Monday, December 26, 2011

Aural Ephemera

Happy Post-Christmas everyone!  For those who celebrated, I hope Santa was good to you and that you got lots of ephemeral goodies in your stockings!

While I was bestowed with an embarrassment of riches (like a panini press from my mom and an awesome art piece from my sister), there is one gift that I received from Brian that fits the ephemera bill - in a different way.

I'm referring to this AMAZING Crosley 5-in-1 audio set.  First, let's talk about the vintage look.  I love it when companies do this!  I mean, this style of radio was long out of fashion by the time I was born, but it hearkens to a time before TV and when vinyl ruled.  And to this end, I have a record player and tape deck again!!

Here's where the aural ephemera comes in.  I probably hadn't heard my 45s in 15 years because it's been that long since I've had access to a record player (you know there's some 12 year-old kid who's asking his parents, "What's a 45?").  I had a boombox but it got trashed during Community Theatre rehearsals and we just never saw the need to replace it (this was right around the time when we were transferring all of our music onto our new iPod, back in 2005).

Friday night, I heard my old music for the first time in ages (yeah, we opened our gifts early).  One could argue that I could have purchased all of this music on iTunes if I really wanted to, and that would be correct.  But much like a reproduction or photocopied label is no comparison to the original, there's just something truer about hearing your music in the medium by which it became popular.  So yes, I suppose I could've downloaded Herb Alpert's hit "Rise"(1979), but to hear it on my own 45 was a blast from the past that I just couldn't recreate with an MP3 file.

The same thing happened to me when I busted out all of my old cassette singles.  Do you remember this format?  It was only around for about 5 years in the late 80s-early 90s.  I worked at Musicland during the school year of '89-'90 and much of my paycheck went to these wastes of money.  These babies were something like 3 bucks apiece!!!  But I loved them and I have a whole file of them.  Because I only really bought them when I worked there, they serve as a diary of sorts of that one year of my life.  And when I put Del Amitri's "Kiss This Thing Goodbye" (1989) in the deck, I was instantly transported back to East Mason Street in Green Bay to our college house where my roommates and I played host to many, many house parties on Friday nights (each of which netted us about $600, because we'd charge 3 bucks at the door).  GOOD TIMES.

Even though you could argue that because music isn't a tangible object it can't really be counted as "ephemera".  But much like the smell of crayons, to me it's one of the most ephemeral parts of our lives.  It has the power, like certain smells, to instantly transport us back in time.  I get just as wistful (probably more so) hearing a song from my past than I do looking at old magazines.  For those of us who enjoy visiting the past on a daily basis, hearing old records and tapes is an integral part of the experience.  I will say that all of my old music sounded terrible (cassette tapes weren't meant to last 100 years), but that just enhanced the memories and served as a reminder that nothing is forever.  And when I get tired of hearing the crappy recordings, the Crosley has a plug for my iPod.  :D

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