12 July 2012

Music of my mind.

Been having difficulty with my iPod lately. A few years ago I installed a new battery, and I guess the battery was too wide for the case, so it never did close back up properly. Anyway, about two weeks ago I dropped it and the case popped open. Ever since, whenever I squeezed the case closed—deliberately or accidentally—the battery shut off, and I had to reboot the iPod.

Probably a loose wire. But two days ago the iPod just wouldn’t wake up. So I plugged it into the computer to recharge. It read as fully charged, so I unplugged it—and it shut down again. It only works when plugged in. Definitely a loose wire.

Guess I gotta hunt down some iPod repair instructions, and fix it.

So what have I been doing in the meanwhile? I have other mp3 players. Before I bought my first iPod in 2005, I found this little BusLink mp3 player that I can squeeze 20 tracks onto—and 20 more with an expansion card. Runs on a single AAA battery. Of course, loading the mp3s onto it requires special software, and I don’t have it installed on any of my computers right now, so I figured I’d just listen to whatever I had on it… left over from 2005, I think. Turns out it has an old Evanescence album and a bunch of random tracks.

As for the podcasts I usually listen to, I stuck ’em on my pocket PC and listened to them that way. I don’t like using the pocket PC for audio. The headphone jack is loose, so it goes in and out of stereo unless you hold it in place. The volume only goes up to 6, whereas my iPod goes up to 11.

And of course I can’t access my entire music collection. That’s why I got the iPod in the first place: So I could stick 500 CDs’ worth of music on it. Any time I get the urge to listen to something, there it is. Instant gratification.

Well, near-instant. I have more than 500 CDs’ worth of music.

Every once in a while I find I didn’t load that album into the iPod. Some years ago a friend asked if I had any Led Zeppelin on it. “Not only do I have Led Zeppelin, I also have Dred Zeppelin,” I bragged… only to discover that, though I do indeed own those CDs, I didn’t rip ’em into the computer and stuff ’em on the iPod. No Physical Graffiti. Not even the Dead Milkmen’s Metaphysical Graffiti. See, I only have the 30GB model. There’s only so much you can squeeze into that space, and if I want to put podcasts and the occasional video on the iPod, stuff’s gotta be removed. Or compressed, but really, I can’t compress the mp3s any further without the sound quality turning to crap.

Well, one of these years I suppose I’ll have to bite the bullet and upgrade. I did find a conversion kit where I can swap the hard drive for a 240GB hard drive. Now we’re talking. But you realize, at the rate technology progresses, a 500GB or 1TB drive will be around soon enough, and maybe I should hold out till then.

I know, I know: “What will you do with all that space?” Cram the rest of my music on there. Fill it with high-quality audio. Maybe some videos. Again, it’s all about instant gratification: If I want to listen to anything I own, I don’t have to dig around for it, or worry about cloud access (or have to subscribe to said cloud access); I just can.

My giant music collection began when I was a kid. I owned an AM radio with a built-in reel-to-reel tape recorder, and whenever I wanted to keep a song, I had to hit Record really fast whenever the song came on the radio. Later I had a tape recorder that was not built in to the radio, so I had to hold it up next to the speaker and record off the radio that way. I know; pathetic. But I had no allowance, and therefore no money for such things.

Eventually I got a job, and made the mistake of signing up for the Columbia Record and Tape Club, a mail-order scam where they hook you with the offer of 12 albums for a penny… and all you have to do is buy eight more albums from them at regular club prices. That’d be $10 per album, by the way, plus $4 shipping and handling. I realize 20 albums for $112 sounds like a bargain nowadays, but this was 1980s money and I didn’t really want any of the other albums in Columbia’s catalog; I had the hardest time picking my initial 12. I think I only really wanted six of them, and the others were just filler. I also had rotten taste in music back then: Of those original tapes, the only ones I kept were the Stevie Wonder albums.

The other tapes, over time, were sold to used-music stores like The Beat! in Sacramento. Usually for store credit, which I used to upgrade to CDs. When they first came out in the ’80s, I couldn’t possibly afford them; they were $30 apiece and up. I bought a CD player anyway, ’cause I discovered you could borrow CDs from the Vacaville library… and that when you made a copy of them on audio cassette, the sound quality was better than buying brand-new cassettes. I quickly grew a large collection of pirated music on cassette. But in the late ’90s, I did actually buy the CDs of the albums I wanted to keep, and got rid of the rest.

When the price of CDs came down to reasonable levels, naturally I started buying them. I discovered the BMG Music Club, which was a lot less scam-like than Columbia; they actually had half-off sales on a regular basis, and I bought a bunch of their box sets, especially once I got into jazz. And when I discovered you could buy used CDs for $2 or $3 through Amazon, I went a bit nuts. I’d discover a musician I liked, and I’d buy up every last one of their old CDs for less than $20.

A music library is of course like a book library: Once you stock it with all the classics, you don’t really have to spend as much on music as you used to, because you have everything you feel you need to. Unless you’re addicted to novelty, and have to buy everything new, simply because it’s new. I don’t feel that need. I have my library; I’m good.

But thanks to the iPod, I got used to the idea of carrying my library. All of it, if possible.

A former professor of mine has a way bigger music collection than I do. Way way way bigger. We’re talking walls of box sets. He’s gonna need the 1TB iPod, once Apple invents it, and even that may not be big enough.

What do I listen to? A little of everything. A lot of some things, like jazz and R&B. There are certain artists where I try to snap up everything they produce. There are others where their greatest hits albums will do.

I have never been able to get into country music. It’s the twang, which simply irritates me ’cause it reminds me of whining. If a country artist can sing without the twang, I have no problem. Of course, few will. I have the same problem with men who insist on singing everything in falsetto, like Smokey Robinson and Barry Gibb. Gibb and the Bee Gees ruined disco for me. Problem is, Mom loves them.

I listen to a lot of Christian music, but I’m very particular about my Christian music. I don’t care for knock-off Christian bands—those groups who are trying to capture another group’s sound, and trying to sound like the Christian alternative. Of course, there are exceptions: I have a lot of Jars of Clay albums, and any music aficionado knows Jars is the Christian knock-off of Toad the Wet Sprocket. But I like Toad too, and since they split up and their knock-off is still knocking around, it’s kinda the next best thing. I have a lot of complaints about the Christian music industry—like the secular music industry, talent and message comes secondary to profitability and marketing—but the solution to the problem is to stop buying crap. So I have.

I pay slight attention to the latest hits. I don’t care as much as I did when I was a teenager, when it was vital to keep up with the latest. I startle kids nowadays when they find out I sometimes listen to the same things they do. But kids are a bit clueless when it comes to older music: “You like the Beatles?” they’ll say in surprise, as if the fact they discovered the Beatles on American Idol makes them the first generation to ever discover the Beatles. They’ll learn. I did.