For Christmas this year I received a turntable, some speakers, and a few hand-picked records – I’d been thinking of starting a vinyl collection for a while and had decided to take the plunge.
There was something exciting about opening that first record; about feeling the transparent wrap tearing back beneath my fingers, flexing the cover, sliding out the white paper sleeve, and tipping the solid black disc onto my palm. It had a surprising weight to it. It smelled new. It felt fragile. It felt precious. Music as a real and tangible artifact.
I’d like to say it was the first needle drop that brought the quiet revelation, but that came later. In the moment there was just the pop and hiss of blank space and then, of course, the music.
But something was different.
After I put the first record on, I sat back on my sofa and listened to side A. When side A finished, I flipped the record over and listened to side B. When that finished, I put a different record on the turntable, dropped the needle, and started again. I repeated this ritual as afternoon faded through pink sunset and creeping dusk before coming to rest in the finality of collected darkness; and then still on until the knock of sleep became too insistent to ignore.
It was beautiful. And what made it beautiful were the two things that were missing.
I had no impulse to do anything other than listen; and I had no urge to change the song to something different. For that brief time, I was simply content.
It was here that I found my quiet revelation.
Because in our age of fractured acceleration contentment is a revolutionary state of being.
I realized that, as the format of the music had changed – from cassette tape, to CD, to MP3, to streaming service – even though each iteration brought with it greater access and choice, I had paradoxically found myself spending less and less time actually listening to music.
What looks like progress is not always progress – limits can be a beautiful thing.
So I cancelled all my streaming subscriptions. I haven’t missed them. Even though I have a grand total of 6 records in my collection I have listened to more hours of uninterrupted music in the last month than I did in the whole of last year.
And with this quietest of revolutions, I am quite content.
Thanks for reading this, I hope it finds you well.
(P.S. In case any of you are wondering, I am now looking at ways to put some of my music out as vinyl. If you have any info on this feel free to hit me up.)
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