Victrola Favorites and Sublime Frequencies

MP3S CAN PROVOKE a metaphysical crisis in a record collector. If you don’t have to pack them when you move, do they exist? To my analog brain, when music is “ripped” from a disc, it enters a mysteriously disembodied space. For once digital files have shuffled off this mortal coil, they lose not only the plastic and lacquer that once housed them, but the context those materials provided. From the beginning of commercially recorded sound, packaging—the 78 label, the LP sleeve, the CD jewel case—has been a container for everything that tethers music to this world. In fact, the first copyright ownership for sound recordings applied only to their paper labels and sleeves: How could one own the sound contained within them? That would be like laying claim to air, reasoned the courts of the time. Our experience with the immateriality of MP3s is perhaps an unsettling return to what the first

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