Old Congolese 78 rpm records, being the three ...

Old Congolese 78 rpm records, being the three on the lower left examples of Ngoma discs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tough title to come up with. Thanks to an allergy attack knocking me out for a few days (maybe I should wear a mask when I go out shopping until allergy season is over?) I didn’t get any of my own clutter clearing done. My dad got lucky though. On the aforementioned shopping trip we stopped in at a Goodwill store because he had store credit and needed to use it up before it expired. I got a nice jacket (I still need something more like a windbreaker but I haven’t worn it out yet so it might still be good) but my dad picked up something he’s been looking for since he picked up a new record player, namely a case to put their old records in.

My generation still had vinyl records but we were making the transition to cassette tapes as the 8-track was already looking for a replacement, while the generation after me made the transition to CDs. The current generation has gone from the CD to MP3s downloaded off the internet and it looks like physical media is on the decline…he said not having actually checked sales figures. Now you can get your music any way you want. Vinyl records are actually making a comeback. CDs are still being made, although cassette tapes have gone the way of the 8-track and VHS tapes. Recording on magnetic tape is pretty much dead folks. Now it’s digital (CDs and MP3/i-Tunes) and I don’t see the magnetic tape following records in the retro game.

So what does this have to do with clutter you may ask? Well, it got me thinking of all the ways there are to convert previous formats to digital. We have another record player that can be used to convert records to MP3s, and I can hook a decent cassette recorder to the computer via a headphone to microphone wire. (8-track is still out of luck. I don’t even think you can buy a new machine that plays those and we still have a bunch left that will never be listened to again.) And I was thinking “could someone think that they could convert all their old records and cassettes to MP3 and convert CD files to MP3 and just put them on their player of choice, usually a cell phone or SD card, and then get rid of them in favor of the less space-taking SD cards and flash drives?” and then I thought about why that would be a bad idea, at least as a clutter removal project.

I’m not against someone wanting to take an old Backstreet Boys album or whatever your music tastes are and wanting to bring them on your cell phone? I have a few music bits on mine too. And as far as clearing out space, they do take up room, and you could use that space for…I don’t know, whatever your needs are. Until dad picked up that record case he kept the records in an endtable where it was harder to find the record he wants and there’s still a bunch more in the closet in a plastic tub to be looked through. Imagine not even needing that big record player or a decent CD player because now you just have to hook the phone to your soundbar or some bluetooth speaker and hear aaaaallllllll the music you want! I don’t think it’s going to work that way though.

The first problem comes from why vinyl is coming back as a recording option. Sure you need special equipment so you can’t make them like you can CDs or MP3s but I’m talking about a listening option. I’m no audio expert but listening to people who are a record has a certain way of producing the sounds that are different from the cleaner digital options. While cassettes and 8-tracks probably have that as well it never invoked the nostalgia of the record. And comparing a record to a CD is an apples/oranges situation. Digital is cleaner but something about that rougher style makes for a different audio experience. Older records were recorded, and music written, with the record in mind back then and even as cassettes and CDs were the only option until recording studios and music writers figured out what this new style brought with it.

And records never really went away. While clearance and thrift stores used to be filled with old records as people embraced the CD, DJs were still picking them up for scratching because even the emulations never sounded the same as spinning a James Brown record back and forth, even if you could replicate the physical act. People started to miss the way records produced sounds, and a handful of performers still released records. Now records are making a comeback. You still can’t pick them up at…who actually sells new CDs anymore? I can’t find the record section at Wal-Mart or Target. It may be there and I’m missing it, but I still have to go to FYE, who are announcing lowered sales. People are just ordering the CDs or downloading the MP3s off of Amazon, but some people are using it to order records. There are companies who will produce a “port” of a new album to vinyl because it’s still a different way of listening to the music. (I wonder if a DJ is using a Daft Punk record to scratch during a remix of a Daft Punk song released digitally?)

Verbatim ST 600 XD High Density Streamer Casse...

Verbatim ST 600 XD High Density Streamer Cassette for use with 150-160 MB capacity systems (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And with records coming back there are storage devices sure to return. That record player my dad owns also has a radio, CD player, and cassette player. (Poor 8-tracks still get no love outside of people stuck in the 1970s.) A CD tower really doesn’t take up that much room and modern design also includes shelves built into the walls, which I’m sure can be used by a music enthusiast to show off their collection. (It’s better than some of these home improvement shows where staging involves a pile of books acting as half a bookend set to books standing up…who decorates like that in real life?) I have a small storage box for all my cassettes with drawers, and it’s easy put out of the way. (I can’t reach it right now, but that’s what this project of mine is all about, right?) And both of us have a record storage case where you put the record player on top (although my cassette player is a separate unit and it has an option for a third device through the equalizer…I don’t own a CD player I can hook up that way though). Do you really have better plans for that corner?

SD cards are great for storage but they have a few flaws that come with that size: they’re easier to lose and easy to break. And unlike vinyl it can be erased rather easily as it holds the same weakness to a magnet as the cassettes and you can accidentally erase it when trying to reorganize the music on there. Records can be fragile as well when dropped or develop scratches…as can CDs, but they’re harder to lose and magnetic fields have no effect on them since the sound comes from grooves cut into the record. It’s not a better solution, just a different and more portable one.

Clutter maintenance isn’t about throwing out the baby with the bath water…although how your baby fits down a modern drain is beyond me. I just hope he or she can swim, but I’m going off topic. It’s about taking stuff you like and better organizing them so they aren’t a mess and you can find them. Pull out an old record, tape, or disc, and see if you still like the music. If you do, keep them around, maybe make a digital copy for archival purposes or to bring with you, but keep the disk/tape where you can find it and isn’t a visual mess. If you don’t like, then get rid of it, because someone may want that old record to listen to or to scratch at their next rave. And that’s not counting stuff you may not even be able to find, like a local performer who has since retired or passed on. My dad has a record that will probably never see a CD or Mp3 release by a performer who wasn’t big enough to be worth a lot of money. He could make a CD recording of it, but it won’t have that same quality, that same nostalgia as a cleaner recording without all those special noises only a record player makes.

Don’t kill an experience to kill the clutter. You want to come out of this not regretting your actions. I know that’s the hard part, especially for hoarders, but that’s for another commentary, and I’m hoping to get back to the actual project next week. So I’ll just hide here until the flowers are done polluting the air and my nose.