One of my favorite childhood memories is playing a wild game of tag with my sister, and father, in the living room of my parent’s tiny apartment. What turned this ordinary game of tag into an all out rumpus was the spooky soundtrack provided by synth pioneers, Kraftwerk. During their seminal song this crazy, Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, voice chimes in and chants “Autobahn.” Couple that with the cheap strobe light my dad got from Radio Shack and you’ve got a kick-ass game of tag that would scare the shit out of any seven-year-old–I loved it. What makes that memory resonate is the process involved: taking the record out of the sleeve, careful not to scratch it, adding the disc washer solution to the soft brush so every bit of dust could be removed before spinning the record (it still popped though), and finally lowering the arm onto the LP and listening for the crackle and hum to whisper out of the speakers—GAME ON!
Fast-forward five years, it’s Christmas, and Santa has just brought me the number one item on my list: a Sony Sports Walkman. The thing was industrial strength, water-resistant (so they said), and had TWO headphone jacks: one for you, and one for your best girl. I played Britney Fox’s “Girlschool” over and over and over. In those days shuffle consisted of taking one tape out, tossing it in the pile, and searching around for another—preferably a tape that didn’t need to be rewound.
One theme connects these stories for me: the music and the player are objects I can touch, and smell. An old vinyl record has a distinct odor, like your grandparent’s house, or Value Village. Tapes, records, even CD’s all have that tactile quality that enhances memories. As I write this I remember a time when I tried to record a song off the radio with my boom box; the quality was terrible, but I got the song–for free! Put that in your LimeWire and smoke it. All of this leads me to why I made SYNC. I wanted to capture the feeling of connecting, physically, with people and music…the feeling you just can’t get with an MP3 player. On the flip side, I love my iPhone, three iPods, and mac with iTunes; I can take my music, all of it, anywhere. As long as the files are backed up, they can’t be destroyed, and the songs can live forever. When I really want to savor the music and the moment, though, I throw on a record and drift back to my parent’s living room. “Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn.”