A Minimalist Moment: The Sound of Digital

I’ve been whiling away quite a few long hours of this endless winter with some ripping. And it’s not my abs, sad to say. No, I’ve been going through stacks of my household’s rather healthy collection of music CDs and transferring them to my laptop and various MP3 players.

Importing all of these audio treasures has allowed me to time travel while I wait for the iTunes completion “burp.” Musical tastes around here are rather eclectic, anything from Chopin and Billie Holiday to CSNY and BeauSoleil to Enya and Modest Mouse.

Funny how the specific combination of a few notes can send you back to the awkward moves of junior prom, slam dancing in a downtown loft, your toddler’s first little jig, or the jams of rock concerts you could remember (and hear). I’m sure there will be raucous melodies I associate with assisted living when the time comes.

It’s also caused me to contemplate all the vehicles that have carried melodic ditties over the half century of my life, including 45s, LPs, eight-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs and now MP3 files. And these would be nothing without the radios, phonographs, reel-to-reels, stereos, cassette decks, boom boxes, and tape recorders needed to make them sing. I wonder what will take us down the pike next, forging ahead to some new George Jetson fantasy world.

Around 50 CDs left to go, and I’m at the end of the R’s, heading into the many S’s. (Yes, I alphabetize my music, okay. I’m gunning for the anally retentive retirement home.) Although I know that numerous outdated gems should be culled out, the money spent over the years makes me wince, and I’m reluctant to part with my partners in crime without giving them a second chance.

After all, there can be new life in digital mode. Long forgotten stuff pops up on shuffle like deja vu, and I find myself listening to golden oldies like they’re brand-new. Amazing what playing out of the expected order can do. Now, if I can only read the tiny print on my iPod that gives the song titles.

Here are the steps I took to dance to the “digital” beat:

  • Get rid of that handy CD rack. This is an excellent way to pull all the cases out and lay them on the floor in front of you. That way you’re forced to spring into action so you don’t keep tripping over them.
  • Round up all the strays. It’s easy to stay in denial if you’ve got scads of the little buggers stashed away in the attic, car and closet. Corral all of them together so that you can see the folly of your music-loving ways.
  • Set aside some downtime to rip the discs. My best opportunities come during the countless hours of sports viewing that occur at my house. I’ll be lost down memory lane while blocking out the fumbles and fouls, all the crying and floor pounding.
  • Take on only what you can handle. I’ll grab about five to ten albums to transfer. Otherwise it can seem like a formidable task. You may be asking yourself why on earth you needed to acquire EVERYTHING by your favorite 80’s hair band. Take little steps, as they say.
  • Organize, and organize some more. Whichever media player you use, I find that categories and playlists really help handle thousands of songs. Even the best alphabetizing can only go so far. And don’t even start me on compilations, oy vey!
  • Back it up, baby. I have one external hard drive and an older desk computer that I use for back up. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a third copy, just in case. I’ve also read about saving your files to the digital Cloud but I’m too cheap at this point to buy the extra storage (music files take up a lot of room, as you know).
  • Time to say goodbye. Quite a few industrious minimalists make money selling their old CDs and records on eBay and Craigslist. I’m too lazy and besides, I’m not sure how many fans would line up to purchase my pristine copy of Al Hirt’s Greatest Hits, and various other one-hit wonders. There’s always Goodwill, but I prefer to donate my musical hoard to the local public library, where the CDs can either be sold or maybe added to their collection.

I’ll come clean at this point, and tell you that I’m not getting rid of ALL our CDs. There are favorite albums from special times in our lives, that I just can’t part with as of yet. We’re keeping about 40 of them, only what will fit into a basket under a mini-stereo in the family room. They are the old friends we pull out and take along on car trips since tuning in the iPods on the car radio is a royal pain. So until we get a “modern” car, the CD player is how we roll.

In fact, writing this is getting me in the mood. Road trip, anyone?

Do you have other ideas on how to minimalize CDs, records and tapes, and the various options out there? I’d love to read about them here.

4 thoughts on “A Minimalist Moment: The Sound of Digital

  1. As an old LP man, I still think of music on a CD as minimalized. I miss the analog sound and the old LP album covers. Never had an urge to stick a CD up on my wall. But if you are starting with a heap of CDs, and you can reduce the lot down to a single disk or card, well, that seems like a win to me. It is still the same digitized sound. And unlike my old albums it won’t die the slow death of scratches, vinyl deterioration, and mold.

    1. suburbansatsangs

      Mike, we let our LPs go in the early 90’s after our turntable died. Back then you couldn’t find parts or even a replacement. How times change. Now LPs and turntables are back, and vinyl is cool again. And yes, I miss the album covers. Peering at the tiny pictures on the screen just doesn’t cut it.

  2. No ideas here; when it comes to books and music, I am a hoarder. (Luckily, I was never into 8 track and for me, cassette tapes paled in the face of CDs.) Although I have no turntable right now, I have crates of LPs and 45s I can’t bear to part with. I, too, miss album covers and readable liner notes. Mine are not pristine enough to sell on Ebay, even if I were to entertain such a thought. I rip CDs to put music on my mp3 players for the portability but suppose something happens to them? I’ll need the CDs to load up another one. Same with books, I don’t have enough shelf space to fit everything, dog-eared or not. I feel faint just thinking about minimizing… :p

    1. suburbansatsangs

      It is a bit scary to give away the CDs after transfer, so that is why I’m keeping our most treasured albums. And backing up my digital files frequently. I feel that music and books, especially, have great emotional power and are very hard to let go. I could live with very little, as long as I have my books and music. Thanks for sharing. I love your 1 + 1 Wednesdays, by the way!

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