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Have I Lost Touch With Music? by Alex Walsh

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music on phone imageHave I lost touch with music? I think so. Marketers and psychologists say that when you touch something, you immediately feel more of a connection to it. All my music is on my phone now and touching my phone does not make me feel more connected to music.

Buying and playing music (I don’t mean playing an instrument) used to be a very hands-on thing. We went to the store to buy records and tapes and CDs. We got to touch the merchandise. I think it made a difference, at least for me. I found things in record stores I would never have bought or even known existed just because they were in the bin near a group I already knew.

record store imageRecord stores haven’t completely disappeared. But they are rare in a boutique kind of way, like bookstores.

Now my entire music collection is on my phone and I listen with headphones or plug it into my car stereo or speakers in my house. When I buy a CD I put it in my laptop and it goes in my phone because it’s just so convenient. Or even more conveniently, I buy it on iTunes. And pretty soon I will get into streaming. I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but I will eventually.

listening to music imageI grew up on records. I LOVED records. My parents had a small record collection that I dove right into. When I got old enough I started buying my own records. The drugstore near my house had a music department and I was always excited to go there. You could pick the records up and read the covers and there were displays for the latest releases and always that sickly sweet plastic wrap smell. Studying album covers was part of the shopping experience and the listening experience. Even if I’d done it a hundred times before, putting on a record and staring at the cover was just what I did.

discwasher_lpRecords were something to take care of. I remember obsessing over cleaning my records. I had a fancy Discwasher system with the liquid cleaner and the brown brush and the little red brush to clean the big brush. The whole procedure made it seem like you were performing a critical operation that was going to make the music better. I hated pops and clicks. That’s what happened to records that weren’t clean, you heard pops and clicks. I hated it when my friends wanted to listen to my records because very few of them knew how to handle them properly. Records were perfect for obsessive compulsive people. I don’t think I’m especially obsessive compulsive, but I guess I am about some things, and I certainly was about records.

rem greenI gave up on records a long time ago. The first time was when I moved across country in the mid-80s. They were too much to carry so I got rid of all but a handful. The last new record I remember buying was R.E.M.’s Green. After that I was too broke to buy anything! The second time I gave up was around 2000. There were no new releases on records and I was sick of my old stuff so I just got rid of all of it. Yes, I do think vinyl sounds better but at the time it was just too much of a hassle. Do I regret it? You bet!

barefootI got a new phone last week. It’s really fast and I love it. My phone has become the center of my life. I know this because when my old phone died a few years ago it felt like I was walking around barefoot. I felt vulnerable. It was very strange! But now all I’m touching is my phone…and I never stare at an album cover on my phone.