May 1, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I needed a large circular template for a painting, and since neccesity is the mother of invention, I glanced across the basement and saw an old 33 rpm vinyl record, and the roughly 12-inch disc did the trick. It was a bit of irony that the record had been shelved into a dusty pile by the iPad music app I listen to at high volume when I work.
There is great convenience in using the music app since I quickly hear tunes from Buddy Holly to Johnny Cash to Glenn Miller to the Beatles, etc., but as I put the old Johnny Mathis record back into its sleeve, I felt a tinge of guilt that the voice impressed in the vinyl had long ago been silenced. Not Mathis, just the recorded version I have.
I also realized that 100 years ago, when wind-up Victrolas were playing scratchy 78 rpm records made of shellac resin, listeners would have been overjoyed to have almost unbreakable, longer-playing 33 rpm vinyl that, if cared for, offered few scratchy sounds.
Yet even that would be relative since just a few years before 1917, parlors had Edison music players with tunes recorded on even scratchier cylinders. Before that, there were player pianos with music notes delivered by perforated paper or metallic rolls. Before that, whoever was playing an instrument. And in between the iPad and the 33 rpm record were tapes and various cassettes.
Such has been the progress that guarantees we can always hear the music.
Still, as noted, a wisp of nostalgia that in the ever-faster pace of our time, the iPad app just pops on while not long ago, we carefully pulled a vinyl record out of its jacket, blew off the dust, gently placed it on the console record player and sat down to listen.
Almost more civilized.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.