THE MUSIC OF OUR LIVES
As we prepared this issue of HWM, I realized that I’ve gone through two major evolutionary milestones in music. The first was the move from analog to digital. My first exposure was through my parent’s vinyl collection. As a teen, I dabbled in cassettes, creating mixtapes through serial recording. The digital era came in the form of CDs; then MP3 players. Those were the days of ripping, burning, encoding and transcoding; the days of the file format wars. While MP3 was mainstream then, there were many other formats vying for attention. I remember having at least a dozen copies of the same songs because it was a never-ending experiment to find the format and bitrate that for the best quality to storage ratio.
The second and more recent development was the transition from physical storage to cloud storage. Besides a a few keepsake CDs, my home has undergone a purge of media, discs and older (obsolete) HDDs collected over the years. Physical media has become disposable media; everything is now stored on the cloud and any new purchase is digital. My experimentation with file formats turned into an experiment to find the ideal cloud. Do I just need an online backup for my existing files, such as Dropbox, or do I want to convert to a library service like Google Play Music or iTunes Match?
Both options involve some degree of technical know-how, and depending on how diligent you were maintaining your files, cataloging and uploading everything to the cloud can turn out to be quite the chore.
There is however, an offshoot development in the form of cloud streaming. Instead of managing one’s own collection, a streaming service enables everyone to access a common catalog. You can draw a parallel between the popularity of services like Spotify and Deezer to analog radio, where one focuses on listening to and discovering music, instead of obsessing over technical details.
I’d like to think of as technology coming full circle, making life easier instead of adding more complexity and returning to the root of what it was meant to improve.