leaves, I didn't make the pot, I didn't drill the well for the water. But I brought all of these elements together for the perfect marriage of elements.
Last weekend, I heard Ashley Judd on "What Do You Know" who, in explaining her decision to go back and study international affairs clarified that at the peak of her Hollywood success she was not playing the scene but staying home to listen to Beethoven and read the Russians. "And avoid STDs," she added with a wink in her voice. It was fitting to hear that just as I've been transferring a collection of Beethoven -- a rather staggering 10 LPs of his entire symphonies and overtures, several of which I have on CD, but I like the idea of having them from the LP which is in near pristine condition. It has both aesthetic and sentamental value. It was passed down from a family friend of my parents. My mother had two best friends who whose husbands were retired members of the Mexico City and Berlin Philharmonics. The Beethoven collection, not surprisingly, came from the latter after he passed on in the early 1990s and his wife wanted me to have them. I rememer adolescent years of going to his house where dusting the turntable and recounting what brought him and his wife to the small Midwestern town where he whiled away his final years as a German professor at a small liberal arts college.

When the Third Reich emerged, he left the Philharmonic to go into the diplomatic corps, was captured by the British in Cameroon in 1939, interned in Jamaica and never performed professionally again. As these sounds pass from LP to MP3, I try to think where they will be in 2020 and if any vestige of his memory will pass with them.
In the meantime, I hope to have my collection of Poulenc uploaded by or long before 2012. I am getting close on having his complete works in my system.

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At 4:00 AM, Blogger Lorenzo said...

I am definitely not a "vinyl purist" myself, and am perfectly content to go with my CDs for listening purposes, but I must confess that I still have a sentimental and fetishistic attachment to my LPs. CDs are just no match on that front. The LP and turntable rituals you describe and, especially, the family history of the Beethoven collection, warmly reinforce that vinylic nostalgia.

I have to seriously considering getting one of those USB turntables (I mean I have original Sam Cooke records).

At 4:31 AM, Blogger willow said...

I adore the notion of it being akin to Japanese Tea ceremony. Have a great weekend, my friend.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Lorenzo - Once you have a USB turntable, let's see if you still say "I am definitely not a 'vinyl purist'". I never knew MP3s could sound so wonderful until I got mine. Also, you can get a really decent quality one for under $150 these days.

Willow - Sometimes I do my transfers with green tea, sometimes with pinot grigio.


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