Saturday, August 15, 2009
on the sanctity of physical music.
[this is in response to an anonymous comment left on this post]
in this post, I'll attempt to properly explain why I hate digital music so much, and why physical albums mean so much to me.
everyone who's ever stepped foot in my bedroom is always taken aback by the stacks of vinyl, the shelves and drawers of cds (there is more music in my dresser than clothing haha), and the walls of posters. oh, and my closet lined with set lists. when I have my own house, I want to cover my walls with my receipts from record stores and my ticket stubs, both of which I always save.
it's kind of obvious that I'm a music enthusiast.
what's not obvious to most people is that it wasn't always this way. I always get really jealous when people talk about growing up listening to Zeppelin or The Beatles, because I didn't.
I went to a private Islamic school when I was a kid. my parents are super conservative, and they didn't believe in pop music. my older brother, always the first one to rebel, exposed me first to pop-punk like Green Day and Blink 182 and later into rappers like Tupac and Biggie. but soon, I wanted to explore my own musical terrain.
when I was 15, I started listening to alternative radio, and I would make mix tapes by recording tunes off the radio. then I discovered limewire, and started to burn entire cds.
this is how I came across Is This It. it's because I really liked the Franz Ferdinand single ("Take Me Out") that would always play on the radio, and wikipedia directed me to The Strokes, a similar band.
I'd also borrow loads of cds from the public library, and burn my favourites (like XO by Elliott Smith)
but anyway, I always felt guilty for downloading music, but I knew I'd get in trouble if my parents found out what I was listening to. I swore to myself that one day, I'd buy all of the things that I had downloaded.
so I compromised. I started buying as many cds as I could afford and hiding them, kind of like Lane from Gilmore Girls. I'd listen to my cds-- both burned and bought-- under my covers at night, and these albums spoke to me like nothing else could. they gave me hope that one day I could be free. I felt the same thrill reading the liner notes as I did when I read Ralph Waldo Emerson or Betty Friedan. it was nothing short of catharsis. I knew that my brain and my music would pave my path to independence. I had to break free of the mold that my parents wanted me to fill. Arab women are expected to get married and raise nice families. that always disgusted me beyond reason. I wanted something different.
when I went off to college (on a full scholarship to UC Berkeley), I raided record stores like nobody's business, mostly buying things from the clearance cd racks. I had a part time job, and every month, I'd go down and spend most of my paycheck at Amoeba, only saving money for concerts.
and then I started collecting vinyl, which made fulfilling the promise I made to myself (of purchasing the albums which I had illegally downloaded years prior) a lot easier. a lot of the vinyl that I've bought are records that I burned and really loved back in high school, albums that I still listen to. going to these record stores also exposed me to tons of cool new music, and at a dollar a pop, I could afford to buy 20 albums a week. it was pretty great.
I still download music illegally, mostly leaked albums, but I only do so to sample albums. albums that I don't like, I delete, and the ones that I do like, I buy (usually, in the more expensive vinyl format), or I put on a list to buy later.
at this point, my parents know about my music addiction. I'd slowly bring home some records each time I'd visit them from college, but now, everything's out in the open. it still bothers them, but we're all adults now, and I don't have to sneak out to go to concerts, like I did when I was 16. for the most part, they've accepted me as I am.
when people talk about how great itunes is, and how inconvenient and obsolete physical albums have become, I get really annoyed. for me, physical music was always a luxury, one that I had to hide for years.
do you remember that scene in the beginning of Almost Famous, where Anita sneaks the Simon and Garfunkel record into the house, and a few scenes later, William's thrill at discovering the vinyl that she left him? those two scenes affect me the most from the whole movie.
a lot of us have parents who not only think that people like Joe Strummer or David Bowie are worthless, and will never appreciate the art that they left behind, but like to tell their kids that these people will burn in hell, alongside people who idolize them.
and they have kids like me, who love music more than anything in the world, and who couldn't give a damn about a G-d who would punish people for wanting to appreciate good music, and who tell their parents that they would much rather spend an eternity in damnation with these "wicked" people than a minute in paradise with religious bigots like themselves.
and these kids write stupid blogs about music because music is their favourite thing in the world and they have pipe dreams of being music journalists which are crushed when they realize how hard it is to get paid for your writing. so they decide to keep it as a hobby instead, knowing that they at least have the power to share their favourite music with some strangers who might just understand their obsession with music.
but whatever. I don't think I've ever told anyone all of that. that's about as much information about my personal life as you're ever gonna get.
I'll end this post with the ever-so-famous scene from Almost Famous, when they sing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" on the bus.
I always get shivers (the good kind) when Penny Lane says "you are home". that sums up everything about me perfectly.
I think Almost Famous will always be my favourite movie. and In Transit, of course.
Posted by Hanan at 1:13 AM