Wednesday, January 14, 2004

As I was sorting through my massive CD collection, I came upon a CD by Wendy Carlos called Switched-On Bach 2000. Wendy Carlos, who used to be Walter Carlos, is best known for the Switched-On Bach series and the soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange and Tron. She was the first person to publicize the real possibilities of electronic synthesizers being real instruments.

This is from the liner notes of Switched-On Bach 2000:

"If by that you mean that the sound quality can now exceed the best we could do in the late '60s (stress on 'can'), it's probably true. I shudder to think of the shock of hearing what the vinyl version of my carefully engineered master tape sounded like. At best the groove noises covered up some of the tape hiss. Even though I had been a stereo master cutter and recording engineer, I was taken aback by the pinch distortion, pre- and post-echo, popping and ticking, and inner groove losses that passed as state-of-the-art. It was a losing battle to try to get the levels up with minimum limiting while squeezing in about twenty-two minutes a side. Of all media some audiophiles worship (how about Dolby A tape?), this one I can least understand. Yuck!"

Wendy is talking about LPs or vinyl.

And she just doesn't get it.

I love the imperfections of vinyl. Yes, it's not the exact reproduction of the musical event that I suppose that CD can be, although, CDs are subject to their own series of limitations. Digital slices of sound, instead of a continuum of sound, and so on.

What I love about vinyl is how much of an artifact of a time and place that it can be. It's not just the music on the vinyl that's important. It's the physicality of the record that also signifies something for me. I can pick up a record. It has a certain feel, a smell. It looks like something that's passed through time. Ever CD looks the same.

I like groove noises. There's a warmth and a pressure that comes from the sound off a record. I rarely hear that warmth coming from a CD.

Speaking of records, if anyone knows a good place for me to buy some cabinets that would hold a bunch of records, let me know.


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