Sunday, January 15, 2006

Burn Versus Cassette

Last summer I set up a "old school" stereo system. I bought at a yard sale a Cassette deck and old JVC with a silver metal face and big honking VU meters, microphone inputs and individual recording level knobs. Really simple...non-logic mechanism. I got it because I had a bunch of old band stuff on tape that I wanted to digitized for prosperity. Well as things would go daughter quickly took to using it for recording her own songs. So I recently replaced that deck with other thrift store "gems". An Akai that won't record but looks awesome. Another JVC that is a adaquate deck but with some issues and I picked up a Pioneer dual cassette deck that plays and records fantastic, sounds great but looks stupid with the vintage silver face Pioneer receiver.

Well getting back to the story....I wanted to record some of the recent albums I picked up onto tape some casual playing. In doing so I rediscovered the joy of "recording" versus simply copying or ripping. Time was when you got ready to record you settled in for a relaxing few hours of listeining to music and paying close attention to levels, and cleaning records, setting up the cassette deck for top performance. I did all this. Cleaning the heads, testing the various settings for noise reduction and finally picking two album that will occupy the same tape. Always a interesting process.

So taking a step into the new, I thought it might be cool to put my favorites from iTunes onto tape, as my carpool has only a cassette. I found this was not easy. I have over a two hundred songs feeely downloaded and all were considered now I had to put together a list and organize for recording.

I picked the top 15 songs from the top of the top. Then arranged then to fit snugly on the 45 per side of a 90 minute tape.

Then I queued up the songs in iTunes and ran a line into the aux input on the Pioneer reciever. And Played them, recording them to tape watching the tape slowly advance and eyeing the levels as each song went. Funny thing is as I put together the list it took me a significant amount to time to pick, prep and actually record the tunes. Contrast this with ripping 6-8 audio CDs to MP3s and burning them MP3s to a data disk for transfer to another computer.

iPods are Conehead "mass quantities".

5000-10,000 songs. With playlist generated any number of ways. Very little investment in time to produce. And possibly...thought.

It seem our appetite for more has made obsolete the 90 minutes found in a cassette tape. But to me I find that it is just different.

Picking songs to fill a cassette now is no easy task. One bad tune can make or break the entire cassette. I found a party mix tape made in 1987 or 88 by the singer in the band I was playing in. He made ame a mix tape of various music he thought I would like from his huge vinyl collection. Including Husker Du, Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, Gear Daddies, Clapton, Peter Himmelman and ::::shudder:::: Concrete Blonde. the result is a tape I like but when it gets to Concrete Blonde and can't take it and stop the tap there. "Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man"....:::::shudder::::::.... Despite that one song I really like everything else on it. And now that much of what is on it is rare it is even a bigger treat.

The trick with cassettes was getting a tape mix that would last all the way through both sides. I think this is almost lost as with a lflick of a finger you can simply move to another song. Select a massive number and move them here and there. With so many songs at ones disposal so quickly one can never learn to grow into a album or song.

In some ways it seems that music is not as special to the iPod generation as it was for those of who made our fist mix tapes on 8-tracks and cassettes.

I have a long hustory with cassettes that goes back to my orange super beetle in 1976. I installed a cassette deck with a 4o watt EQ and some three way speakers in wood cabinets for that little place in the way back of the bug.

For many years after my music collection consisted primarily of cassettes. I learned to appreciated a find cassette deck and when I met someone I would ask if I could bring some tapes, beer and some smoke and pass the time picking some albums to record. Ussually the audiophile would be more than eager to spend a evening making a some recommendations and supervising the recording process. A prossess that would net me three or four tapes worth of music a buzz and a chance to learn more about music I hadn't heard yet.

I found more out about the Talking Heads, The Jam, REM, James Gang, The Band and host of others making tapes with friends.

Not to pine for the old days. Because I like carrying on my notebook with 20 albums and hundreds of free mp3 downloads. BUt I found today I missed the process. The technical beauty of analog tape and taking time to really fully absorb yourself into the pure enjoyment of making a cassette tape. A tape that I am sure will be found in a box twenty years from now, played and enjoyed again.


M1 said...

Oh how I look back with great fondness to the simpler, idealistic, innocent times when music was only analog and we didn't have all this sterile digital stuff and we had to walk through 2 feet of snow for 5 miles to get a chance to listen one song on a scratchy old 45... Man, those were the good old days.

Bradly O. said...

Dude - I've heard your "stereo" and it is about the same as listening to a scratchy 45 on a "close and play".

I'm gonna build you a sickly cool vintage "stereo" this year.

Actually listening to iTunes running through the old Pioneer sounds pretty sweet.

The vinyl is hit or miss depending on the record...and the tapes....well I like those too...

It's all good.

Tom B. said...

Cd or mp3 but thats just me a realist. Unfortunatly I missed the vinyl age by a year or 2, being 26. None the less I have to say that you three are the best music I have heard since the days when one of my brothers would play some Zep, Doors, or Floyd. I heard you at Guiness on 1/12 and I even said, "wow so Zep/Doors." to Mike. Very good set and very very moving, rockin' tracks. Can't wait for the 9th of Feburary.

Bradly O. said...

Hey Tom....

I;m glad I had a chance to shoot the shit with you the other night. It made me remember why I have slogged along all these years. No shit.

Rock and fucking roll baby...that is all I can say.

Lets spread the "high quality love".