Cassette tapes, CDs and the cold war

2020-08-19 @Blog

I’d listened to a few cassette tapes lately on some old equipment. Surprisingly both the tapes and the equipment still function despite two to three decades of worn out, unlubricated and screeching mechanics.

It was still pleasant, and not without nostalgic sentiment, navigating the audio back and forth, hearing the hiss throughout the tracks.

However, in contrast to what I normally sustain, I didn’t perceive any greater essence of listening engagement with tapes over compact discs. CDs have not felt ‘computerized’.

Having listened to plenty of CDs over the past several weeks, the experience has resulted nothing short of sublime. Likewise, tape equipment hasn’t felt more analog, at least in a way that would heighten any notion of audio appreciation, all acoustic subtleties aside.

Both lend to rewarding and attention-oriented listening, selection limited to the physical media library, no anxiety over abundance of material, no inclination to perpetually acquire more.

Since I mostly listen to entire albums anyway, the sequential vs random access dichotomy between the two media hardly makes a difference.

Yet I prefer the enlarged CD album artwork, something at least pretentious in reproducing the vinyl sleeve content. The tiny cassette inserts, in contrast, seem too much of a farce.

Of further interest, I’ve long considered the impact of music ownership, comparing the physical media with downloaded (MP3) music.

I’ll not even mention streaming channels. It would make a too polarized of a comparison, and too easy a target per the audiophile interviews in vinyl documentaries.

As it stands, my strictly ‘owned’ physical media does feel more authentic. Although it behooves us to revisit the question of what is inherently real; of where the said authenticity originates.

With regard to music ownership, the concept of ‘ownership’ appeals to imagination as mostly does everything else.

Sure the sense of physical media perusal feels pleasant in the confines of a vain consciousness such as my own. But the impact also reeks of superfluity as much as the supposed ownership of most objects, from rudimentary household tools to acres of weed infested real estate.

We’re fragile transitory beings on this playground. We enter and depart empty-handed. Everything else is short lived.

And as silly as it may sound, I must remind myself of that with matter as fatally inconsequential as compact disc casing.

On the other hand … I don’t believe the authentic ownership factor really that impactful to the sense of appreciation as I spin those tracks … any more than the ownership of all those books (marked by handwriting, creases, stains and spilled liquids) severely impacts my inner projection as I flip the pages.

I’ve borrowed, exchanged, sold, donated heaps of this space-consuming content in the past, and will continue likewise. It’s all merely ephemeral matter in a continuous state of transformation and decomposition. Ownership, smownership.

It’s our present, momentary state of engagement that impacts the internal sense of satisfaction. Don’t let your imaginations complicate your already perilous existence by occupying needless dimension.

And yet, I do love those bookshelves. Although if they burn to ash, that’s okay too. It would make for a stimulating roast.

As long as we attach to these objects, they all prove fragile in their own way.

The digital bits could undergo incidental deletion. Or we might lose access by a series of factors. Plus they demand complex computing machinery and Direct Current.

The books, the actual books that is, can suffer damage and wear beyond hope. But that kind of fragility is local to each specimen.

CDs can suffer incidental scratching or microwave annihilation that will render them from perfectly playable to a perfectly capable sofa stabilizer. But physical abuse aside, they prove nearly immortal.

Tapes, on the other hand, gradually wear out. The tape can also suffer tearing. And yet you can patch that tape; patch it together with scotch tape, and continue to extract further life. Or cut an entire section of incriminating audio, the old fashion way, the cold war way, should you be so inclined.

Questions, comments? Connect.