As I mentioned last week in this space, over the winter holidays I experienced a period of relatively severe burnout that left me unable to complete any task requiring more than a modicum of intellectual commitment. One of the chores that I set for myself in order to feel somewhat useful was the digitization of my entire music library.
I’ve never been an audiophile. Instead of investing in sound reproduction equipment that can replicate the concert experience, I prefer simply to go to more concerts. At home, I rarely sit down and listen to music on speakers, although I often don my (relatively) good headphones in order to concentrate while I listen. In short, at home I can’t hear the difference between a compressed MP3 and an original WAV file. Unfortunately, I can hear that distinction rather clearly when I’m listening on the good speakers that predominate in the rooms where composition seminars tend to congregate, which has led me to feel embarrassed over the quality of my sound files while presenting. I therefore make certain to keep the uncompressed files of my own music for those times that I need them, while at home I quite happily enjoy MP3s.
Since I don’t own a stand-alone CD player, for the past several years I’ve been using my computer or MP3 player to listen to music. The excessive noise that my computer’s disc drive makes when reading from a CD actually makes uploaded sound files a preferable listening experience. With my old computer and its miniscule hard drive, this led to a gradual diminishing of the percentage of the music that I owned that ever found its way into my listening rotation. I also appreciate the convenience of being able to immediately download new music instead of traveling to a store or waiting for the arrival of a physical shipment, which has led me to go several years without buying a new CD when an alternative existed. That said, my internet connections are not the best and I’m new to smartphones, which means that I greatly prefer owning music files to playing the same music off of a streaming cloud-based service.
My recent purchase of a new computer whose hard drive contains ten times the memory of my old one left me able to consider expanding the amount of music I could leave on my computer, able to be played at a moment’s notice. I began to upload some of the music that I might use for teaching—pieces that I’ve wanted to play in class only to realize that I had forgotten to transfer them to my computer. I decided to continue with some of the contemporary music repertoire that I enjoy but hadn’t played recently. At this point, I’d built momentum and continued uploading the rest of my classical CD collection. Since that’s over two-thirds of the music that I own, by the time I finished this step, I was ready to complete the task.
I now have an entirely digital music collection. My CD shelves have been removed from the living room, allowing for more light and space. And the happiest result is that I’ve been listening to music that I’d forgotten I own. I’ve always enjoyed going for long walks while listening to harsh contemporary orchestral music—it colors the scenery around me in the most intriguing way. Now these perambulations can be more highly varied. At home, I’m spending more time quietly sitting and concentrating on music that I’d left in my past. It’s a little like encountering an old friend who I haven’t seen in a while.
And, yes, I’ve backed up the files on two external hard drives. I definitely don’t want to be forced to retrieve those boxes from the basement in order to redo this process.