Musical Musings

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 1999-03-27) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

I love music. I almost constantly have an album or one of my mixed tapes playing in the background whether I'm at home, at work, or even (until my Walkman™ decided to die recently) on the bus or train as I commute.

I have a very wide range of tastes (or at least I think I do), which pretty much includes everything but twangy country and “gangsta rap.” I especially love traditional Celtic and Celtic-derivative music --- and I liked it even before it became trendy! Score one for me!

Speaking of scoring, the other genre I'm big on is movie scores --- now, I don't mean soundtracks, even though that's what they're sometimes referred to as (oh, my bad grammar!). To relieve the confusion, soundtracks properly refer to “songs” or source music (music that has a visible on-screen source) that are in the film, whereas the score is the (usually) orchestral music that enhances the emotion in a scene. I often wonder what my life would be like if I had an orchestra following me around, scoring my life. Probably a lot more crowded --- intimacy would be difficult at best, and car trips would be a veritable nightmare. Maybe I could make them really tiny...

In any case, at this writing, my wife and I have nearly 500 CDs together, and we still have several more albums on tape and LP (you know, those big black vinyl things?). In addition to these “hard copies,” I have come to know the joys of the latest and greatest in computer-based compressed audio --- the MP3 format.

MP3 is actually an abbreviation for MPEG 1, Layer 3, --- a compression scheme that reduces digital audio to roughly 1/10th of its uncompressed size, while still retaining near-CD quality. Of course, this technology has the Recording Industry Association of America up in arms (their reaction to every consumer-recordable digital format so far) because they fear it will be used for audio piracy --- and to be at all honest, it is. It is also, though, being used by a growing number of music artists (Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Billy Idol, to name a few) to promote their new material.

One of the uses I imagined when I first heard of the format was to use an old Mac I have laying about as a jukebox --- just digitize all of my CDs (admittedly, no small feat) and let ’er rip! I could finally get rid of all those CD cases! After my initial excitement, though, I realized what an enormous task that would be, and being the lazy guy I really am, gave up on the idea.

A few weeks ago, I was alerted to the existence of a group, empeg car, who is building a production model of an in-dash MP3 player for your automobile. Amazing! And to top it off, with the advances in hard drive technology (it uses up to two of the 2.5" drives designed for laptops) it can currently hold up to 28.2 GB (yes --- gigabytes) of data, which translates to roughly 500 hours of music. That’s nearly 3 weeks of non-stop music without repeat.

I could encode my entire music collection and have it in the car with me at all times! Again, the spectre of encoding my collection rears its ugly head, but I figure after I've won the sweepstakes that will allow me to buy the $1000+ unit, I'll be able to afford an assistant to do it for me, and install it in my new DeLorean.

Hey, I can dream, right?