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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

MP3 Obsession

Before coming to Dartmouth, I had, of course, read about MP3s and how they would revolutionize the music industry. I even spent what seemed like days downloading one on my ancient computer of two years at home. So when I picked up my brand spankin' new Mac in the fall, I was ready to turn it into a virtual jukebox. After all, I love music, and I'm always broke, so MP3s sounded like some sort of divine gift.

And for awhile, they seemed just like that. I was getting all of these songs that I liked but had been too afraid to buy the CD. I indulged myself in all sorts of guilty pleasures, from Men At Work to Blink 182 -- even Queensyrche! After all, everything's free! Fill up your pockets and hard drives, little boys and girls! Then I woke up a few weeks later ...

"My God, what kind of musical slut have I become?" I asked myself. I felt dirty. Used. Degraded. I wanted to blame it all on the happy intoxication of freshmen year, but that couldn't explain away my Sunday afternoon escapades with Extreme and Michael Jackson. I realized that if I didn't stop now, I'd have Backstreet Boys singing me to sleep at night. It was then that I realized that MP3s are actually gifts from hell -- with a falsified return address.

Coming back from winter break, I was ready to say "no" to my MacAmp. For Christmas I had received new CDs from the Roots, Charlie Parker, and Modest Mouse, among others. These would be my weapons. I kept protection near my desk in the form of Caselogic CD holders. But alas, laziness prevailed, and it was just so much easier to hit play on my pre-conceived playlists. My musical debauchery continued.

During Spring term, programs like Napster and Macster have raised my opinion of MP3s by allowing me to find such gems as Ben Harper paying tribute to Marvin Gaye and the entire new Common album, but even these programs are primarily filled with the same hit singles populating the radio airwaves.

MP3s were supposed to help independent bands compete with major labels by leveling the monetary playing field and pushing musical ability to the forefront. Instead, I've found that MP3s just lead to degrading musical one-night stands. What ever happened to the idea that an artist should produce an entire album of quality music? Sure MP3s are great for artists like Don McLean (name another tune of his other than "American Pie" ... didn't think so), but a single song can never give you the same feeling as, say, Miles Davis's complete "Sketches of Spain" or Tom Waits' "Heart of Saturday Night." Great musicians create an entire album to be consumed and enjoyed in one sitting, and unfortunately MP3s (like MTV and radio) make this easy to forget.

Maybe I was too elated by Newsweek prophecies and corporate lawsuits. I expected too much. Newspapers and magazines tracked down college students who boldly declared a permanent divorce from the conventional CD, and I'm sure some of them meant it. But as the media romanticizes this new digital frontier, we can't forget the awkward intangibility of our technology. After all, how would you like it if next birthday Mom and Dad just blitzed you a folder entitled "Birthday Gifts"? Call me old-fashioned (as I'm sure some Computer Science majors will), but I like to listen to my CD while browsing through the liner notes; who plays on what track, what's he singing about on track nine, why does Paul McCartney have no shoes on, etc. It's just an instinctive American infatuation with packaging. Maybe I'll outgrow it one of these days.

Although all of my complaining may appear to be nothing more than the pessimistic thoughts of a rambling luddite, I do in fact see a light at the end of the tunnel. As the Internet community expands, so will the musical variety of our beloved music "pirates," and the MP3 will hopefully reach its predicted heaven-sent potential (maybe even with exciting ready-to-print liner notes for old fogies like me). Until that happens though, I will not let my filthy MacAmp take advantage of me ... or at least not on a regular basis.