Thursday, November 21, 2013

Vinyl Experience (6) Physical and Experience

Text:Fumimasa Hori

  "I can carry 10,000 songs in my pocket. But when it comes to the sound quality, is it equal to vinyl which contains 12 songs? The answer is no." 

Joe Levy, an editor of Billboard magazine, cast a doubt on the music file from the view of the sound quality. I think the quality of the sound is a matter of personal preference, a conclusion largely depend on  by subjectivity, but some argue that the sound of vinyl is better even on a mathematical / physical. Following, I quote from a book "The intersection of mathematics and music" co-authored with Hiroki Sakaguchi Susumu Sakurai.

Sakurai said "Although the debate which are better between CDs and vinyl as for sound has been made all the time, I can explain it by mathematics and physics. The analog is the ultimate from digital. I guess there are people who think the sound of vinyl is obsolete, because their sound is analog. People who studied mathematics think it reverse. The sound of the analog is the ultimate sound. (Omission) It cuts the waveform of the sound recorded from the microphone  by the principle of vinyl record. Vinyl is closer to the original sound. Therefore, it is the ultimate one and an overwhelming difference. I can say that vinyl has much amount of information than CDs. Since CDs have been deleted the amount of information, they are such cheap and small."

Aside from good or bad of the sound quality, That's the first I've heard of an explanation that CDs are small and cheap because the amount of information was deleted. I just wonder how much the amount of information has invisible MP3 deleted? Rock musician Neil Young who have worked since the 1960s is enraged mp3 is not able to reproduce only five percent of master sound source.

In Wired, Neil said "Digital music files download quickly, but suffer a significant loss in quality. Bitrates for most tracks on iTunes average 256kbps AAC audio encoding, which is drastically inferior to the quality of recorded source material in almost every case. By Young’s estimation, CDs offer only 15 percent of the recording information contained on the master tracks. Convert that CD-quality audio to MP3 or AAC, and you’ve lost a great deal of richness and complexity."

Also not only among musicians but among general listeners, there are not few those who feel a doubt for the sound quality of digital music. David Macrunnel of 15 years old says, " The bad sound quality of iPod has had a big influence on making people toward vinyl" It is said that he holds the 1,000 vinyl collection.

Jack Skutnik who holds the record fair said "CDs are for convinience,Vinyl are for listening." Although his speech is extreme, I think it expresses the nature of music media cleverly. Listeners has got the convenience whenever and wherever we can listen to the music in the process of digitization of music. And there was the economic advantage we can get sound sources inexpensively. However, on the other hand, we lost much.

Prozack Turner who is also a MC of a hiphop group, Foreign Legion. In legionnaire Saloon, a live bar where he run, he locates an analog jukebox which people can listen to 7-inch vinyl. Prozack has a negative viewpoint about digital music.

"The instant gratification that people have these days with all of the music apps that are available via smart phones, Serato and Internet jukeboxes has spoiled listeners and DJs alike."

Exactly, we can easily access every type of music by the digital music. This is an advantage which analog media like vinyl have not. I also make the most of the web services like youtube or bandcamp as tools to come across unknown new music. Then, I can know a lot of amazing music. However, there is a risk that depending on only digital music may make us unsure about an original flavor of recorded music.

What is an original flavor? I can say one of the attraction is as physical. In the world of the music, we call music files like mp3 "digital", we also call physical media like CDs or vinyl "physical". Digital music has penetrated completely now, people have turned their eyes to physical, especially vinyl. Matador, a US independent label calls current popularity of vinyl “New Physical Culture”.

"I think the reason vinyl are selling again is people miss that physical form"
(Andrew Fison, a manager of a venue " The gig" in Texas)

"The most pure form of music is on vinyl. Period. Absolutely. Vinyl is a hardback book … I don't like the idea that I can't see it or feel it."
(Benjy Ferree, singer song writer)

One of the most attraction is the artwork of the sleeve. Although the idea music works were regarded as one work which include the artwork in an age of vinyl and CDs, the appearance of digital music make such idea ousted. Terry Stewart, chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland said “ Half the kids are buying them to listen to; half are buying them as artifacts. ” Kids who buy vinyl as artifacts seem to appreciate them in an album flame.

In UK, there are also people who enjoy appreciating the artwork of vinyl. According to Yorkshire Post, they're obviously in an economic crisis and they're looking back at happier times. Paul Deckland, an employee of chain department store John Lewis  said ” The resurgence in vinyl sales taps into a wider trend for nostalgia”. Housing trends in the last few years have been retro, there are departments deal with vinyl in a furniture selling area. Of course, they decorates with the vinyl put into the frame in a room of their house. As the UK housing market have gone into depression, people have been reluctant to move, they seem to stay indoors. In addition, they try to surround their environment by important materials with warmth. Vinyl are also used by such purpose.

A professor of William and Mary College, Charles McGovern said " We listen to music with our ears but also our eyes and other senses. The vinyl is so much more than a storage container for sound."When I read his remark, I remember Keiji Haino's word "I want hearing and seeing happen simultaneously." and I am startled. Vinyl are exactly media "Hearing and seeing happens simultaneously", therefore it lead to the experience which we can't taste by files of MP3 and so on.

If "experience" is translated into Japanese, it will become "Taiken", but vinyl make us known the importance of tasting music by not only with an ear but with a body literally. I guess that it becomes a keypoint in future music how I regain the physicality which is lost by digitalization. Young person may be trying to regain the lost physicality through vinyl which is the physical.

 "The pleasure you get from an experience is often proportionate to how much time and effort you expend. The carrier bag on the bus home. The expectation. The way it looks and feels. Even the way it smells. And that's before you even place it on the turntable."
(Pete Phadis, Journalist)

"Some time ago, I heard the interview of Theo Parrish, he said people have lost important things since they have listened to music by computers. Although sometimes I download tunes due to convenience, it has no emotion because anyone can get same tunes soon and it's too easy to do. Well, It's like riding a horse and hurry along easily instead of walking by my legs (laugh). But, did you meet with one favorite vinyl record for 2 hours after going to record shops and digging tunes you like frantically, didn't you? I think you will cherish that vinyl as long as you live."
(Margaret Dygas, DJ)  

If you listen to the same music, it is completely different experience between youtube or ipod and  vinyl In case of shopping, it is also different experience beteween  buying file music through online and buying vinyl in real record shops.
In USA, it seems that there are young men who adore the listening style which they listen to vinyl with other persons, when the music media listened by one person like itunes permeated. From the report of Press, I will quote the words of the owner Alan Beyer of a website "Vinyl Revinyl" which specialized in the subject of vinyl.

"Vinyl experience has a ritualistic side. I can imagine people in the previous generation listened to new vinyl sitting in an underground room with some friends. As the opportunity we listen to music by the mechanical way like headphone or iphone is increasing, there are people among young music aficionados who want more social experience of the music listening like vinyl."
In the age when the social media are developing and we make much of relationship with other people, it is so interesting phenomenon that music media like vinyl which is likely to share with listening rise to surface.Although ostensible reason for calling for vinyl is better sound or cool sleeve, people may be asking for relationship with other people in deep psyche.

"CDs and download are not specifically social. Originally you can share music. So, we need the system to link music with social. Vinyl are social thing. You can touch them and share them with friends. If you put them in shelves or walls, people who look at vinyl can comment or ask questions."
(George Howard, COO of Daytrotter)

"But if you play vinyl when you invite friends to a home, have dinner or go out with friends, you can obtain an everyone’s intention . You can pass it and look at sleeves. You can’t have that same experience in the digital world."
(Kyle Siegrist, Records shop owner)

Although digital music are also the media which can be easily shared, you must use the internet or devices. Vinyl has an advantage you can enjoy them if there were sleeves only. Younger generation who have been familiar with digital music since they were born may feel  experience which they can share music through vinyl cool.

Finally, I would like to introduce a remark of  DJ Cosmo who has organized a listening session "Classic Album Sundays" .

"A beginning of Classic Album Sundays was the sound quality. It is important to listen to the quality of sound. And it is download age now. Although people only download a single and listen to music by tune recently, I’d like you to feel effort, mind and inspiration required to make albums. It is very often now listening to music alone by headphones. But I think we must get out of that. Originally, music should be shared with various people." (cont'd)

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