When I think about records, I think of what it must have been like for a person in the late 18th century to experience seeing themselves in a daguerreotype photograph for the first time. The wonder of capturing a moment in what seems like an instant in comparison to sitting for hours for a painting. I think about the first viewers of silent film watching themselves in soft light, marveling on the magic making this possible. And likewise, what it must have been like for listeners to play their favorite songs in their drawing rooms on gramophones. Vinyl Records carry the same kind of magic for me. They are a kind of portal that allows me to share an experience with people who lived in eras bygone.
The young world seems aflutter with new listeners starting record collections and discovering a new way to listen to their favorite artists, and although our generation has a bad habit of turning what was once special into something trite and trendy, I can understand the fascination. In the same way that books are their own portable magic for the ways it makes your mind become new worlds, I'm wonderstruck at the technology that makes a vinyl produce sound. If you never hook your turntable up to a speaker, and you start playing a record, you can still hear music playing. Maybe this is really small to those who are fluent with how the technology works, but my mind starts buzzing with questions about how it's even possible. How can music be etched in lines onto a flat vinyl disk? Music in itself is a wonder that seems created from nothing but will and passion and rhythm, and so then to actually hold a vinyl record in my hands feels like being fortunate to have a piece of art I can take home from the Met.
Of late, I've been a little obsessed with watching Vinyl Collection videos on Youtube, and someone made the wonderful point that vinyl forces us to participate with our music. We can't easily jump from one track to the next because we want that instant gratification of hearing one side of the artist. We can't press play and listen to an endless playlist for hours on autopilot. We are more inclined to hear the symphonic story the way the artist originally intended us to experience as the record plays out all sides. And as it plays, we can ponder on how it makes us feel. What makes it special? What memories are we making? What memories are we remembering? It's like a motion picture for your ears. I love the ritual of browsing through my collection, slipping the disk out of its sleeve, and clicking the hollow "start" button. Listening as the motors crank before rich, velvety sound fills my room with warmth. The ritual of being excited about a piece of music and rushing out to the store to excavate the record like fossils. To lift it up, delight in its weight, and its gorgeous sleeve or gatefold album art, to handle it delicately if it's older than me. Even new artists seem to go out of their way to make their vinyl special, and it feels to me like even in just holding it, they have allowed me a small taste of what it felt like for them to make the record. A page ripped out of their journals to pin on my wall.
The act of collecting encourages selectivity. I'm not of the thought that everything sounds better on vinyl, and it's up to each person to decide what they want to experience in this way. I love to experience jazz on vinyl because it feels right, like the Dave Brubeck Quartet or Ella Fitzgerald. I love listening to artists that make me feel sentimental like Taylor Swift's Red album or even her Speak Now album which has a dreamy quality to it. Of course I have Guardians on vinyl because...yeah. I love folky tunes on vinyl...I couldn't imagine not having the Civil Wars, First Aid Kit, or Over the Rhine records. And some of my absolute favorite things to listen to on vinyl are film scores. Ohhhh! To be able to listen to Pride and Prejudice or Jurassic World on vinyl is just such a beautiful experience. Olafur Arnalds is also an absolutely gorgeous artist! His Living Room Songs album is one of the most beautiful records I own. I would love to incorporate more classical and orchestral music. Feels like watching a Ballet Performance.
I really love the thought of making a little sentimental museum of my room full of records. Art, in any way it's expressed, is definitely something I take for granted, so it's nice to have a reason to embrace the experience of it.