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.

J

(P.S. In case any of you are wondering, I am now looking at ways to put some of my music out as vinylIf you have any info on this feel free to hit me up.)

What did you think of this post?  Did you love it?  Hate it?  Do you have any thoughts, responses, or questions?  I would love to chat with you about them.  The comments box is waiting (just below).

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Did you like this Post?

Then you may also like: my essay on how to have more perfection in your life, the 5 reasons I get happier as I get older or, the real reason I make music for a living.


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63 thoughts on “ A Love Letter to Vinyl… ”

  1. Great post! I started re-collecting vinyl just over five years ago. You’ll be amazed at how quickly that collection of 6 turns into 60 records. In addition to the act of active listening, something else that I learned I missed with the advent of the MP3 was the act of flipping through music in brick and mortar record shops.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi James,
    I’ve been buying vinyl since the mid 1970s. I resisted COs until I found it hard to get the latest album I wanted. Then downloads became another big leap for me. I got an iPod but wanted my vinyl records playing on it. Although I played my vinyl often (I can spend hours with no tv, distractions) I wanted my sounds whilst travelling. I got a turntable that converted my vinyl to mp3. I don’t stream. Again another resistance from me. I started to blog about my music, admittedly not as often as I’d like, but it’s made me listen to some records that haven’t seen the light of day for years and which bought back so many memories. Happy listening it’s great folk are going back to vinyl.

    Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi! I really loved the blog!
    ” What looks like progress is not always progress – limits can be a beautiful thing.”
    As a designer, I’m learning the truth in this every day. Beauty lies in the moment one absorbs it, not in the object.
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there,
      Thankyou very much, I am genuinely glad you found something that resonated.
      I love the way you state this, that the moment itself is a part of beauty. This is a keen insight indeed.
      Thanks for reading it. Be well.
      – J

      Like

  4. This is the first time I happened on this subject and i enjoyed this very much , I am a collector of vinyl records.. I have several boxes of 78 rpm that I have collected over the years. I seldom take them out of their cover but when I play them it is on a vintage Grundig that I brought home with me from Germany. I really treasure these old records, they really take one back to a time forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was a truly beautiful way of describing the sound of vinyl. I’m hoping to get one this year and have yet to experience the beauty of tangible music. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post so much James! I became quite a collector of vinyl since I was teenage after I got my first turntable as Christmas gift from my parents I was 15 since then I listened all the best of music and I started to collect all my favorite bands and artists, historical rock, experimental, alternative music, and much more. A vinyl can give amazing feelings and create atmospheres that are not the same in digital versions. I was sad 15 years ago when I moved to US from my native country Italy I couldn’t take my vinyl with me :-( but I left them in the care of my younger brother and my parents are there too. As a visual artist I love to listen specific music when I create my paintings and art, I grow up with it all my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah! We are of like mind ;-)
      I think this is absolutely true, but I honestly don’t know why.
      I love to listen to music whilst making visual art as well.
      Thankyou for writing to me, hope you are well.
      Have a good one,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “and I had no urge to change the song to something different…” to me that is read as ‘as intended’. To listen as the artist intended you to hear it from start to finish.
    Collecting Vinyl can take up a lot of space when 6 become 16 become 160 but it’s worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post! There is nothing that sounds as amazing as the needle dropping on a vinyl. It’s soothing and takes me back to a simpler time.

    My turntable came to me when my dad passed away. I also got his record collection – everything from The Beatles and The Who to 45s from the 1950s. I not only think of him when I play them but also feel such a sense of freedom. Freedom from the rush of today’s world and the endless stream of information being thrust at you 24/7.

    It’s the best, really. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankyou so much, really glad you liked it.
      How beautiful to have inherited something so precious that you can enjoy again and again!
      (And I know exactly what you mean about that sense of freedom.)
      Thanks for writing to me, feel free to hit me up anytime, and have a good one,
      – J

      Like

  9. Loved this post! I’ve been reading Nicolas Carr’s “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.” One of the book’s theses is that not just content, but the form in which we absorb that content, matters as both a cause and effect of how we pay attention. Your wise and gentle observation is a great corollary. May you enjoy many hours of contented, single-minded listening, James.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankyou so much, I really appreciate that.
      That book sounds really interesting, I have added it to The List ;-)
      You are very kind, I wish you all the best. And Thanks again.
      Have a good one,
      – J

      Like

  10. the differences you write about remind me of the Vinyl DJ vs. Digital DJ debate. I always seem to hear people on one side or the other, complaining that a vinyl DJ is antique, or conversely that a digital DJ has it too easy. I got the chance to talk with my turntable hero: Kid Koala at a show he had in Seattle. He agreed that it’s not about the tools you use, the real question is, are you using the medium to the fullest? I choose to enjoy vinyl DJ’ing when I need to confine myself creatively, whereas I choose digital DJ’ing when I want to ride the chaos of infinite possibilities. This relates back to your post, let me explain; vinyl DJ’ing, like vinyl collecting, gives you a much more personal and realistic experience with the music (IMHO). In 2017, you pay for that experience with about 700%-100K% more per song on vinyl vs. digital. So, you’re limited by shipping or record stores, and your budget. Long story short: There is music out there that your ears need, and some of it won’t be on vinyl (sadly). I hope that one day enough people become fascinated like you to create a cultural resurgence for vinyl, since what you said about the experience is spot on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is really interesting. I, also, embrace both mediums, putting out my own music digitally, whilst now using vinyl for most of my listening.
      I love your vision for he future, and I will be doing my absolute best to help it come into fruition.
      Well met, and well said. Thankyou.
      Have a good one,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

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