“The Good Old Days”
An Exposition on Music and Nostalgia
There has always been a dispute between the past and the present, the ancient and the modern, the old and the new. In medieval times, before the renaissance and the age of philosophical enlightenment, the general consensus was that life was better in the past. The “golden days”, as they were called, were the days of great minds like Socrates and the prodigious empires of the Greeks and Romans. After the renaissance, and up until today, modern society tends to maintain the idea that the “golden days” are ahead of us, that the world can only be improved. This concept of past vs. present is also very prevalent elsewhere within a relatively shorter time frame: recorded music. More than a few people advocate the music of the past, specifically vinyl records, and claim that the time during the apex of vinyl music’s popularity was the single greatest time in music’s history. Others claim that vinyl records only functioned to fuel the creation of the modern digital music mediums that have taken the world by storm(O’Donnel). From this an important question arises? Is vinyl music actually any better than music today, or are people just looking back nostalgically, on their own “golden days?” Vinyl music was the main form of consumer music in the 20th century. Beginning with the archaic phonograph, a cylinder containing with music engraved around the outside, which eventually led to the creation of the gramophone record that was eventually perfected to be well known vinyl records. The music industry was booming with record sales skyrocketing. From the 1950’s until the late 1990’s, vinyl records reigned supreme over all other forms of personal music (History of Vinyl Music).
But the reign of vinyl music could not last forever. By 1992, vinyl music began to fizzle and cassettes took over, people were excited about the portability, carrying tape walkmen, listening to music wherever they went. The big, bulky, cumbersome records began to get left behind like an old toy they had grown out of (Knopper). Then, in 2001, outselling cassettes, CD’s came into play, high quality digital discs that could hold an entire album worth of music in a fraction of the size, and never popped or wore out no matter how often they were used. Then, only recently, around the millennium, the iPod was invented, solving all of the problems of the CD. It seemed music was becoming flawless, fast paced, high quality, and easily accessible. Some people, however, are against this advancement, claiming that it’s ruining the ways that music was meant to be, and so, arguments began to arise (Analog or Digital?). One debate, which has existed in the music industry ever since CD’s became popular is the “analog versus digital” debate. This is one of the few purely technical debates of vinyl music advocates. When music is digitized, it is often “compressed”, which means the highest and lowest tones, which the ear does not hear, are quite literally cut off from the audio wave. This allows the file to be smaller in size and more manageable, when storing them on a hard drive, or compact disc. The most common form of audio compression is Mp3. In order to make these Mp3s even smaller, a larger amount of compression can be added. The amount of compression for an Mp3 is known as kilobits-per-second (kbps), or “bit rate”. A higher bit rate signifies less compression. For the internet, on websites such as Myspace, files are compressed to about 120kbps to allow them to be more more quickly loaded by users browsing the site. When these types of files are downloaded off the internet by many people, low-quality music begins to circulate and eventually a band’s hard work done in the studio comes out of someone’s iPod
sounding like a wall of confounded clamor. The unfortunate part of this is that critics may get hold of this low quality audio and disparage it as “bad” because they can not truly hear...
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