Beyond and Before Digital

I haven't bought an album (or track) from the iTunes Music Store in just shy of a year. I still maintain my eMusic account, but I'm having more and more difficulty finding anything interesting there. But over the past four months, I've bought more new music than I probably have in five years. My appetite for music has never been as strong. Despite owning about 2,000 cds, 400 records and thousands of digital tracks, I still feel like a complete novice.

At a BBQ this weekend, I had a fairly long discussion with a stranger about jazz music in the 50s. We talked about Coltrane, Miles and an assortment of jazz icons, almost all of whom I know virtually nothing about. This is one genre, among many, that I still want to explore. I've always enjoyed classical music, yet I've never taken the plunge. I need a deeper understanding of early folk music and Stax/Volt soul. It's endless.

This morning I arrived at work to find a package containing Blue Mountain's two new CDs sitting on my desk. I pulled out the CDs, noticed the beautiful album covers and reached inside for the liner notes. I read every word. And then I put on the first CD. And I read the notes again while listening. Right then I realized how much I've missed this experience. Right then I realized why, of late, I've found myself back in the aisles of record stores seeking out music in physical format. It's such a part of the experience, and I can only imagine that many others will soon realize this.

Digital music, both for purchase and for streaming, is absolutely great for music. Listeners can immediately absord the music they crave. It's right there. But the problem is: It's not all right there. The sounds are accessible, but the people, photos, and printed words behind it all are nowhere to be found. This morning's mail reminded me of that.