Music. The artifact.

One day I was in the garage (okay, the Jack Russell was peeing in the house, on the not-exactly-cheap Persian carpet, and I was digging out the cage in order to retrain him that you pee on the old Washington Post, not the carpet), and there, in front of the cage/box/whatever you call the thing, was a stack of boxes of vinyl. I had read or heard on the radio something about kids-these-days thinking that music was free, and I saw all of that old vinyl, and I got to thinking about the artifact.

People talk about electronic books vs. real books and I got to thinking about MP3 music vs. real music. Back in the olden days of record store/head shops, when it cost about $3.99 to buy an album and about $0.51 more to buy a concert ticket, I remember the whole sort of fetishistic thing of the record album. Lying on the floor in a daze and poring over the album cover for clues as to the genius of, say, Frank Zappa.
There is something to be said for the artifact. The thing presented as a whole. In the olden days there were great radio stations. You could tape broadcasts, and even whole album sides, but there was nothing like having the artifact.
Maybe there is a dreaminess that is lost on people today. Young people today. There is the dreaminess of my youth that is lost on me with the responsibilities and vicissitudes of middle age. There was a desire to know that you either followed or you didn’t. Not like today. Look up Frank Zappa on the Internet and you will no doubt find a Wikipedia entry, providing everything you could possibly want to know in something like 0.4 seconds or less.
Or you learned to treasure the little snippet of information that you happened to find, and carried around with you ‘like a piece of carnelian in your pocket.’
If it’s all instantly to hand, then what is to treasure? It ceases to be treasure and becomes something like fast food. Consumed not for real pleasure but for some inchoate need.
There is something to be said for the artifact, although shortly I will be arguing vociferously against my own position. Carnelian. There’s something to find. An artifact.
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About Steve, i.e., him

Stephen Stark is an award-winning novelist and bestselling ghostwriter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, Poets & Writers and in many other journals. He has been a fellow and taught at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and won an NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction. His novel, Second Son, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 1992, and a New and Noteworthy Paperback of 1994.

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