A few weeks ago, as one brother-in-law put on some tunes, another told us how his listening habits have changed. All of his CDs sit idle in the house, untouched since he now plays almost everything from his computer.
It's worth noting that the first brother-in-law happened to be playing vinyl. Long after migrating to CDs, he fell in love again with old-fashioned records, especially since excellent-quality vinyl has been used for many brand-new releases.
As for me, I'm all over the place, although most of my listening involves digital media. Something interesting happened this week, though, to remind me of how my habits have come at a bit of a cost.
Some months ago, I bought a new laptop: a MacBook, which is the first Mac I've owned in a while. I was surprised to realize that it brought to six the number of computers we had in the house. Clearly, some housecleaning was in order.
This week, I gutted out what I needed from a PC that I, basically, had stopped using in 2005, when I bought my current desktop model. Getting the data out turned out to be a bit of an ordeal. Long story short, I wound up burning off old-fashioned CDs, to hold on to hundreds and hundreds of old files.
Sure, I wanted to hang on to all the stuff I had written over a bunch of years, I but I'll admit that what I really wanted was a bunch of songs I had forgotten I even had had. They included songs I had ripped from friends who had moved away, rarities and remixes and odds and sods, none of which existed anywhere in my library of albums and CDs.
I decided to plop all those tunes on my laptop; after all, I'm using it far more often that my desktop. Which made me think that perhaps I should put more of my music collection there.
I've been doing something curious. Logical holds that I should have done a massive drag-and-drop of all the songs in my music collection, or at least put them on a shared drive that everyone could wirelessly access. And I may yet end up doing something like that.
Instead, I've been basically starting from scratch. One by one, I've feeding CDs, practically randomly, into my laptop and loading their contents into iTunes. It's been a process of rediscovery, as I've been listening to music I know I have not scarcely heard, across the spectrum, from jazz pianist Bill Evans to the rock band Ash to classical singers and ensembles.
Here's a unexpected consequence of our digitized libraries. We may accumulate vastness, and seek the widest breadth of content, but I've noticed just how stratified my listening has been. Amid the forest, I lost sight of the trees. Truth be told, I'm willing to be all I've been listening to is a fairly small slice of what I've picked up over the years.
That evening, when I was relaxing with my in-laws over a drink and some music, one observed that with a digital collection, the idea of selecting an album and then putting it on had become kind of irrelevant.
There's a lot of truth to that, especially with teenagers and young adults, who don't have the attachments to things (albums, newspapers, even books, with the advent of the Kindle) that their parents have enjoyed.
Still, I've enjoyed the process of becoming reacquainted with my old stuff. It might be nostalgia, but for the last while, I've even been listening to whole albums from start to finish. Imagine that.
While I was listening to one this week, I was reading of Apple's apparent plans to launch this fall a new tablet-like device, which apart from delivering magazines and books is expected to offer some razzle-dazzle options for the beleaguered music industry. Personally, I don't think the tablet's appeal will do much for music: consumers have made it clear they would rather have a single tune rather than an album, and even then, some digital extras won't be much of a draw.
But a tablet that could handle text, photos, videos and more? Well, that's a whole other story, and one we'll see play out in the months leading up to Christmas.