Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Vinyl Discoveries: Celebrating Record Store Day!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vinyl Discoveries: Celebrating Record Store Day!

     Happy Record Store Day! Yes folks -- today, April 20th, 2013, is Record Store Day!
     The best thing I ever did was buy a record player for my apartment. Since then, we have LOVED combing through record stores in different cities and towns, looking for cool finds and building our record collections, new and old. In general, it seems vinyl is coming back around as a medium for music. It's nice to feel something and own something as substantial and satisfying as a record album. There's something great about coming home on a Friday night and starting the weekend with a record, turning the volume up, watching it spin, hearing the tiny crackles, knowing that sound is mechanically happening right there in front of your eyes and ears, feeling the tiny etches inscribed on the object -- the vinyl --  knowing that those inscriptions will somehow generate the music when the needle is dropped.

     To help celebrate this resurgence, record store owners across the nation participate in Record Store Day, and artists and labels release material, new and old, on vinyl. This year's ambassador is the great Jack White. His essay on the Record Store Day home page urges us to "wake up" and make sure we don't lose this special medium. He is afraid it will disappear, that the youth of today are so used to things beings at their fingertips, at the click of a mouse, that they don't understand the beauty and humanity of going out and actually experiencing something: "Years ago someone told me that 1,200 high school kids were given a survey. A question was posed to them: Have you ever been to a stand-alone record shop? The number of kids that answered "yes" was... zero."  He writes,
"We need to re-educate ourselves about human interaction and the difference between downloading a track on a computer and talking to other people in person and getting turned onto music that you can hold in your hands and share with others.  The size, shape, smell, texture and sound of a vinyl record; how do you explain to that teenager who doesn't know that it's a more beautiful musical experience than a mouse click?  You get up off your ass, you grab them by the arm and you take them there.  You put the record in their hands.  You make them drop the needle on the platter.  Then they'll know. Let's wake each other up."
Mr. White is exactly right. To me, record store are about two things: discovery, and tangibility. The experience of going to a record store and buying a record and then going home and playing that record leaves an indelible mark on a person -- it is a material experience that charges your senses in ways that doesn't happen from downloads and digital media.

Here are some other great quotes about records and record stores that I found provocative and inspiring.  
"Record stores keep the human social contact alive it brings people together. Without the independent record stores the community breaks down with everyone sitting in front of their computers"
- Ziggy Marley 
“My local independent record shop (Honest Jons) is a library, where you can go to listen to music, learn about it, exchange ideas about it and be inspired by it. I think independent record shops will outlive the music industry as we know it because long term their value to people is far greater, because even in our era of file-sharing and blogs, you cant replace the actual look on someone’s face when they are playing something they really rate and think you should listen to it too. It’s special.”
- Damon Albarn (Blur, The Gorillaz, etc.) 
“I love the smell of them. I love that people actually care for and know about the music they are selling.”
- Neko Case
“It’s important to keep indie record stores alive because their unique environments introduce music lovers to things in a very personal way.”
- Norah Jones
These artists emphasize the bodily experience of being in a space that fosters interaction and knowledge. Thinking about the "record store" as a local cultural space that preserves human interaction, learning, discovery, teaching, expertise, and appreciation for materiality in the age of what White calls "disposable" digital media is important in an era in which technology globalizes our human network of ideas and digitizes many of our interactions. White ends his essay by reminding us that "there is beauty and romance in the act of visiting a record shop and getting turned on to something new that could change the way they look at the world, other people, art, and ultimately, themselves."
     Anyway, this is my tribute to Record Store Day! Check it out online to find a store, but don't stop there.  Get out there and check it out in person!
Enjoy -- Liza