A "short" rantAs a music nut, I just want to put my .02 cents in. Reading this thread made me a bit sad as the end of transports would essentially mean the end of CD's.
Allow me to tell you a brief story with part of rant:
A few summers ago I was painting a house with my best friend. He is a bit older than me so he remembers the days of vinyl very well. I remember we got into the topic of music. One of his favorite bands just happens to be a small group of 4 guys who called themselves The Beatles. He recounted to me how he stood in line to buy Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and how he opened it and looked over the LP jacket artwork and proceeded to clean his record player, put the LP on side A and put the needle down carefully to listen to this album for the first time. It is an experience he would never forget. Remember this for later.
Many, many years ago, some people would travel great lengths to see music performed by an orchestra and others would stay home and play music on their own. This all changed with the advent of recorded music. All to often I find myself talking about music, art, movies, books and other similar topics with friends and family. This usually leads to a transition to the topic of the digital medium – usually the iPod. However, as much as I LOVE my iPod, I can not deny the fact that the main medium for human communication in the past 2,000 + years of our human history has been through oral and written forms. It comes to no surprise to me that people hold on their first editions of “The Catcher in the Rye” or more recently “The DaVinci Code”. There is just something special about having something in print.
This brings me to the current topic. Will CD transports ever become obsolete. My answer is – it depends. Like most people today, I know older folks who listened to music on something called a turntable. These relics of musical folklore were once, believe it or not, standard appliances which you could find in almost any household in the US way back when. Nowadays, the turntable is something you will find in few houses, houses that most likely contain an avid music fan or audiophile. In its place people have now put a small brick like white object which is sometimes connected to their stereos or other similar docking device so as to amplify the white bricks sound. I am obviously referring to the iPod. The iPod generation has vastly changed how most people listen and receive their music.
This could be taken as a sign of the evolution and adoption of recorded music technology. The vinyl record was able to be inexpensively mass produced but the downfall was that the players were not easily transportable. Enter the cassette tape. Most people saw the cassette tape as a new media format, but I found and still find that true music fans saw the cassette tape not as a new media format but a complimentary media format for their LP’s. The format was smaller and best of all, it was portable and anyone could make recordings on them. However, the LP was not replaced by the cassette. It wasn’t until CD’s came along that the LP began to disappear. Still debatable today, the CD was marketed as having better sound quality than LP’s. In a span of about 20 years, the global music market has transitioned from LP’s to CD’s and now – Digital (FLAC, MP3, OGG, etc). While the latest transition is still not fully understood, there are a lot of traditional issues which I feel prevent a lot of people from abandoning the CD format.
Digital formats like FLAC and MP3 have no physical form, no text, no pictures, no packaging and these new digial formats can be played on anything from an iPod to a laptop to a home theater PC. Musicians and the music industry in general are still adapting to this new technology. The methods for recording and mastering are now being experimented with in order to come up with a tailor made sound which sounds good on portable media devices. As a result, audiophiles are taking a hit as more and more new recordings and old remastered ones are made and released as hot mastered pieces of…where was I. Sorry – lost my train of thought.
Anyway, I digress – Will the CD transport become obsolete? To the newer generation of traditional music listeners – sadly - it already has. To music fans who appreciate the music as a ritual and social discourse – not for a while. I put myself in the second category. I enjoy purchasing a good album. Take for example TOOL’s new album – 10,000 Days. I enjoyed going to the store and talking with other TOOL fans. When I got home, I enjoyed taking off the plastic wrap so as not to damage the case and leave goo on it. I then enjoyed listening to the music for the first time as I held the album cover in my hands. I further enjoyed getting up, pressing play on my CD player so that I could listen to the CD again while looking at all the album art and stereoscopic images. At the end of the day, I was very satisfied with my album and considered it a work of art. I then proudly placed the case along my collection of albums and felt proud to add another jewel to my collection.
Move on to another normal 24 year old who downloaded the album. He listened to it, probably on his iPod or through winamp or itunes. Liked it and christened it “a cool album”. However, he missed out on talking to other fans, he missed out on enjoying the artwork and going through the steps of really listening to every nuance on the album (which could have altogether been eliminated through lossy compression). He merely listened to it.
So what does this ranting boil down to? Art. Plain and simple. Creating a music album is not just mish-mashing a bunch of songs into a collection. Creating a music album is an artform in and of itself. Looking at the packaging, the album artwork, reading the liner notes penned by your favorite band member and keeping that CD or LP on your shelf as a small time capsule making up part of your life’s soundtrack is what it is all about – no more than that – it is what it should be about. The ability to buy an album or download one via the web has led many to appreciate new technologies while condoning a loss in quality standards and completely ignoring the artistic impact of physical mediums. However there are those us who still enjoy the physical mediums of music and its packaging. If the CD is the end of the line of physical mediums for music then CD transports will be obsolete and the art of the album package will be long gone.
In the future, I hope my children, like my best friend, are able to recall a landmark album is their lifetime and I hope they will be able to relate to someone. Not just relate the music but also be able to relate to what a joy it was to wait in line in anticipation, to open the album and to see the art for the first time while listening to quality recorded and mastered music at the same time. Think about the first time you opened an album, be it TOOL’s 10,000 days, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper or Pink Floyds Dark Side of The Moon. Is that an experience we wish to rob future generations of by replacing it with a 75 x 75 pixel image of the original artwork? I leave it up to you but I will do my part and continue to buy albums and hold my music experience in high esteem.