The Sound of Music
It all started in the Defiant’s front “bedroom”, since converted by my son into a working office and library. Notice the record turntable in the far corner? Once I hit the road, I methodically sawed through literally hundreds of LPs, 45s and 78s to record them into raw digital form. With no space to store many boxes of records, this was the only way that I could continue to listen to the wide span of music and comedy that I’ve always enjoyed.
Talk about intense activity! Looking back, I don’t know how I kept at it so relentlessly – except for the realization that if I didn’t accomplish recording the whole pile of the most significant works (significant to me, anyway), then they’d have to be given away quickly or trashed without, and so disappear forever.
To cut the time needed to record each disk, they were all played at 78 RPM or whatever speed would allow them to play without skipping. Many records were worn, some were damaged, and nearly all presented the little clicks and scratches that characterize vinyl music. When that task was completed, the digital recordings stayed intact on a reliable hard drive. Now they’ve been waiting years for me to get back to them and translate them into a clean, listenable form that could play on a computer or smartphone accessing decent speakers.
They were recorded off the turntable using Audacity, a free and quite capable audio program. The first step to deal with the result is to pull each file up, rediscover what speed it was recorded at and then alter it to play properly within Audacity. It’s edited to whack off the extra nothingness at each end, as well as any pause recorded while the disc was flipped over to side B. Very few records are clean-sounding enough to export directly into an MP3 format, so that requires a translation into an .aiff file (or other format) that ClickRepair can deal with. ClickRepair is a very capable click removal program that fortunately can do a very credible job when allowed to operate automatically on its own. That generates a “cleaned” .aiff file that can be called back into Audacity or, when necessary, pulled into Denoise (created by the same guy who made ClickRepair) to get rid of background hiss. Whatever. Audacity can then be used to adjust the volume to workable levels, accomplish any final trimming, and export the file into a compact MP3 format that can be played on just about any device extant. To conserve limited hard disk space, the .aiff files must be deleted once the final MP# has been created. Naturally, all this editing, cleaning and file format translation absorbs quite a bit of time to grind through.
So, as of late, my idyllic camping experience has more resembled a sweatshop of 12-14 hour days tethered to a hot laptop with a couple of external drives. Ah, but the rewards! My taste in music reaches a wide span, and most of these records are not available online today. My motivation to keep going is to envision the time when I can kick back and enjoy the pleasant and notable strains of all the records I once played the hell out of. I’m currently almost halfway through the LPs, which I try not to think about, since those are still just a fraction of all that I recorded. You can’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the scope of the overall project.
So, if you detect a slowdown in blog posts during times when I’m planted in one spot for awhile, you’ll know I’m working my day job. And that I’m occasionally sampling audio awesomeness while I slave away. Not to be heartless, but no, I won’t meet up and do USB stick tradesies or donate gigabytes of what I generate. This is my own collection, and that’s all it represents. With some exceptions, you’d probably find most of it of no interest at all, since most folks tend to stick with one or two basic categories of music. I mean, who else grooves on listening to 78s, or 50s Jazz, or Leonard Bernstein, or Liberace or Mahalia Jackson? I just want to reach the finish line on this stuff and listen to my favorite albums. My suggestion for the music-starved is to record off of your favorite Internet radio channels, which has been a popular pastime of mine. That helps for when your current location is not cellular-signal friendly.
But enough of this. As the saying goes, this job isn’t going to do itself. I have to get back to work!