Monday, February 06, 2006
Digital v Analogue #3: Why I love iTunes
In 1989 I purchased my first CD player to supplement the amp, tuner and cassette deck that comprised my design studio’s sound system. I also bought my first CD, a copy of Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy. Month by month I added more shiny discs to my collection. At first I stored the CDs thematically. However, once the collection grew to more than 300, this became impossible to maintain, and so I adopted the conventional (male?) ‘alphabetical, by artist’ approach (with ‘Now That’s What I Call A Great Marketing Idea’-type albums in a separate section). As time went by, I got a CD player at home as well, and some of the CDs began to migrate there, also stored alphabetically.
Fast-forward to 2006. I now possess over 3,000 CDs. A third of them are housed in my Slough-based design studio. Another third are stored in various locations in my house. The other third are with various family and friends I’ve loaned them to over the past 20 years (deep sigh...).
B.I. (Before iTunes) if I wanted to listen to a particular song, I would have to:
a. Remember who performed the song;
b. Remember what the song was called;
c. Remember if the song was on a CD by that artist, or;
d. Whether it was on a compilation CD (and if so, which one!);
e. Remember where the CD was (studio, home, on-loan, car…).
However, now that all the songs I possess and enjoy are situated on my PowerBook, when I think of a song I want to listen to I merely type a few letters into the search bar of iTunes and ‘Hurrah!’, there it is (along with a number of other, easily distinguishable tracks containing the same key words).
No more worrying whether the track is by Kevin Prosch, or the Black Peppercorns, or if it is on the CD he did with Bryn Haworth. No more struggling to remember what that song is called on Blonde on Blonde with the great ‘everybody must get stoned’ refrain at the end of each verse, just type in ‘blonde’ and ‘dylan’, view the 12 tracks, and then, if necessary, play a few bars from each.
Of course, if you’re anything like me (pause for long silence, followed by skyward stares and tuneless whistling), you also type ‘everybody must get stoned’ into the ‘comments’ field of the track, making it even easier to find! (The track is ‘Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35’, but then, you’ve probably already looked it up on Google :-).
Now, I could get even more boring on this subject (no, really, I could!). How I make ‘smart playlists’ to make sure I don’t have to listen to the same song twice in any given month, to filter tracks that might be embarrassing in certain situations, or... OK, I’ll stop now, while I’m behind.
What I do know is that iTunes allows me access to music in ways that were previously impossible. I don’t forget to put the CD back in its case, or put it in the wrong one. I’m not constrained to one method of storage or selection. And I can carry my entire collection around with me wherever I go.
But it's not perfect. The ghost of analogue is never far away, and never more so than with this kind of stuff. And we'll be looking at that in the next DvA article.