Sunday, October 28, 2007

For The Records

Remember records? Phonograph records? They were a very important part of my life, from the 50 pounds of 12 inch 78’s containing the complete Aida that my parents proudly owned before I was born to my present decimated collection of classical, folk and comedy records. As I was culling the collection, I realized that each record had its own relationship to my life. I remembered where I was and who I was when I bought each of them. If I were to keep some, which would they be? I did find that not all had sentimental value. Many were impulse purchases I made before going on the air at WBFB-FM Rochester for my nightly 6-8 program, Dr. G’s Empirical Compound. I had a little ritual. Before I sat down in the studio each night, I did a fast walk down the eclectic aisles of a nearby record store. Out of each purchase, there were at least one or two cuts interesting enough to make it onto Dr.G’s playlist for the evening. It was an odd program, completely self- absorbed. The selections were purely those that touched some nerve, a good nerve or a bad one. I remember putting together a set for Halloween. The calls I got that night spanned the entire range of human emotion, which pleased me no end. I played everything. Luciano Berio’s orgasmic “Parole” , Saint-Saens skeletons, and Berlioz Symphony Fantastique, reportedly an opium dream of love unrequited. He also contributed Damnation of Faust, giving the evening a decidedly maroon cast. Maroon music? Synesthesia, I think they call it- an association of one sensory input with another. Many composers were ‘afflicted’ with this neural confusion. But I begin to digress.

I remember the first “unbreakable record”. One true thing of my young life was that if you dropped a record, it would break. when I was about 10, my parents gave me a recording of Tubby the Tuba on a Decca Unbreakable record. This was a miracle before my eyes. I remember that for days before I actually played the record I played WITH the record, giddily rolling it across the basement floor and watching it not break. And surprisingly, it still played. This is undoubtedly because the weight of the tone-arms back in those days could both play and cut a record simultaneously. Any scratch in the surface was traversed by the needle as if it weren’t there and undoubtedly the errant topography of the scratch was leveled by the tons (literally- I did the calculation) of stylus pressure.

Not to diminish the recorded program, Tubby The Tuba, narrated by Danny Kaye, was a sweet story of a Tuba trying to fit into a symphony orchestra. It ends well. Just last week, I transcribed it onto my computer hard drive as an MP3, there to remain never further scratched, until, I suppose, the giant magnetic fields of the Sun, as it consumes the earth in it’s bloated, Red Giant phase will undoubtedly wreak havoc with the music if the temperature doesn’t go above the Curie point disorienting the magnetic domains first. The MP3 will outlive the vinyl unbreakable record by probably about a million years, so there’s some advantage to having transcribed it. Unfortunately, those million years come in about 5 Billion years and are therefore somewhat irrelevant. End of digression. Beginning of next delusion.

1 comment:

Simon said...

I've started buying a CD or two each week to use on my Saturday morning show. I just hope that it doesn't become an obsession similar to the one that Richard Gladwell has been battling for as long as I've known him. (45 years, more or less) I enjoyed trying to remember those visits to Midtown Records!