The Comforting Sounds of Music on a Vinyl Record
I love to listen to music on vinyl records. It took me a while to figure out what it was about the music on vinyl that I seemed to appreciate more than digital but then it hit me yesterday. I had just purchased a recording by Stan Getz from my favourite local record shop – shout out to Underground Music in Kelowna. I was walking home with my record and I was looking at the picture of Mr. Getz on the front cover and reading the details of the recordings on the back. The cover had that unmistakable smell of old paper. I couldn’t wait to get home to play it.
I set the record carefully on the turntable, pressed start and sat excitedly on the couch waiting for the smooth sounds from the tenor sax to fill the room and tickle my eardrums. Getz’s music, once again, did not disappoint me. I listened to the five pieces of music before the record player clicked back to the start position. I jumped up, flipped the record and pressed start again.
If I was listening to “The Sound” (Getz’s nickname) on Itunes or some other digital music source, I could sit back, press the digital play button and listen to the digital music endlessly. I would never have to get up and the sound of digital music is perfectly clear. There is nothing mechanical about a digital recording. With that comparison, you might wonder why anyone would prefer a vinyl record to a digital recording!
For me the main reasons are that listening to vinyl records is like practicing mindfulness. I cannot put the music on and multi-task. I have to be ready to flip the record, clean the record, and sometimes adjust the position of the needle if it gets stuck in a groove. I like that I can touch the record, feel the grooves, and smell the old cover. The most important reason that I like vinyl though is that the music comforts me. I realized that the white noise generated by the physical contact of the needle riding the “waves” of the vinyl soothes me. It is like a bedrock from which the music can literally rise off the vinyl.
I love watching the needle and arm surf the record. It seems to me that music, like life itself, must have a bedrock. I am soothed by the bedrock, background of the vinyl. It feels like any pitch can be reached from that record because it has a solid footing. When I think about digital music, it is artificial and has no physical contact. It can be simply deleted with the touch of a button. Of course, digital music has its place. If you are having a party and want music in the background that never has to stop – it is really convenient. It is also tough to listen to vinyl records in my van while going on a road trip but I don’t want to practice mindfulness while driving anyway!
If you have a chance one day to sit and listen to a vinyl recording, I highly recommend it. Listen and feel for the background noise and if you can do it while listening to “the Sound”, I promise you will have a music experience that will soothe your soul.