September 06, 2007
Back when I was a teenager, a CD was a sort of precious commodity. As with most of my peers, I didn’t have a ton of money, so shelling out $12-$15 per album was considered an investment; if you ended up with a CD that was barely worth a single listen, you couldn’t help but feel like you had been mugged. I think ending up with a crummy CD ranked up there with bombing the SAT’s in terms of high school worries.
Since I was essentially hording music like a miser hordes gold, I listened to the same CD’s over and over. One side effect of this was that my brain’s internal catalogue of music became exceptionally indexed and fast. I remember playing a game with a friend: pick any of my CD’s (around 80 or so at the time) and play a random track for 5 seconds, and I’ll name the artist/album/song/probably even the lead singer.
Eventually, this ability waned. These days I’ll find myself hearing a song that I know I own, but can’t remember the band playing it. The CD changed from being an investment to a legacy technology. I haven’t purchased a real CD in over a year; everything has been digital. My collection has grown to over 11,000 songs, and if I find even that number is too little, adding to it is trivial in both time and money.
I wonder then, do I enjoy this new way of mass consumption more than the old, or should I be taking the time to smell the roses? Sometimes I do wish that I still had my freakishly encyclopedic knowledge of music, but I don’t think I’m ready to give up the sheer quantity of it all just yet.
I don’t think that is really the copout that it seems to be though. Thanks in part to cheap digital media, I can find quality faster. Before the Internet, I had to wait for magazine reviews to find out if an album was any good (and trust that the reviewer shared similar tastes as me) or depend on word of mouth. Nowadays I can listen to parts or entire tracks without leaving my chair.
So, I guess this is one of those rarer situations where you can have both quantity and quality. Though, I should probably take the time to enjoy more of what I have rather than always being on the watch for my next download.
Written by Scott Williams who lives and works in sunny Phoenix, AZ. Twitter is also a place.