Spin the Black Circle Again

Barnes and Noble sells vinyl records–not CDs, just vinyl. They’re riding a movement towards reclaiming an old-fashioned method of hearing music. People are going back to vinyl–not in huge numbers, but they are. Why?

Why are people listening to vinyl?

Vinyl records are expensive (at least new ones are). They’re not portable. They damage easily. You can’t skip around songs on a record–there’s no shuffle play. ┬áThen there’s the audio-clarity: far less clear than a digital recording.

But music lovers want vinyl.

Listening to vinyl is more experiential than listening to a CD or digital device. Listening to vinyl requires effort form the listener: the needle on the record player needs to be dropped, there’s a whole process to getting out the record, one must leaf through the stack of records to find the right album… To listen to vinyl is a commitment. No one will go through the vinyl preparation process just to hear one song. Putting on a record means putting on a record for the duration–or, in the least, half an abulm.

Above all else, though, it’s the sound of vinyl that people love, degraded quality and all. Some treasure the pops and clicks in between songs. Many testify to the “warmth” of a vinyl recording. The pleasure isn’t derived solely from the recorded music, but from the idiosyncrasies of the recording itself. Vinyl lovers don’t just appreciate the sounds of music, they love sound of vinyl. Their listening experience is enhanced by what comes between and what surrounds the music.

The full vinyl experience is ritualistic and disciplined. It requires something from the listener. There’s a creative element in listening, as the listener imagines what else is on the recording.

Perhaps during this season of Lent–this time in Christianity when we look forward to resurrection–we should consider making it a “vinyl-esque” time.

Or perhaps we consider how our vinyl experiences wake us up to the presence of the Divine.


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