A few weeks ago my husband decided to give away all his unused audio equipment to Audio Reader, a service sponsored by the University of Kansas to provide radio for the blind and print-disabled. Audio Reader has a 24/7 broadcast of volunteers reading newspapers, magazines and books, and other programs of interest to the aging and disabled. The service also provides radios free of charge to people who need them.
It’s a worthy cause—my father-in-law was blind for the last few years of his life, and we set up a digital radio for him to use so he could listen to more than television. We tuned one of the buttons to Audio Reader (though he usually preferred the local farm station we also tuned it to).
Audio Reader raises funds in part through a For Your Ears Only sale of audio goods. People in the Kansas City and Lawrence, Kansas, area who have old equipment, records, CDs, etc., should consider donating to this sale. More information can be found here.
My husband packed up the last turntable in our house as well as all his LPs. He set aside LPs I had brought to the marriage almost 40 years ago. I don’t think I’ve bought a new record in all that time—I had already made the shift to cassette tapes.
I never owned many records. I didn’t have a record player of my own until I went to law school, and I was married just over a year later. I’d been given a radio/cassette player when I was about fifteen, so I purchased and listened to cassettes. (At least I didn’t have eight-track tapes.)
Without a turntable, there was no reason for me to keep my LPs. Our CDs duplicated many of the records I had. And with Pandora, YouTube and other digital services, I hadn’t listened to the LPs—or most of the CDs—in years. The LPs sat unused in the back of a cupboard for most of the thirty years we’ve lived in our current house.
So I put the records in the donation pile. All of them.
But before I did, I thumbed through them, remembering.
My father taught me to appreciate classical music at an early age. He often had music playing in the evenings while he read. He loved Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart . So did I. He sometimes hummed along. I rarely did—his voice was much better than mine. When I saw the cover of Rachmaninoff playing “Moonlight Sonata,” I immediately thought of my father.
I never listened to much popular music as a teenager (maybe because I didn’t have my own stereo). But I enjoyed certain soft rock musicians like America, Gordon Lightfoot, and Loggins and Messina. Seeing those record jackets took me right back to my college years and the roommates who introduced me to some of these artists.
“Ventura Highway.” “Ribbon of Darkness.” “A Horse with No Name.” “House at Pooh Corner.” “Early Morning Rain.” “Sundown.” “Vahevala.” I hadn’t even thought of these songs in years, but instant nostalgia brought tears to my eyes.
And then there were the recordings of classical guitar artists. My dad liked the guitar, and bought me one for Christmas when I was in the 8th grade. I learned folk guitar, then took classical guitar lessons one semester in college. I wasn’t very good, but I loved listening to Segovia, Christopher Parkinson, and others. The liquid sound of Rodrigo’s Spanish guitar music still evokes mystery and seduction whenever I hear it. One of the first Pandora channels I set up for myself was of classical guitar music—something that almost always lifted my mood.
Unlike the loss of my brag files, I don’t regret donating the LPs. They weren’t getting used, and music today is ubiquitous on the Internet. With music, it is sound and not object that brings memories to mind. I don’t need the objects when the sound is available. And I can hear it in my head, even when there is no sound.
What role does music play in your life?