giovedì 30 giugno 2011

Collecting vinyl is Preserving Culture

The last century saw a dizzying developments in music’s recording, storing and distribution, both by “hardware” support (vinyl, cassette, CD) and software (mp3, digital download). The medium dedicated to sounds’ preservation has constantly changed in appearance and characteristics: from phonograph cylinders, back in early ‘900, to 78 rpm then 33 rpm discs, until CD. A change in form and materials: first ceramic, then vinyl and plastic. A change, in parallel, also in machines appointed to “translate” the information in those media: phonograph, turntable, cassette and now the comprehensive computers. An impressive evolution in a restricted time. All the more impressive when you consider the history of another medium par excellence in our social and cultural history: the book.
From invention of movable type (nearly 500 years ago) to present days, the book is virtually the same object: paper pages, stiff cover, various type of binding. This is clear, in fact the “translate-machine” is not changed so much: the man still has two eyes, two hands, ten fingers and (in most cases) a brain. Only in last years the e-book is trying hard to change the tables, with results still non comparable to the mp3 revolution. Therefore, given the rapid technology changing on one hand, and the forced immobility on the other, why not to compare a ‘700 Bible to a 1928 Paramount 78rpm; or a 1962 UK Decca to ‘800 dictionary? Is the time, the antiquity, the only parameter to judge those objects? And is the “time progress” comparable, considering the evolutions of those media?

Is not only about fanatic collecting of remote German label, is about preserving culture. The same culture that is inside an ancient book, or jewel, or even archeological ruin. The culture of a medium really short-lived: the vinyl stood for only 60 years, a ridiculous duration in modern history. And forget about the “last re-press”, and “new rise of vinyl”, or 180 g records: I’m talking about mass distribution. And the mass distribution, today, is taking another road…

So, is time to begin considering vinyl collecting like an act of cultural preservation, nothing less. A short-lived mass culture that does not deserve and should not be forgotten.

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