Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Sound Track of My Life

March 11, 2007

When I lived in New York I used to listen to a music station with the slogan, "The Sound Track of Your Extraordinary Life." I loved that. I think of the phrase whenever I stick a new CD into the slot -- in my car or in my house.

At that time, I liked a little classical music as background, but my record collection was of The Band, Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, and Broadway musicals. I had a few Frank Sinatra albums and one of my sister's boyfriends had given me Sinatra's "Only the Lonely" which he said had been his teenage-makeout album and he didn't need it any more.

Over the years the sound track has varied. In Geneva, my husband and I had a large collection of jazz records which we enjoyed retaping on to audiotapes for the car. This was in the 1980's, and living in Europe we hadn't found radio stations to our liking. Besides, it was a way to play deejay, his and hers. He preferred Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Earl "Fatha" Hines (who lived just up the lake and often appeared in clubs with his entourage in Geneva), and the many Danish and English jazz artists, while I liked the classical/jazz noodlings of André Previn and the upbeat piano stylings of Teddy Wilson, Errol Garner, and Art Tatum. I'm a sucker for piano and trumpet and like a smattering of Dixieland. He liked saxophones more than I (because I don't like them at all, not even Coltrane or Coleman Hawkins), but we both loved guitar and singers like Tony Bennett (I loved his pianist, Ralph Sharon), Dinah Washington, and Carmen McRae. We had music on all the time; it was not unusual to be talking with someone on the phone who would hear that sound track in the background and spontaneously say, "I love the music at your house!"

Over the years the music changed. In the 90's I developed a love for Enya and the Celtic music that dominated the airwaves and I built up a stock of CD's. I even bought the best of Yanni.

I've been off music for several years, and a few months ago the cat took a flying leap onto my plastic-covered record player and sent it crashing to the floor. I replaced it with one of those oddly designed players intended to resemble an old radio, which plays vinyl, CD's, and tapes as well, but with little speakers offering questionable sound.

It's time for me to update my soundtrack, now with an iPod. I'm still thinking about it. It means getting hold of equipment to convert my many records to the new technology, which means editing the collection and learning how to use the iPod itself. Maybe I'll get an iPhone when they go on sale. That will mean carrying a cell phone everywhere, but having a sound track I can summon at any time. I have a computer-savvy friend who's promised to help me with the transfer of sound to equipment, but it's up to me to program the music, real-time.

A daunting challenge, but I'm actually looking forward to it. It will mean a chance to hear all my music again and take it with me in my life once again. Having a sound track will enhance what is already an extraordinary life.


Bert Bananas said...

Since you're going to be creating mp3 files, you don't really need to spend the bucks for an Ipod. The iTunes system for keeping track of your ...tracks is fine, but there are others. The only reason to get an Ipod is if you intend to purchase songs from the iTunes store.

There is plenty of software out there to help you turn audio from your records and tapes into mp3 files. Once that's done, take your time buying a portable player or phone/mp3 player.

rainbow mommy said...

Give me the scratchy Vinyl anyday.A digital signal does not compare to analog record albums.The difference could be compared to witnessing a rainbow in person and looking at one on a television set.
The full harmonic spectrum is not revealed in a cd or i-pod source.This is why albums not cd's are played in instututions to calm severly disturbed signals aggitate the patients.
Ever wonder why you listen to more music when you played albums as opposed to now digital cd's? Those old Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkle, or Crosby,Stills ,and Nash songs just do not sound the same on cd. And the added bonus of album art and info was a large part of the whole experience.Some times things do not get better.Besides I own too many records to go back and replace now. PS I love your site.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Rainbow -- "Sometimes things do not get better." You've discovered the essence of this site. Glad to have you aboard.

Plus, thanks to you and bananas, now I'll rethink my plans on getting all that new stuff. Somewhere deep down, I do love my old albums.

steelhead said...

Hmm. These thoughts come to mind, reading your post and the responses (so far):

No one NEEDS an ipod. One WANTS an ipod. Getting anything other than an ipod is like standing outside a sushi bar eating a fish sandwich. Indulge yourself in the elegance. And then everyone on the subway, from the 10-year old to the 65-year old, will be able to answer your "how do I.." ipod questions.

I don't personally subscribe to the "vinyl sounds better" argument. I never heard Alanis Morrisette on vinyl, and she has proven just as iconic and durable as Joni has, a generation or two removed. For Me. If I had heard her first on vinyl, what I would recall would be the countless times I had put on that album for whatever reason, and I would imbue the listening with all that memory. I submit that what is missing from digital is the tactile. The care of removing the vinyl from the sleeve, of wiping it clean, of replacing it, of cradling a salad-bowl sized picture in your arms while you floated off in the listening. We get out of an experience what we put in, and no matter how good the Dave Matthews or the Sting sound quality is on CD or MP3, it will never be as "real" as an album was. The first and last time I ever downloaded anything from itunes was a few years ago, with Joni's "Dreamland". It was like standing outside a sushi bar with a picture of a fish sandwich. I realize now I have actually never listened to the whole "album".

My advice is to digitize your album collection, and in the doing, cull them yet again based on your present state of mind. Carefully, as always. And haul that crate of black grooves with you wherever you go, until those coming in to clean up after you will have to take pause in understanding who you are and were. CD's are swept up, swapped, lost or otherwise disposed of like so many seasonal tree droppings. But albums are YOURS and MINE and all that that implies, with power beyond the space they occupy in what we call a life.

Anonymous said...

Dear steelhead, You are mucho correct on some points ... Yet,in order for digital to measure up to the analog spectrum ,the sampling rate would have to be up around 1900 not the archaic 48 and 96 we have now. But you are correct,ain't too many American Idols products available on LP's. I would imagine and be willing to wager big bucks, if you visited Apple Headquarters that somewhere in the depths of one of ole Steve'e dungeons a dedicated secret staff is working on the next generation of source standards unrelated to consumer marketing. I bet steve at least listens to 96k files if not LP's himself. Finding Fairhope, I did not say all things. Thanks for the welcome and I am enjoying exploring Fairhope before I get the family off to Life .Sounds wonderful, yet saddly changing as are many small towns....rainbow mommy

sinjap said...

i once dated a guy from our local symphony and had no idea what listening to music really was until lay people miss out on so much...but nowadays it's a matter of portability...everyone in our society is downright required to be mobile...gotta have a car, gotta have a cell phone...but in the days before every car had an mp3 player and every person had a cell phone, we were actually forced to talk to the person we were actual live conversation...imagine that!

steelhead said...

I agree on all points even if I don't completely understand the number references.

A larger consideration has been the grudging acceptance that I just can't hear as well as I used to. Now that I can affort the sound system, I can't appreciate it. I know I'm not alone in this, but I also know some of my (unmarried) friends still pursue that "killer stereo" experience we sought in college.

Here's a thrill that digital has given me tho: instead of "DJ'ing" favorite album cuts, chasing a common thread from album to album to artist and back, littering the floor with album covers and pizza boxes and wine bottles, now I can pull out the ipod or the laptop and connect (wirelessly, thanks Airport Express!) to the old hifi and hear 5 remakes of "Walk Away Renee", or listen to four artists covering Steve Earle tunes or find Vince Gill's amazingly sly harmonies, all while doing the kids' laundry. All that's missing is the wine, album covers, the pizza boxes, and the friends...

Hm. I'm getting depressed. Where's my ipod?

Finding Fair Hope said...

With these comments as a reference I can state uncategorically that there is a great deal to consider here. I am not all that enamored of scratchy vinyl, and admit I liked the image of myself being one of the first with an iPhone, parking it in a dock in my home and using it as a music machine -- but to be honest, I liked pulling those big old platters out of their dusty jackets, wiping them off, and savoring the memories of wine bottles and pizza boxes too. It's just time to clean out a bit.

I must use this line sometime, somehow, RM: "Digital signals agitate the patients." May I have it?

Anonymous said...

Only if you write a new blog.Whats up??Get to work. rm

Finding Fair Hope said...

I could transfer my Jimmy Buffet albums to CD's tomorrow, but then I could probably buy his from iTunes.

rainbow mommy said...

FF, where are you?I put on a Buffett record last night.The song Biloxi.I could not help but cry.We drove through a few months ago and the front beach area is gone.No rest.s no gift shops, no coffee houses...only large casinos/hotels,and empty lots. rm

steelhead said...

Jimmy Buffet! You surprise me with that one. I'm not a big buffet fan. Too many choices. Althought I do take Jimmy an album at a time. (RM, his "Biloxi" was a cover, written by Ted Hawkins. You should hear the original).

His brother, Sunday, is apparently playing up here these days. At least that's what the marquee at the Holiday Inn says. And only $12.95.

Finding Fair Hope said...

The question, Rainbow Mommy, is not where I am but where you are. Everybody knows I'm here in Fairhope -- it's a real place, and I'm listed in the book. In one comment you said you are exploring Fairhope before moving your family into "Life" with a capital "L."

Fairhope was not really damaged by Katrina, although we were all very involved in helping all we could, and many people moved here as a result. We are pretty high and usually pretty dry through hurricanes. I don't even leave town. But I did used to love that drive to New Orleans, through that beautiful Mississippi beach area, and haven't had the heart to go back since. It was a terrible time, and not the least of the U.S. government's blunders, costing lives and endangering its citizens during this administration.

Subject for another post! What's up with your comment "Get to work"? I post on the blog two or three times a week as inspiration strikes. Up until last fall I posted daily but it was too much.

As to Jimmy Buffett, "Biloxi" is not a song I know, probably not going on my iPod -- and it's a little early in the day to visit Margaritaville, but at least his message is clear.